- VERY COLD THIS MORNING…WIND CHILLS WERE EXPECTED AS LOW AS -18 BELOW ZERO. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU AND THE KIDS DRESS IN LAYERS TODAY, ‘CAUSE THEY CAN TAKE IT OFF IF IT’S TOO WARM, BUT THEY CAN’T PUT IT ON IF THEY DON’T HAVE IT!!
LAS VEGAS — The first thing to realize on Saturday evening (Dec. 12) at the Encore Theater in the Wynn Hotel is that it’s not a Garth Brooks concert. It actually is a one-man stage show with a guitar as his only prop.
One man in unprepossessing street clothes on a bare stage. No band or taped music, no special lighting, no special effects. No support of any kind. Brooks last performed in Vegas in 1991, when he and Carlene Carter played a country concert at the Desert Inn. Now, his new show is as far removed as can be from any previous Vegas musical spectacles.
As Brooks said during the show, he’s naked up there with only a guitar to hide behind, and the older he gets, the smaller the guitar gets. He last performed regularly almost 10 years ago before his retirement, and these weekend shows amount to a slow re-emergence into the mainstream.
What he’s doing here is essentially a monologue interspersed with songs (few) and musical snippets (many) that lasted, at this show, exactly 100 minutes.
He remarked onstage, he’s doing this to get back into music and to learn from his audiences. But it’s still only one weekend old, out of a projected five-year run, so it’s impossible to say what it will evolve into. And, his boss/partner here, Wynn/Encore chairman Steve Wynn, was already making noises this weekend about re-evaluating the ticket pricing structure. Currently, all of the 1,500 seats in the theater are $125 each, regardless of location.
After the performance, many Garth fans were sharply divided about the show. Some were greatly disappointed by their evening and with what they got for their $125 ticket and the cost of their flight to Vegas and the hotel room. Their complaints? His dress and appearance. They felt his jeans and hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap weren’t suited to a big Vegas show. The other big complaint was that many fans came expecting to see and hear a traditional Garth Brooks concert, not the unexpected monologue-with-music-bits that they got.
But many more showgoers liked what they experienced and were delighted to see Garth again. And they said that they will continue to support his efforts.
He opened the evening by talking about jet-commuting to and from Memphis all weekend for his daughter’s playoff soccer matches and what the evening ahead might hold.
His wife Trisha Yearwood brightened the stage with “She’s in Love With the Boy” and “Walkaway Joe” with Brooks playing guitar and adding harmonies and a bit of repartee.
And it’s still very obvious that no one in popular music can work a crowd better than Brooks, and he’s still doing it with sometimes breathtaking efficiency. His confidence is obviously still there. After Yearwood left the stage with two standing ovations, Brooks waited a moment and then quipped, “For most people, that would be impossible to follow!”
I think it’s apparent that Brooks is determined to not turn into a touring dinosaur, like all the old rock groups that are still playing concerts and doing their hits for audiences who don’t want new music from the old geezers. What they want is a reminder of their youth. This is Garth’s way to figure out an alternative to that path.
…DARN NEAR COLD ENOUGH TO FREEZE A HEAD ON THE FRONT PORCH
NOW TAKE DRIVING LESSONS FROM SOMEONE FAMILIAR WITH ICY CONDITIONS
STUDIO 330 IN THE MORNING SESSION CUT OF THE DAY: RANDY TRAVIS
Randy Travis was born with the name Randy Traywick in Marshville, N.C., on May 4, 1959. He grew up a hellraiser, by drinking, fighting, dabbling in drugs and committing petty crimes on a path heading straight toward prison. But the rebel ninth-grade dropout “found himself” in the spotlight of a Charlotte, N.C., nightclub, where he won a talent show. With the help and direction of the club’s owner, Lib Hatcher, the teenager underwent a startling transformation.
He purified his mind, turning his back on substance abuse and focusing on music. At the time, Nashville was deep in the Urban Cowboy, pop-country phase of the early 1980s. Travis was intent on bringing back fiddles, steel guitars and honky-tonk lyrics. He recorded for a tiny label, Paula Records, and, in classic country fashion, drove from radio station to radio station throughout the South to promote his work.
After five years of paying dues in North Carolina, he and Hatcher (who had become his manager) moved to Music City in 1981 with little more than dreams and determination to sustain them. Hatcher took a job managing a nightclub called The Nashville Palace. Travis became its dishwasher and short-order cook. Occasionally, he’d take off his grease-stained apron and emerge from the kitchen to sing a song, which would invariably make the hard-core country patrons go wild. While at The Nashville Palace, Travis recorded an independent album under the name Randy Ray. Randy Ray Live was enough for Hatcher to secure Travis a deal with Warner Bros. Records.
In 1985, the label released the single “On the Other Hand,” which only made it to No. 67 on the Billboard country singles chart. Travis’ second single, “1982,” was a Top 10 hit that kicked his career into high gear. The label then re-released “On the Other Hand” in 1986, and the song went to No. 1. Travis followed it up with charttopping hits “Diggin’ Up Bones” and “Forever and Ever, Amen,” which won the Country Music Association’s single of the year award in 1987. Travis won the CMA’s prestigious Horizon Award in 1986, won album of the year honors in 1987 for Always and Forever and took home male vocalist of the year trophies in 1987 and 1988.
Travis’ major label debut album, Storms of Life, was released in 1986 and went on to sell more than 4 million copies. Always and Forever, his second collection, was No. 1 for 10 solid months and won a Grammy Award. Old 8×10, his third set, also won a Grammy. To be sure, the first boom in the “new country” movement had sounded. In 1986, Travis was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. By the time he turned 30 in 1989, he’d sold more than 13 million records, paving the way for a new generation of country stars like Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Travis Tritt.
Travis and Hatcher married in 1991, and, in 1992, Travis became the first country artist to release two albums simultaneously. Both volumes of his Greatest Hits became sales blockbusters. In 1994, Travis launched his film career with a variety of roles. He also has been a guest star on several top-rated TV dramas, including Touched by an AngelMatlock. and
In 1997, Travis left Warner Bros. Records and signed with new label DreamWorks Nashville. His first album for the label, 1998’s You and You Alone, put Travis back in the spotlight with Top 5 singles “Out of My Bones,” and “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man,” and the Top 10 single “The Hole.” Travis managed to record the album while filming roles in Francis Ford Coppola’s big-screen treatment of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker and the Patrick Swayze feature Black Dog.
In 2000, he followed with Inspirational Journey, a contemporary Gospel album on Warner Bros. Travis released a second Christian-themed album, Rise and Shine, in 2002. Its first single, “Three Wooden Crosses,” unexpectedly reached No. 1 at country radio and won the CMA song of the year in 2003. The album won a Grammy in 2004. After this surprising career boost, he contined to release inspirational albums, including Worship & Faith (2003), Passing Through (2004) and Glory Train (2005).
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