NASHVILLE (Billboard) - If Garth Brooks intended to pace himself at the first of nine sold-out shows at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, that plan changed when he hit the stage for the first of two concerts on Thursday.
Kicking off with the one-two punch of "Rodeo" and "Papa Loved Mama," Brooks made it clear he was there to give fans everything they'd been missing since he retired from touring to raise his three daughters.
"Thanks for letting us come home to the great state of Tennessee and play our music," Brooks told the crowd after the first number.
The 7 p.m. show marked Brooks' first arena concert in Nashville since 1998, and the crowd remained on its feet during the entire show. Proceeds from all nine shows, running through December 22, are going to the area's flood relief efforts.
After dusting off the rollicking "Two of a Kind, Workin' On a Full House," his first hit single "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," and a scorching cover of Billy Joel's "Shameless," a solo Brooks led the crowd in an acoustic version of the powerful ballad "Unanswered Prayers."
He also welcomed singer/songwriter/guitar virtuoso Steve Wariner to the stage, and the twosome delivered the rowdy honky tonker "Longneck Bottle" before Wariner sang his hit "Some Fools Never Learn."
Another guest included Brooks' second wife Trisha Yearwood, looking sleek in jeans and a black sweater. Yearwood joined Brooks on their hit duet "In Another's Eyes." She also performed her debut hit, the 1991 No. 1 single "She's in Love with the Boy," and backed Brooks on "More Than A Memory."
Brooks did not hold back on the hits -- "We Shall Be Free," "The Thunder Rolls," "That Summer," "Friends in Low Places" and "The Dance" -- you name 'em, he played 'em, and the crowd sang along. After a blistering version of "Ain't Goin' Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)," Brooks finally left the stage at 9:20, leaving the Bridgestone crew less than an hour to prepare the venue for the 10 p.m. session.
When Brooks' daughters are grown and he chooses to return to the stage on a regular basis, his first night in Music City will have proven that he's lost none of the magic that made him a superstar.