he crowd screamed constantly for Garth Brooks on the first of three nights. This was not the Beatles at Hollywood Bowl. No, his was a 54-year-old man - one that admitted to using his acoustic guitar more as a prop to hide his gut than to create live music. Sure, it's been a few decades since Brooks last mounted a significant concert tour. However, this wild appeal is still a little difficult to explain.
Brooks may have opened his set with "Man Against Machine," which was accompanied by pyrotechnic lights and plenty of colorful stage filigree, but the set list was mostly drawn from Garth's greatest hits. "Two Pina Coladas" transformed this hockey arena into one big tropical neon lit bar, while rumbling sound effects greeted Brooks' troubled relationship song, "The Thunder Rolls." Brooks continues to have loyal fans sell out his concerts because he loves singing for them, just as much as they enjoy watching him. Country music has always excelled at loyalty, and nobody does it better than Brooks.
Wife Trisha Yearwood made her initial appearance by rising from below stage to join Brooks for "In Another's Eyes." Brooks then surrendered the stage to Yearwood, who sang mainly big hits, like "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," the power ballad "How Do I Live" and her song of encouragement, "PrizeFighter."
Yearwood, who explained from the stage how band and crew had attended an Angels game just the night before, turned "She's in Love with the Boy" into a popular baseball game trick -- the kiss cam. It may be a little sappy, but it never gets old seeing couples of all ages kissing for the camera. We could have used a lot more of Yearwood than just a few songs. She's one of the underrated female vocalists in country music and always worth watching.
When Brooks returned, he dusted off a few more of his biggest hits, including the barroom burner "Friends in Low Places" and the tender "The Dance." And as he often does, Brooks performed much of his encore with just an acoustic guitar. He also sang many of these songs to audience members displaying their special requests on artwork-for-the-night poster board. The best of these, "Make You Feel My Love," is one of the most accessible Bob Dylan covers.
When Brooks first hit it big, and turned his concerts into high energy spectacles, these tactics were viewed by some as a threat to traditional country music. However, while the energy has ebbed somewhat over the years, staunch country elements - including plenty of fiddle and steel guitar - leave Brooks sounding far more purely country than many of the modern day chart toppers. And that's something well worth screaming about.