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Garth Brooks tells audiences to prepare themselves for Phoenix shows

Garth Brooks performs at the Allstate Arena on September 4, 2014, in Rosemont, Ill. The performance in Rosemont marks the end of Brooks' 13-year tour hiatus.

It may have been nearly two decades since he was last in Phoenix, but Garth Brooks is making a grand entrance. The country music superstar played two sold-out shows at the Talking Stick Resort Arena last weekend, and is gearing up to play four more on Friday and Saturday.

Brooks spoke about touring, getting into shape and expectations for his next shows in Phoenix during a press conference in Phoenix.

“When I heard the shows sold out in less than two hours, I felt so blessed,” he said. “I’ve been gone for nearly two decades, so knowing that many people are willing to see me after so long means the absolute world.”

Brooks returned to touring last year after retiring in 2000 to focus on his family and raising his children. The Oklahoma-native came back to the stage on his own accord after taking up residency at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas from 2009 to 2012, playing select shows and benefit concerts. 

Known for bringing tremendous amounts of energy to the stage and selling out some of the world’s largest arenas, Brooks said preparing for tour was no easy task.

“I gave myself about six months to get in shape and when I wasn’t where I wanted to be at the end of that, I fell into a bit of a depression,” he said. “It probably took about a year for me to get where I wanted to be.”

Joining Brooks on tour is his wife of a decade and fellow country superstar, Trisha Yearwood. Though the two have been touring together for nearly a year now, both know that being on the road together is a special opportunity and neither of them take that for granted.

“It’s an absolute blessing to have her on tour with me," Brooks said. "She has the voice of an angel and watching her play her set and do her thing every night is a definite highlight for me." 

Hearing this, Yearwood, who was also at the press conference, grinned.

“I guess touring with him isn’t that bad,” she joked.

Speaking to Brooks prior to Friday night’s opening show, it was evident that the performer had high expectations for the tour’s Arizona stop. Having recently debuted what Brooks referred to as “The Garth Brooks World Tour 2.0,” the singer was looking forward to bringing the freshly redesigned show to fans in Phoenix.

“I’m looking to go out tonight and really put a stake in things and let Phoenix know the next two weekends are going to be a heck of a time,” Brooks said.

And it was one heck of a time.

Brooks opened the show last Friday with the titular track from his latest album “Man Against Machine” and then continued to play a sprawling set of more than two hours. The singer led mass sing-alongs of favorites like “Two Pina Coladas” and bar room anthems such as “Friends in Low Places,” covering the entire stage and keeping even those in the rafters engaged. 

There were smaller, more intimate moments too, including a performance of “The Dance” that saw Brooks take a break from singing to bask in the sold-out crowd of more than 18,000 singing every word. Brooks was in rare form throughout the night though, taking several long pauses between songs to hear the crowd cheer.

“People, I can’t do what I once did,” the singer said to the crowd. “So if I get tired, I might just let you all take over.”

Prior to the concert on Friday, Brooks mentioned that, as a performer, the energy of the crowd lends a large part to how that night’s performance can go.

“You can tell within the first three songs what kind of night it’s going to be,” he said. “Sometimes they’ve had a long day and they’re along for the ride with you. But sometimes, they’re so into it, you just have to go along with them.”

Friday night turned out to be the latter, Brooks said.

“I was asked at the press conference earlier what kind of night I thought I was going to have tonight, and I can say now that it’s been an incredible one,” the singer said between songs.

Part of what made the concert so great was that Brooks and Yearwood knew exactly what the audience was there to see: the hits. Because of this, both artists said assembling the set list is a surprisingly easy task.

“I hate when I see my favorite artist and they play an entire album full of new stuff," Brooks said. "That’s not what I’m there for.” 

Yearwood agreed with her husband's sentiments, adding that these memorable songs are what make the show.

“The fans want to see the hits and that’s what we’re going to bring them,” she said.

With another weekend of shows ahead, the couple knows there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“These first two shows are huge, and next weekend is going to be absolutely huge as well,” Yearwood said.

Brooks cracked his signature smile.

“All of these shows are going to be huge,” he said. “If you leave and don’t feel like I worked you as an audience member like a rented mule, then I didn’t do my job correctly."

Catch Brooks this weekend at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24. For more information and tickets, click here.

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