Garth Brooks loves Salt Lake City, and fans returned that love Friday night

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Country star Garth Brooks performs with his band during his Stadium Tour Friday, June 17, 2022 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The enamored audience at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday night coaxed Garth Brooks to sing the lesser-known third verse to his 1990 hit song “Friends in Low Places” — and the country singer was impressed.

“Salt Lake knows its country music,” Brooks told the crowd.

Brooks and his band played the song near the end of Friday’s show — the first of two nights at Rice-Eccles, on the country legend’s soon-to-end Stadium Tour. To punctuate the occasion, three men marched onto his dynamic stage and shot off confetti cannons, sending streamers and pieces of white confetti glittering through the packed stadium.

When Brooks performed at Rice-Eccles in July 2021, he promised to bring the tour back. This weekend’s shows, like last year’s, all sold out within minutes on Ticketmaster. His show Friday opened with a nod from Amazon’s AI voice: “Hey, Alexa, play Garth Brooks live in SLC.”

Brooks’ opener Mitch Rossell teared up over the crowd’s reaction to his set, and he even paused to say he was shocked at just how many people were in the stadium. He debuted a new track in Salt Lake City, about hard work, and said the crowd might make it into the song’s eventual music video.

In a press conference earlier on Friday, Brooks said his most memorable moment from performing in Salt Lake City in the past was asking the crowd in 2021 if he could come back again.

“The response was crazy from inside the stadium,” he recalled. “You would think it would be better from the people who didn’t get in. They were sweet enough to make you feel like you weren’t egotistical or crazy to think that.”

Brooks said he loves his Utah fans, but added that he was confident in saying he also came back for himself, because he had such a great time here.

Brooks said that after years of performing and creating music, he’s still humbled by what he does. “The longer you get to do this, the less these things happen,” he said. “Not only does it become an old habit, it becomes more and more precious every time it happens.”

Friday’s show was the same as last year’s, Brooks told the crowd. Earlier, he told reporters that fans “set the set list.”

His backing musicians, most of whom have been with Brooks for years, brought the stage to life with their core country music skills — such as killer violin solos and vibrating drums.

Before his hit “The Thunder Rolls” played, he told the crowd he controls the weather, (which, despite the high temperatures early in the day, was brisk, cloudy and nice) before jokingly pointing to the sky and saying, “God, you know I’m kidding.”

Another memorable moment Friday came when a young girl in the crowd named Emma held up a sign that read “’Wild Horses’ from Colorado,” a request for Brooks to play the song for her.

Other songs, like “The River” and “Fishin’ in the Dark,” had the crowd singing back so loudly, it left the singer awestruck.

When Brooks and his band left the stage at the end of the main set, a single, swinging disco ball dangled in the air, still partying on its own. Then came the encore.

Brooks brought out his wife, the country star Trisha Yearwood, who clutched her rainbow-bedazzled microphone as the two performed a beautiful cover of “Shallow,” the song Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sang in the 2018 movie “A Star Is Born.” Yearwood also performed her 1991 hit “She’s in Love With the Boy.”

As Friday’s show ended, Brooks told the crowd, “I love you, Utah, thank you for taking care of me.”

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