The world is not flat, Elvis is not alive and Garth Brooks is not a superhuman.
Sorry to crush Oklahomans’ spirits any more than they’ve already been trodden on this weekend, but country music’s Top Hat definitely looked and sounded flesh-and-blood as he showed the wear-and-tear of playing six concerts in four consecutive nights Sunday at Target Center.
His voice was hoarse. His energy level sagged in parts. He gasped for air at times and seemed to talk even more than usual between songs. He sat down and even cracked open a Budweiser while his wife Trisha Yearwood sang her Minnesota-namedropping ballad "On a Bus to St. Cloud." And he only played a two-song encore, compared to four or five songs in prior nights.
Brooks’ status as a super showman is still rock-solid, though. True to form, one of show biz’s greatest all-time aw-shucks hucksters even managed to turn his somewhat ragged state into a charming attribute during Sunday’s last-for-now concert, after which he takes a four-day break before resuming his 11-show Target Center run Thursday.
“I don’t have a voice left, and I’m about a biscuit shy of 260-pounds,” the 52-year-old singer told the crowd before “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House,” third song in his 18-track set list. “I’m gonna need your help singing.”
It’s really no wonder Brooks was showing the effects of what would be a busy week for any performer, much less one that has been retired for 15 years. He started his Minneapolis Marathon on Thursday after appearing on the CMA Awards in Nashville the night before. Overnight, he flew out to New York to debut his new single, “Mom,” on “Good Morning America,” returning Friday afternoon in time for the first of two two-in-one nights of performances. He kept busy in town, too, making an appearance at St. John’s Children’s Hospital and at a St. Louis Park Rec Center hockey camp (part of his Teammates sports program for kids).
OK, so maybe Garth is still a saint, if not a superhuman -- although he did tell a bit of a fib Sunday when he bragged/warned to the crowd that there wouldn’t be another concert that night and he could thus play longer.
The show clocked in at just over two hours like the others, and it seemed to be filled with more between-song banter and horseplay. Like when he brought up a cell phone and claimed to be taking his first-ever selfie pics, as was taught to him by his daughters. Or when he had a cake brought out and the crowd serenaded back-up singer Vicki Hampton for her birthday. Or when he stopped to give an 11-year-old girl in the front row a pair of autographed drum sticks, introducing “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” as a song “written about 30 years before you were even a thought.” Or when he recounted an interview with a U.K. journalist earlier in the day who purportedly said he “just didn’t get it” why Brooks is still so popular.
“This isn’t about some heavy guy from Oklahoma,” he finally summarized/sermonized. “This is about the music.”
Well, there was a little more to it than that. The sight of Garth running around a conveyer belt while his drummer spun in an atom-shaped spherical capsule -- all while “Fever” kicked off the encore -- seemed to be less about music and more about recreating an episode of “The Jetsons” from his childhood.
All the stage pizzazz still didn’t hold a candle to Garth himself, though. Even a burned out Garth. He struggled to hit the high notes in “The Dance” but sang all the low notes just fine. And, of course, he didn’t even need to sing many of the notes in “Friends in Low Places” at all, nor in the several other songs where the crowd filled in on vocals. He provided lyrics on his big video screen to help spark more singing in his new single “People Loving People,” but that didn’t really work.
People clearly still love him, though. The adoration for the guy is still palpable and uncanny when he performs. You cannot miss it nor dismiss it. He seemed to be working harder than ever Sunday to live up to the infatuation, for better or worse, but he earned it yet again.