Updated July 10, 2021 - 10:58 pm
The marching orders came early, starting the party like a match to the wick of an M-80.
“Somebody’s gotta drink that beer,” Garth Brooks sang/howled during a show opening “All Day Long.” “Somebody’s got to get all rowdy/And raise some hell in here.”
And with that, the first country concert at Allegiant Stadium was off to a start as frothy as the head of one of said beers.
“Do you remember the old stuff?” Brooks bellowed by way of introducing the next song, early hit “Rodeo.”
Rhetorical question, that.
The capacity crowd of 65,000 sang the following tune, “Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House,” loud enough to nearly drown out the band at times.
“Oh, you’re serious!” Brooks exclaimed afterward.
This was an evening given to overblown sights, sounds and sentiments alike.
Brooks entered the stadium by being elevated up from under the drum riser, arms outstretched as if holding the thing up “Atlas Shrugged”-style.
He worked a large stage positioned at one end of the venue, performing beneath a four-sided cube of video screens supported by an equal number of video columns.
He joked about his physical fitness, though he seemed to have impressive stamina throughout the show.
“The fat man’s done already,” he told his band after but a couple of songs.
This was the first concert Brooks has played since the pandemic halted his current stadium tour last spring, and he professed to being a bit jittery.
“I’m nervous as hell,” he said of returning to the stage after over a year off.
He didn’t seem like it, though, delivering hits like “The Thunder Rolls” with as much aplomb as that titular weather pattern.
Of course, the show had added resonance because of what it represented: the return of live music on just about the biggest scale possible.
As such, Brooks clearly relished the moment, arms frequently outstretched as if top measure the smile on his face.
“I can tell every musician out there, ‘Get back to it,’” Brooks said, “because it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
During the encore, Brooks revisited his tradition of playing songs acoustically as requested by fans via homemade signs, ranging from stirring renditions of Bonnie Tyler’s “Mom” to George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning” to Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”
Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood, joined him for a bring-down-the-house take on Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” from the “A Star is Born” soundtrack, Yearwood’s voice practically doing somersaults to the rafters. After another Yearwood tune, “Walkaway Joe,” Brooks had the crowd dancing in the aisles during a raucous “Standing Outside the Fire.”
“There is nothing on this Earth like playing music again,” Brooks exclaimed earlier in the show.
Maybe not. But experiencing music again live registered as a close second on this night.