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Concert Reviews:
Garth Brooks surprise elevates Hoedown at DTE

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2019

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Early during his headlining set at the 37th 99.5 WYCD Hoedown on Saturday night, June 15, Brantley Gilbert humbly accepted the circumstances of what he called "a pretty damn eventful evening."

"It's an awesome feeling to share the stage with that man," Brantley told the DTE Energy Music Theatre crowd, "but as a performer, if you had to pick someone to play before you, it wouldn't be (expletive) Garth Brooks, man..."

The surprise appearance by Brooks was indeed the highlight of the seven-and-a-half-hour festival, coming after weeks of hype and teasing about a "special guest." With Joe Nichols' gear still on stage, the country music icon -- sporting a plaid work shirt and gray T-shirt, baseball cap, jeans and work boots -- celebrated the 30th anniversary of his initial Hoedown performance, then in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza, playing a 15-minute solo acoustic medley of a few of his biggest hits.

"I know a lot of you weren't even born yet," Brooks said as he came on stage, "but I was lucky enough to play this gig 30 years ago, so I just wanted to come out and say thank God and thank you guys for the ride of my life." Brooks also expressed appreciation to the fans for letting him take a sabbatical during most of the 00s to raise his daughters and also for "letting me come back and play music again. So I just came her to say, in those 30 years, I can't thank you guys enough for what a wonderful ride. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the Hoedown. God bless you guys, and I love Detroit!"

Brooks followed with partial versions of favorites such as "That Summer," "Two Pina Coladas," "The River" and "The Thunder Rolls," letting the DTE crowd sing almost as much as he did. After "The Dance," Gilbert came on stage to request an encore and Brooks finished with another singalong, "Friends in Low Places," walking off as the DTE video screens displayed a photo of his 1989 Hoedown show

"Funny how the circle sometimes completes itself," Brooks said. "I came her 30 years ago with just a dream, and you guys treated me like somebody. I came back tonight with just a guitar, and you treated me like everybody!"

A surprise like that certainly ran the risk of eclipsing all else on the Hoedown bill, but Gilbert held his own to close the day with a pounding 90 minutes that started with his first hit "Kick It in the Sticks" and tore through brawny hits such as "The Weekend," "The Ones That Like Me," "It's About to Get Dirty," "Country Must Be Country Wide" and "Read Me My Rights," most accompanied by their respective music videos on a screen behind the singer and his five-piece band. He also delivered covers of Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem," which Gilbert co-wrote, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd's "Blue on Black," nodding to his recent participation in an all-star remake of the song to benefit first responders.

Gilbert paired "One Hell of an Amen" and "Take It Outside" as tributes to U.S. military, both active and veterans, and to cancer survivors, and was "joined," via video, by Lindsay Ell for their duet "What Happens in a Small Town." And Gilbert offered something brand new as well -- "Not Like Us," a big beat rocker inspired by fans, the BG Nation, who let Gilbert know that he was no Hoedown second-fiddle in their hearts, at least.

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