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April 23, 2014

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Exclusive: Is Mr. Garth Brooks going to Washington? Plus, his Wynn show


Leila Navidi

Garth Brooks speaks during a press conference on the debut night of his new show in Encore Theater at the Wynn on Dec. 11, 2009.

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Garth Brooks @The Wynn

Garth Brooks. Launch slideshow »

Garth Brooks Press Conference

Garth Brooks speaks during a press conference on the debut night of his new show in Encore Theater at the Wynn on Dec. 11, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Editor’s Note: Part 1 of Robin Leach’s exclusive interview with Garth Brooks was posted Dec. 2.

Hotel mogul Steve Wynn is known for developing incredible Las Vegas skyline towers and his keen appreciation of famous paintings and even more famous artworks. When he signed country king Garth Brooks to an exclusive residency at his Encore Theater in the Wynn, his daring idea of a bare stage except for a stool for two bottles of water and an acoustic guitar for the legendary singer-songwriter proved to be another work of art. Incredibly, Garth doesn’t even use the guitar for some of the songs, as he’s that perfectly pitched.

When Garth strolls out onstage, literally right from his private jet from Tulsa, Okla., neither he nor the audience has a clue what he’s going to do. In the first part of my exclusive interview with Garth, he revealed that he still gets butterflies as he “walks off the cliff into the abyss. … I’m flying by the seat of my pants, and thank goodness I have a big ass,” he laughed.

He needn’t worry. Sometimes his shows run 95 minutes, and other times he’s been known to go for 2 1/2 hours. “Every show is different,” he says proudly. When I returned to see it this past weekend, it bore zero similarity to when it opened 2 years ago. I honestly believe “Friends in Low Places” was the only duplicate.

With his incredible 20-year catalog of his own material and the songs of his music heroes, he could perform 6 hours without repeating anything and still have the audience in the palm of his hands. Simply amazing, especially when you think he gave up performing nearly a decade ago and came out of self-imposed retirement with Steve’s offer that he couldn’t refuse. He’s a natural born raconteur.

Garth takes his cheering, sing-along audience with him on an ever-changing musical journey of music hits through four decades. He goes back to his days as a bouncer and part-time performer at a country bar near home and pays tribute to Merle Haggard, George Strait and James Taylor. Garth makes you fall in love with his strict, finger-poking-in-the-chest father and laugh over the POS car models they burned through over the years. You love his mom even more for secretly listening to R&B hits when Dad wasn’t around.

It’s so personal, emotional and heart-warming, you swear you’re sitting one-on-one with him in the rec room of his Tulsa ranch, especially when loving wife Trisha Yearwood strolls onstage to surprise. If you are lucky enough to be there when she is -- as I was -- you’ll instantly understand the incredible love match they make. They tease each other, spill secrets and surprises about each other and wind up kissing full-on lips to lips.

You can see the gleam in his eyes after they sing together as she walks off-stage in her tight jeans. He happily winks to let the audience know they’ve caught him! He’s proud of her, and they love each other rightfully so. Their voices together are a harmony from heaven, and if they go out on tour together in 2014 when they become empty nesters, there’s no doubt that they’ll be bigger than ever.

I lost count of the number of songs he sings because I became engrossed in his fascinating storytelling -- anecdotes, memories, homespun yarns and revelations of confused youth. You laugh and then tear up during his tales. If it takes a magician to hold you under his spell, then Garth is equal parts wizard and musician.

He’s just started his third year of shows at the Wynn and says that he still loves every minute of it. He’s not slowing down, either and has a handshake with the hotel mogul to visit whenever he wishes for as long as they’re both reaping the benefits. I have a feeling that’s going to go on longer than the original five years they contemplated, even when Garth resumes touring once all the kids are in college.

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Robin Leach and Garth Brooks backstage at Encore Theater in the Wynn.

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Garth Brooks and Billy Joel at the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York City on June 16, 2011.

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Garth Brooks performs at Encore Theater in the Wynn on Dec. 12, 2009.

Don’t just take my word for it that his is one show you shouldn’t miss. Take the word of all the fans who keep going back for more. If they had their way, they’d never let him leave the stage. His next set of concert dates are March 2-3 and 30-31, April 20-21 and June 8-9. Tickets have just gone on sale, so run to the box office. If you walk, they might be gone already.

Here is Part 2 of my interview with the superstar on the phone from his Oklahoma home as he talks about righting the wrongs of the troubled world we live in now.

Robin Leach: Garth, there’s an expression that you can take the measure of a man by the mark he leaves. Instead of attending the country music awards, you went to Haiti with Miss Trisha for Habitat for Humanity. In the heat and humidity there, you are hammering away, building homes, and I said that tells you what this man is really all about. Tell me what you came away from Haiti feeling, and tell me what you were proudest of contributing.

Garth Brooks: First of all, know that we are lucky enough to get to do this program every year now for the past 5 or 6 years. Each time you learn the same thing over again. You learn how well you have it off. You learn how far the reach of believing in God is around the planet.

I think the main thing that I learned from Haiti this year by driving through Port-au-Prince that stuck with me is that with a few bad decisions, my own country could be in that shape in a few years. We must always think of what’s right and wrong, not what’s Republican or Democrat. We must think of what is right or wrong; if we don’t, then I don’t think that anyone is immune from that happening to their own country.

Their country is full of wonderful people, full of love. I sat at dinner with Haiti’s president. He’s full of love for his people and wants what’s best for them. All countries, I believe, share that, but it is those decisions made in the political realm that set the course of a country’s future. That is a lot of power to be very careful with.

R.L.: Garth, are there two lines from a song that might speak to that message you just imparted?

G.B.: There sure is! It’s like you’re reading my mind. I always quote from, you know there’s the Book of … and please this may sound sacrilegious, but it is meant in the sweetest way … there’s the Book of John, there’s the Book of Paul, and in our house we often speak of the Book of James Taylor or the Book of Aerosmith. They have great quotes in their words. Aerosmith has a wonderful line that says, “If you do what you’ve always did, then you will get what you’ve always got.”

It’s little things that you teach your kids like this. The quote I love to use for us as a global people is from a song of mine called “Thicker Than Blood,” and the line is, “Why can’t we see the walls we can’t see through?” That would be my thing to the whole world -- the boundaries and the walls that are between us we have built ourselves.

Bob Dylan said it best when he accepted his Grammy there in New York. I was sitting in the second row when he said, “My dad always told me you can’t dig yourself in a hole so deep that you can’t pull yourself out of.” And I have to say if we are the ones building the walls, we can also be the ones to tear them down.

R.L.: So true. You have a lot of life left to live, and having heard you just speak so sincerely about our world today, I have to ask if politics, be it independent or whatever, ever flash through your mind in terms of becoming a leader to right some of the wrongs of the world that we live in?

G.B.: Yeah, sure! Everyone who’s ever been an employer or a boss is basically leading people. So the thought of leading people doesn’t scare me. What scares me is that our system is 200 years old, one of the youngest systems on the planet, and our system is the best system out there.

But my dad had a saying and always said, “Son, just because you’re the best of what’s out there doesn’t mean you’re worth a sh*t.” You’ve got to look in your own mirror and say, “Can our system be better? It might be the best one that’s out there, but can our system be better?” The answer is yes! If we cannot stop voting on what’s Democratic and what’s Republican instead of what’s right or wrong, we are doomed. Maybe it’ll be up to people like me to make it better.”

Garth told me that he will be in Las Vegas with his family for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “Mr. Wynn likes us there every year, and I love it because I get to see a lot of old friends there.

“But now I’ve got to go pick up my youngest from school. She’s not old enough to drive yet, so she’s my last one, so I still take her to school and go get her. Thank you. I don’t know what I expected on this interview, but before I hang up, I can tell you I loved it.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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