Updated May 19, 2023 - 1:47 pm
You remember the rooms, and you remember the tunes.
And sometimes, you remember the togs.
Garth Brooks turned up for a press conference at Caesars Palace on Thursday afternoon wearing a hoodie with VEGAS spelled out, encircled by the Caesars wreath. He donned a blue ball cap and black workout pants.
Faintly detectable on Brooks’ right pocket was Pittsburgh Pirates “P” insignia.
Wait a second. This is bringing back big-league memories.
When he opened at Encore Theater at the Wynn in the fall of 2009, Brooks showed up in a black hat with the same Pirates logo, in gold. I remarked at the coincidence.
“Yes! Right!” Brooks said with a laugh. “I’ve been a Bucs fan since I was a baby.”
Great to see @garthbrooks again … Met him in ‘09 during the Encore Theater opening … Back tonight @CaesarsPalace. What he hopes to achieve next in #Vegas #RJNow @reviewjournal pic.twitter.com/7CXHBM4fmO
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) May 18, 2023
This Bucs fan has stepped back in the box and ready to park it, as it were, in “Garth Brooks/Plus One” at the Colosseum. The show series opens Thursday night, marking the country superstar’s second Las Vegas Strip residency.
Any questions of Brooks’ lead-off spot in the batting order among Strip headliners have already been answered. He’s an all-star at the box office, as Ticketmaster filling these shows so fast that 18 dates are going on sale at the end of the month.
Those shows run from April 18 through July 13, giving Brooks a total of 45 on the Colosseum schedule from Thursday though next summer.
For this road swing, Brooks (who, lest we forget, tried out for the San Diego Padres and New York Mets in the late-’90s) is adding power hitters to his musical lineup. Unlike his solo HR at Encore, Brooks has loaded the bases with big-league players.
And, he’s is promising to call musicians from the but to perform a robust show drawing from his five-decade career.
This won’t be a no-hitter. Expect to get misty-eyed during “The Dance,” bounce to “Rodeo” and sing along to “Friends In Low Places.”
I asked if there would be an Vegas-specific moments, maybe a set piece or a lyrical nod to the city. Would Brooks take a swing with his own cover of “Viva Las Vegas,” even?
“Oh, no, no no, that’s for cooler people than me,” Brooks said. “I’d try it and fail horribly.”
Better to stay away from any curve balls.
“What I’ve learned in my whole career is, just do what you do,” Brooks said. That’s it. Leave the other stuff for the people that do that stuff so well.”
We will certainly see Brooks wife, country superstar Trisha Yearwood, during the “Plus One” series. A few years ago, prior to opening at Allegiant Stadium, Brooks considered a Vegas residency, as he mentioned he’d been in talks with Caesars reps.
From Encore to Allegiant, Brooks’ crowds have erupted every time Yearwood takes the stage. He once said a co-headlining show with Yearwood would be a “no-brainer.”
But it’s not in the game plan, at least not now.
“I think one of the reasons why people go nuts about her it, they’re not sure,” Brooks said. “… I think one of the reasons they go crazy is when she shows up, ‘Oh! Great!’”
There is another, more obvious reason. Yearwood is clutch.
“It’s when they hear her sing. I think we’ve all forgotten what just natural singing sounds like,” Brooks said. “Everything now is so tuned. Everybody is, we all are, but when she’s just in a room by herself, no help whatsoever, that’s when she sounds her best.”
Brooks carved a long history in Vegas even before Live Nation and Caesars Palace booked the Colosseum home stand. His solo show at Encore was groundbreaking, for the confidence and courage to go it alone with just an acoustic guitar.
Brooks was among the first artists, and first ever to play multiple dates (two weekends of doubleheaders), at T-Mobile Arena in 2016. He was also the first country artist to ever play Allegiant Stadium, helping reopen the building after the pandemic shutdown.
Having already achieved commercial success with sales, Brooks was asked what remains for him to prove in Las Vegas. He returned to basic fundamentals, even hearkening to his first shows ever on the Strip, in 1991.
“In Vegas, you guys have this reputation that everything’s smoke and mirrors, trapeze, everything’s a show and art,” Brooks said. “But when you get in here, you find the people who fill those seats know their music inside and out. I knew that when I played the — what was the place the Wynn was built on (the Desert Inn)? Those people knew their stuff, inside, outside and backward.”
Brooks illustrated the point in song, singing a cappella from Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and Willie Nelson’s “I’ll Love You Till The Day I Die.”
With no effects, Brooks sounded great. It was a seriously unplugged moment.
“As groundbreaking as that might be, for me, I just what to see how far the music will go,” Brooks said. ” I truly believe it’s a gift, and it’s not my decision when it stops or when it starts.” And if he goes into extra innings, we’re game.
Cool Hang Alert
Empire Records, the wild and wildly popular Vegas ’90s cover band, plays 9 p.m. Saturday at Chrome Showroom at Santa Fe Station. It’s a blast from the past, and no cover.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.