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Garth Brooks’ path to Allegiant Stadium started at Desert Inn

Updated March 4, 2020 - 12:28 pm

Garth Brooks’ history of performing in Las Vegas includes an imploded hotel, a regal Las Vegas Strip theater and a pair of arenas. He’ll add the city’s new 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium on Aug. 22.

Brooks’ debut in Vegas was at the old Desert Inn in January 1991, a co-headlining bill with Carlene Carter, who is Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter and the daughter of late country singing stars June Carter Cash and Carl Smith. The show was held on the parcel where Wynn and Encore resorts now stand, and was just before Brooks broke as an international recording star.

At his touring peak, Brooks played the Thomas & Mack Center for four shows in August 1998. He sold the place out, clean, with all 72,076 seats selling within an hour. It helped that Brooks enforced a uniform ticket price of $20.

Brooks’ run as a resident headliner was at Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas from 2009 to 2014, a show I later referred to as the Strip’s musical version of “Between Two Ferns.” It was simply Brooks in a hoodie, official “GB”-logo ball cap, jeans and work books, strumming his acoustic guitar.

Related: Garth Brooks to be among hottest Las Vegas tickets of 2020

Steve Wynn ponied up the money to secure Brooks when even the superstar said the mogul couldn’t afford to hire him. Wynn even offered Brooks a private jet to carry him and Trisha Yearwood back and forth to Oklahoma each weekend.

Brooks most recently played four shows at the just-opened T-Mobile Arena in June and July 2016 as he returned to large-scale arena tours. In an interview before his opener, Brooks recalled a pop-up show he played as the front man of an act called Yukon Jack in January 1993 at Clovis City Limits in Clovis, New Mexico.

“We started playing, and there were nine people in the place,” Brooks said. “By the end it was packed — I mean, totally packed — and this was before any social media. We had one pay phone in the place and people were on it all night long, calling people to come in. We hung out until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.” The cover charge was $3 that night, and more than a thousand folks packed the club, a classic Cool Hang Alert.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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