Garth Brooks, Austin City Limits


You know how some days are good and some days are bad, some days areboring, and some days just suck.  Then, every now and then, you have a day that makesup for thousands of crappy days in one.  We'll that's how Wednesday was for me thisweek.  The great thing was that when I woke up Wed. morning, I had absolutely no ideathat it would be different than any other day.

It started when I saw my publisher at Texas Music Magazine at a career fairon campus.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him to watch the Garth Brookssoundcheck for Austin City Limits.  Now, ACL is one of those Austininstitutions.  Taped in a studio right on campus, it has had some of music's bestartist playing to a very small, intimate audience.  ACL is celebrating its25th season on PBS.  Anyway, this was a hot ticket, because only 400 people couldattend the actual show.  The rehearsal had tight security, but somehow we made ourway up there.

Now, if you know me, and some of you do, then you know that I dig thesoundcheck, behind the scenes stuff, so I would go to any soundcheck.  I was never abig Garth Brooks fan, but something of this magnitude doesn't happen everyday.  Theman has sold zillions of CDs and has played to hundreds of thousands in Central Park.  I had to seize the opportunity.

The soundcheck was really amazing.  Garth was just hanging out insweat pants and hiking boots.  He wore a black baseball cap, no cowboy hat untillater on during the show.  He had two separate bands with him for this performance.   One for his traditional country hits and then another band for his Chris Gaines material, the rock 'n' roll alter egothat he will play in an upcoming movie.  He rehearsed for over three hours, playingabout everything that he would play later in the show.  There were very few peopleoutside of the stage hands, roadies, and cameramen that were allowed in the soundcheck, soI was feeling pretty satisfied with my afternoon by then.  It didn't hurt when Garthlooked up at me in my seat and smiled and said "hi" either.

Other soundcheck excitement included Lance Armstrong (you know, the guywho won the Tour D' France) and his wife and new baby showed up for a photo opp. whileGarth was between bands.  Another thing was watching how nice Garth treated his bandand crew, at one point, going off stage himself and coming back with an armload of bottlesof water for everyone. 

So, if that had been it, if I had just gone home at this point, I wouldhave considered it an awesome day.  But what happened next is the stuff that makeslife worth living.  I got it in my head that I would have to try to talk to Garth ifthe opportunity presented itself.  After he was done with both bands, I saunteredover to him as he layed down on the bleachers for a little siesta.  I was not wantingto disturb him, but it was now or never.  Anyway, I woke Garth up and introducedmyself, and he was just the nicest, most sincere, most friendly gentleman I have ever met.   He jumped up, asked me my name, and chatted with me for a good 15 minutes orso.   Then, here's the best part, when he found out I didn't have tickets to thetaping for that night, he personally went and got a pair for me.  I'm still a bitamazed.

Our conversation focused on the tightness of the Chris Gaines band (twoGrammy winners for writing Eric Clapton's "Change the World" and a very talentedfemale singer/percussionist who has toured with Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen).  Iwas able to get permission from him to use a quote for an upcoming article in TX Music.   When I asked him how he thought the ACL audience would react to theChris Gaines material, he said "The Austin audience is an intelligent one.  Theywill get it.   Texans in general have a diverse appreciation for music."  I think I was the only one in town who got him quoted on the record this trip. Healso talked to me about his upcoming Saturday Night Live appearance.  His first timehosting definitely had some of my favorite skits and he told me he hopes that they willlet him do another Mango skit, but this time as Chris Gaines.

So, enough with my gloating.  The ACL show was great.  Garth came out, this time in traditional cowboy hat and wranglers, with his countryband and got the crowd really going with his usual hits like Shameless, The Thunder Rolls,Beaches of Cheyenne, Rodeo, The Dance, and of course, Friends in Low Places.  Particular favorites of mine are his Unanswered Prayers and a song that his femaleguitarist wrote We Shall Be Free.  Ending the first part of the show with a standingovation to her (can't remember her name right now), Garth started one of the recurringjokes of the evening.  "When someone else gets a standing ovation, the wholeband has to leave the stage."  So they left.  Garth played a few tunes byhimself, remembering when he was first in Nashville as a solo artist.

Later the Chris Gaines band joined him for some of the new rock/popmaterial.  It is definitely influenced by light rock of the seventies, but some songswere particularly pleasing, like Way of the Girl and a remake of the 60s hit Right Now.   He had mentioned to me during our conversation that much of the Chris Gainesstuff is too difficult (vocals) to do live right now.  They played about six songs,and ended the set to everyone in the place on their feet and a standing ovation.  I'dsay his assessment of the Austin audience was accurate.

So, with a few more tunes and coming back for an encore, Garth lefteveryone of the 400 lucky people in the audience completely satisfied and exhilarated.   He is an amazing performer, no matter what type of music you like.  And,now I can say, he is a really amazing, sincere, friendly, delightful person.  I willalways have such a fond memory of the day that I met Garth Brooks.

On That Note, I'm outta here......


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