“I’m yours and you’re mine, that’s what it’s all about.”
Those words from “Two of a Kind” could have been the theme of Garth Brooks debut concert of his six-show stay in Happy Valley.
It started before he even walked onstage, as an eager crowd filled the Bryce Jordan Center to welcome back the king of country music after his 18-year hiatus.
Lines of people wrapped around the building. One of the first groups inside were the Fuschettis, of Palmyra. They were happy with their upper level seats, just wanting to see Brooks live. But it wasn’t long before one of the megastar’s people gave an unexpected birthday gift to twins Amanda and Jess, 18, bringing their whole party down to the front row.
“I have been a big fan for years,” said mom Sharon.
She wanted to hear “Unanswered Prayers.” Brooks obliged, bringing the audience along for the ride.
In fact, there was little, if anything, that he sang alone all night.
With a repertoire that spans decades, fast and slow, twangy and rocky, there was something for almost everyone to sing along with. And that is just what he wanted.
“Try to remember, I’m about 104 years old now,” he said, asking for help singing the old stuff.
He didn’t seem to need it. Even with years of retirement while he raised his daughters, Brooks was every bit the cowboy he was at his height, from his black hat to his black shirt to slouchy jeans that looked ready for a night of line dancing.
Instead, Brooks kept those jeans in constant motion, running from one end of the stage to the other, front to back, sometimes playing a polished guitar, sometimes climbing on the cage that domed the drummer. He even took a turn with a hand-held camera, panning the audience and doing singing selfies.
But always, there was a huge smile as he interacted with an eager house of fans, or his band, or wife and touring partner Trisha Yearwood.
Well, almost always.
Lois Cheatle, of St. Marys, brought a sign asking Brooks to play “The Dance” for her the sons she lost, Codi at just 5 when the song first came out and Blake six years ago, both of cancer.
When he played the song, and cameras caught the sign, putting it on the screen, Brooks bobbled, becoming visibly and audibly emotional.
It’s an emotional song, one that is easy to hit home, but Brooks thought he was OK.
“Then, out of nowhere comes a sign like yours,” he told Cheatle, marveling at her strength.
It was not the only heart wrenching moment. Kelly Rooney, of Langhorne, held a different sign, saying “You are my James Taylor.”
Brooks brought her onstage, serenaded her with “She’s Every Woman” and capping it off with a special gift, the guitar he used to sing it to her.
Rooney said it was an amazing experience, her third time seeing Brooks live.
“I’m in shock,” she said. Brooks seemed just as moved as his fans.
“It’s a sweet thing you are doing,” he said. “No matter what you play, you make it feel like it’s your favorite.”
For many, that was the truth.
Sharon and Jerry Moran, of Altoona, were in the audience the last time Brooks was in town. They weren’t waiting for one special song. They wanted them all.
“He just opens his mouth and it sounds good,” Sharon Moran said.