Go to a Garth Brooks concert, sit down and be quiet. He dares you. He makes it impossible.
Brooks launched his comeback tour in Rosemont, Ill., at Allstate Arena Thursday night and delivered a show that had fans on their feet stomping, dancing, singing and sometimes crying for the next two hours.
He kicked off the concert with new song "Man Against the Machine" and launched into "Rodeo" with the crowd matching his fervor with its cheers and anticipation. About 18,000 fans ranging in age from school children to grandparents filled the arena to watch as Brooks work the stage in a way that made it feel like he was everywhere at the same time and yet singing to just to them.
He kept the hits coming with "Papa Loved Mama," but told the crowd he couldn't sing like that for 10 more shows so they were going to have to help him out. Their voices drowned him out in "The River," which nearly moved him to tears. He started "Unanswered Prayers" but the crowd took over the lyrics and sang them back to him as he watched flush-faced and beaming.
Brooks was even able to get them to sing along to new single "People Loving People."
The stage was surrounded by fans, and by the time he made it to "That Summer," Brooks had sweated through his jeans and the sleeves of his shirt.
The Chicago area was rocked by storms earlier in the day so severe they closed the airport. But Brooks' audience still couldn't get enough of "The Thunder Rolls." As the first notes of the song were played, an electric feeling of anticipation blanketed the room as the audience starting screaming. Not just cheering, screaming.
Brooks, who is touring for the first time since the late 1990s, spared no expense for his stage. It's constructed to allow fans to sit on every side, has an illuminated orb that sits in the middle big enough to house a drum kit, and there's a cube of screens mounted overhead. However with his charisma and a set list packed with more than 20 country radio hits, the show would have been successful regardless. Of props, he didn't follow current trends for live shows — he didn't give away a guitar, blow anything up, fly over the audience or run through the crowd. He delivered his music with his band and he did it his way with no barriers in front of the stage.
Sometimes his way meant he sang with wife Trisha Yearwood. Yearwood walked out to perform "In Another's Eyes" with Brooks and stayed to perform several of her hit songs. Her appearance gave Brooks the chance to rest a bit and also added another layer of excitement for those in the audience.
Fans clutched their chests, cried and sang "How Do I Live" along with Yearwood. She recalled singing "She's In Love With the Boy" at a show in the early 1990s and said, "I was scared of the crowd, scared of the stage, and I was scared of Garth Brooks." She performed new single "PrizeFighter" and her husband watched proudly singing along with her. When the song was over, she took several bows and gave the stage back to him.
Brooks followed up with more fan favorites, using each song to work the crowd into an even bigger frenzy.
"Callin' Baton Rouge," "Friends in Low Places" and "The Dance" rounded out the concert. When Brooks hit the first few notes of "Friends in Low Places," fans reacted so physically that the floor and seats vibrated from their stomping and dancing. Of course fans knew every word, and when "The Dance" was next, they just kept right on singing.
Cheering, screaming, clapping, stomping, fans let Brooks know were not ready to go home.
The Country Music Hall of Famer delivered two encores — a cover of "Fever" and then he called for his acoustic guitar, brought Yearwood back out and asked her to sing for him.
"Sing my favorite Trisha Yearwood song just for me," he said.
He played "Walk Away Joe" on his acoustic guitar as his wife sang the words of her hit.
After the song was over, they embraced, then held hands as they walked off the stage.