1223GarthAudioListen to audio of Garth Brooks' interview before his Nashville show.
NASHVILLE — There aren't many performers who can sell out an arena after a decade long hiatus.
Last week, Garth Brooks proved nine times over that he is one exception to the rule. Brooks sold out nine shows that took place within six days at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
Proceeds from the concerts, collectively called "The Rescue Party," went to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which provides assistance to victims of the May flood that devastated the region.
The shows, which Brooks said cost a total of between $300,000 and $400,000, brought in at least $3.5 million for the foundation, as 140,000 ticket holders attended between Dec. 16 and 22.
At the Dec. 16 show, lights flashed and the bass thumped as Brooks rose out of a mirrored cube, singing, "His eyes are cold and restless, wounds are almost healed..." — the first lyric of "Rodeo," a song familiar to Brooks fans.
From that first lyric, fans were on their feet, singing along. When Brooks began "Friends in Low Places," arguably his most popular song, he got an even louder accompaniment from the audience as volunteers pumped confetti into the crowd.
Trisha Yearwood, Brooks' wife who has accompanied him on at least 70 songs over the years, joined him on stage for "In Another's Eyes," and fellow country singer Steve Wariner took the mic for "Longneck Bottle."
At the end of the show, an encore brought Brooks back to sing "Ain't Going Down ‘Till the Sun Comes Up," and fans left feeling like they went back in time to one of Brooks' 1990s concerts.
The show was a rundown of songs they know by heart. Brooks himself began the show by emphasizing that, since he hadn't performed in a while, the night's concert would include "the old stuff."
For Dee and Steve Hepburn of Baltimore, Md., who attended the Dec. 16 show, the look back was just what they wanted.
"I've always said if he comes back I want to go to see him, but Las Vegas just doesn't seem like a Garth kind of show for me," said Dee Hepburn, referring to the occasional acoustic shows Brooks plays at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.
"We tried to get tickets and we were unsuccessful, so I have a friend who helped us out that knows somebody and got us tickets," she said.
At a press conference before the show, Brooks entered the room like a ball of energy in blue jeans.
He acknowledged the many volunteers who put the shows together, quoting a line from a Jeff Bridges movie.
"‘When things are at their very worst, you guys are at your very best,'" he said. "I thought that was a great, great line about humanity, and about the people we can be. And that is what I have seen since I saw you last — is nothing but the very best out of people."
Brooks was evidently as excited about his return as the fans that would attend the series.
"I say this in Vegas every now and then, and the thing that I precede it with, is please don't think I'm being a smart aleck when I say this," he said.
"I travel thousands of miles to hear you sing, and I know it sounds backward, but it's true."
Brooks told reporters he plans to tour again in 2015, after his daughters have graduated high school and his engagement with the Wynn is complete.
In an interview with The Times following the conference, Brooks said fans can expect new songs to go along with the tour.
"That's why you would tour, is to tour new music," he said.
"New music from an older artist is never accepted, so you just go in with a hope ... the difference between this artist and a lot of the other artists is that we belong to country music. Country music is a format that takes care of their older artists and allows them to play, up to a certain point, and then they don't. And you'll find that out real quick ... if we have a career after this break-off, or if we don't."
If last week's concert sales were any indication, fans seem eager to help Brooks continue his career. He said the new music will likely remind fans of his previous work.
"An album should be a reflection of who the artist is at that time, so it just depends who you are, you know, at that time," Brooks said.
"Hopefully, like James Taylor, there's a vein that runs through it all that originally reminds you of why you fell in love with that artist. That's hopefully what creating an album will be."