Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 12: Brooks’ friends fill Mack four straight nights

Country singer sets arena record with more than 72,000 fans

Click to enlarge photo

A display inside the Thomas & Mack Center shows off memorabilia from Garth Brooks, including a signed cowboy hat from his record-setting, four night concert series in 1998.

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

“I got friends in low places,” to quote Garth Brooks, but in triumphant spree of four shows in 1998, Brooks had friends in the highest and most remote confines of the Thomas & Mack Center.

It was the summer of that year, a scorching mid-August week in Vegas, but no ticket was hotter than a ducat for Brooks’ electrifying shows at the T&M. Every seat – 72,076, precisely – reportedly sold in just 52 minutes. Brooks could have filled Sam Boyd Stadium twice if he’d chosen, and the raucous audience response was compared to the cacophony that greeted the Runnin’ Rebels during their championship years. So powerful was the response that, as R-J reviewer Mike Weatherford noted, Brooks’ more subtle artistic forays were simply drowned out by the din of the crowd, which had heretofore been an issue only once before in Vegas history – when the Beatles were rendered inaudible at the Las Vegas Convention Center in 1964.

The shows were further remarkable for an uncommonly low ticket price (the cheapest seats went for $18), and its opening act: up-and-comer Trish Yearwood.

No question, the Brooks tour of 1998 was no ordinary barn-dance country experience. He borrowed from strobe-lighting effects usually reserved for U2 or Kiss (some even compared it to the then-recently opened Star Trek Experience), while warbling “I Got Friends In Low Places” and “The Dance,” and closing with a stirring sing-along cover of “American Pie.”

Brooks, who had not visited Vegas in five years before the four-concert spree in 1998, has never been bigger, and his performances marked a singular moment for the arena and the artist.

Kin I git a yee-haw?

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