We gave it a B+
Having endured guest stints on Empty Nest and a Bob Hope special, Garth Brooks has more than earned his own NBC showcase, and the best-selling artist in current country music makes the most of it: This Is Garth Brooks offers a dizzying display of talent, nerve, and in-your-face nuttiness.
Filmed in performance at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Brooks plays all his hits, from Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee’s affably loopy ”Friends in Low Places” to Brooks and Pat Alger’s deeply melodramatic ”The Thunder Rolls,” but that’s to be expected. What’s going to jolt a lot of viewers is the extent to which Brooks isn’t your average standing-like-an-oak-tree, gee-tar-strummin’ country crooner. Under the bright stage lights, his head looks like a Creamsicle with a smiley-face glued to it, and Brooks behaves like Mick Jagger crossed with a hyperactive teenager. He runs laps around the stage, swings from dangling wires, smashes his guitar, douses himself with bottled water, blows kisses, and waggles his tongue at pretty girls in the audience.
It’s funny to see a ’90s country star act like a ’70s hard-rocker; what’s less funny are taped segments shuffled between the songs, in which we see Garth strolling through the autumn Tennessee countryside expounding on his philosophy of life, to (nit)wit: ”What some people call chasin’ after foolishness I call tryin’ to see if it’s a door that’s never been opened.” Garth, whut the devil you talkin’ about?
Because he sells records and packs arenas in numbers usually reserved for the biggest rock stars, Brooks is being hailed as a country-music breakthrough. But any guy whose idea of cutting edge is to perform not one but two Billy Joel songs (”Shameless” and ”You May Be Right”) just ain’t that radical an artist. Instead, This Is Garth Brooks — fluidly directed by Bud Schaetzle with lots of swooping, diving cameras — suggests that Brooks is a great showman, someone who’s going to attract lots of fans who never thought they liked country music before they saw this extremely likable, comfortingly derivative wild man. B+