Brooks rides into Michigan
May 12, Palace of Auburn Hills, May 1996
By Dan Kuchar
AUBURN HILLS, MICH. - Mother's Day 1996 would have been like any other.
But unlike Mother's Days in the past, this day would not fade comfortably into a quiet evening at home. No, for a little more than two hours, "quiet" would be a word rendered meaningless by another word. That "other" word was "Garth." Garth Brooks "Fresh Horses" tour landed at the Palace of Auburn Hills for the last of five sold-out shows.
The show, Brooks' first in the area in about 4 1/2 years, opened with an acoustic set by Bryan Kennedy and Dan Roberts, Brooks' co-writers on many of the songs on "Fresh Horses."
Twenty minutes later, the lights went dark and the Palace rumbled with a sound like the space shuttle taking off.
Brooks' elaborate stage rose from the platform from what had moments ago looked like a huge grounded UFO. The dull roar from the speakers was then countered by the frenzied cheers of the crowd, who rose to their feet and remained standing for the rest of the evening.
Soon, the stage was bathed in light. The only instrument visible was a drum set, which was enclosed in a see-through plastic and chrome cage that looked like a cross between a dune buggy and a lunar landing vehicle. Then, from the rear of the stage a white baby grand piano rose from within the stage. Seated at the piano was a figure with a matching white tux with tails and cowboy hat.
The opening chords of "The Old Stuff" filled the air. Like an apparition, Brooks appeared from within the piano andThe Voice that prayed that "Detroit goes wild tonight" had its prayers answered instantly. From that point forward, the concert became more and more like a pep rally or revival meeting. The performance was everything you expect from Brooks.
Brooks and company blasted through most of the big hit singles usually with abrupt cliff-hanger endings and at least a ninety seconds of applause and high-fiving between songs. Brooks stomped every corner of the stage, evenly working each section and routinely gathering flowers and other gifts from the fans. Brooks played shamelessly to the crowd. At one point, he removed his guitar and donned a Detroit Red Wings jersey and cap which he wore for the rest of the night to the delight of the Motor City crowd. At another point, he called the very pregnant Mrs. Brooks to the stage for a well-deserved Mother's Day kiss. The crowd sang along with nearly every song.
Then, borrowing a page from local superstar Bob Seger, Brooks was quick to point out that the evening's performance was being recorded for an upcoming live album and they'd better pipe up if they wanted to be on it.
As an encore, Brooks performed a cover of Seger's classic "Night Moves" accompanied only by his acoustic guitar.
Five encores later, "quiet" returned to the Palace. Then, with ears ringing, legs tired from standing, voices raw from cheering and hands sore from clapping, the Motown crowd streamed from their seats and headed for a cold parking lot with their heads buzzing with from a show they'd never forget... until the Next Time.