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Skip the glam; it’s pure Garth Brooks in intimate show

Garth Brooks (pictured peforming AFI Lifetime Achievement Award tribute Morgan Freeman last June Los Angeles) turns an intimate laid-back all-acoustic

Garth Brooks (pictured peforming at the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award tribute to Morgan Freeman last June in Los Angeles) turns in an intimate, laid-back and all-acoustic show at the Encore Theater in Las Vegas. | GETTY IMAGES

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Garth Brooks

◆ Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South

◆ Show times: 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.

◆ Tickets, $253

◆ (877) 65-GARTH, or (702) 770-1000;


Updated: March 1, 2012 8:04AM

LAS VEGAS — Garth Brooks never said never.

It was more a case of “for now, at least.”

The country music uberstar officially “retired” from touring and recording in 2001. He said he was done with all of it — opting to return to Oklahoma to be home for the formative years of his three young daughters. Mind you, he wasn’t complaining about his hard-earned success. He just wanted to be a full-time dad to his kids, as well as a full-time husband to his wife, country singer Trisha Yearwood.

Fast-forward to 2011, to one sold-out show at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas, where Brooks, performing in an exclusive engagement, reportedly told his adoring audience that he’s returning to touring once his youngest daughter is in college. That would be 2014, in case you’re wondering.

But that’s getting ahead of the story.

In 2009, Brooks decided his girls were old enough to see a little less of their dad at least on select weekend dates, which would give him the chance to return to his music, specifically live performance. But it would not be the full-out, breakneck pace of his former concert life. Instead, Brooks signed a 5-year deal with Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to appear at the Encore Theater at the tony Wynn Las Vegas on select Friday and Saturday nights over the course of each year. While no one will confirm the use of the Wynn jet to shuttle Brooks back-and-forth between Vegas and Oklahoma in just over 48 hours, this much is gospel: His show dates sell out almost as quickly as they’re announced. And at $253 per ticket, that’s saying a whole lot about Brooks’ devout fans who eagerly shell out the exorbitant sum to attend the church of Garth.

Indeed, Brooks’ shows at the 1,500-seat Encore Theater, are something akin to a religious experience that plays out in a most intimate of settings. If you’ve attended any of Brooks’ legendary tour shows, you know about the lights, the smoke, the special effects, tBrooks’ fly-outs over the screaming arena throngs. In Vegas, it’s all about “reach out and touch” (well almost), because there isn’t a bad seat in the house, leaving Brooks no farther than 76 feet from the farthest seat. And — pay attention please — it’s just Garth and an acoustic guitar; no band, no backup singers, no special effects, no nothin’. Get the picture?

And that’s what makes Brooks’ show — for I can’t really call it a concert — at the Encore so gosh-darn enjoyable. The singer performs for two hours (some nights it’s a wee bit longer or a smidge shorter depending on his mood) dressed in old, worn jeans, a t-shirt topped by an old flannel shirt and baseball cap. When his acoustic guitar playing “fails” him, he doesn’t hesitate to dive into a bit of song or two, a cappella.

Brooks’ show is everything most Vegas shows are not: low-tech, sequin-less, devoid of a big production number, no video projections on football field-size screens. But his show is something ELSE many Las Vegas shows are not: ENTERTAINING. And that’s thanks to Brooks, who literally bounds non-stop from one end of the stage to the other, strumming and singing his way through the musical journey of his life.

The evening is peppered with music (much of it not Brooks’) and humorous anecdotes from Brooks’ life (think VH1’s “Storytellers”), from his earliest musical influences (especially what he lovingly calls the “holy trinity” of George Strait, James Taylor and George Jones) to everyone from Jim Croce, Billy Joel, Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel. By the time Brooks gets to Bob Seger, the audience is eating out of the palms of his hands. In this venue, Brooks is the consummate showman, endearing at every turn.

If you want a full-out Brooks concert, wait until 2014 (if the rumors are true). If you want an evening at home with an old friend who just happens to bring along a guitar and the soundtrack of his life, this show’s the ticket.

† Upcoming dates for Garth Brooks at the Encore Theater: January 27, 28; February 17, 18; March 2, 3; March 30, 31; April 20, 21; June 8, 9

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