Brooks, Yearwood begin concerts with heavy hearts

Garth Brooks and wife singer Trisha Yearwood hold a press conference Friday at the North Charleston Coliseum prior to their shows here.

With four shows lined up at the North Charleston Coliseum on a love-filled weekend, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood arrived in the Lowcountry on Friday with broken hearts.

The married couple held a press conference at the venue Friday afternoon just hours ahead of their first performance, where a teary-eyed Brooks told members of the media that they were mourning the loss of close friend and colleague, Kim Williams.

The Nashville songwriter who’s perhaps best known for Brooks’ hit, “Ain’t Goin’ Down ‘Til The Sun Comes Up,” died Thursday evening. He was 68.

“He was a sweet man and he’ll live forever through his music, and through his friends,” Brooks said.

While he admitted Friday night’s performance might be an emotional one, he said it’s also a sort of therapy.

“I’ve heard the comment that we don’t need to be doing this, we don’t need the money. I need to be doing this,” Brooks said. “Especially on a day like today, I’m going to need tonight more than anybody that came here. ... I’m coming here to get away, and get lost in the music.”

The country stars are performing Friday, two back-to-back shows on Saturday and another on Sunday at the Coliseum, marking Brooks’ first return to the venue in 19 years. It’s the longest and best-selling stint of shows the venue has ever seen, according to Alan Coker, a venue spokesman.

The previous record was also set by Brooks, who sold more than 35,000 tickets to a three-night run in 1997. He took a hiatus the following year to focus on his children in Oklahoma, and he didn’t hit the road again for an extensive tour until 2014.

Just like his heyday in the 1990s, Brooks is headlining most venues across the country for two or more nights, and a majority of the shows are selling out.

“In that decade, we got a really good lick in, so we thought by announcing the tour, if we could do 50 percent of what we did in the ’90s, we would be lucky,” Brooks said. “We’re running at about 134 percent of what we did in the ’90s. So, it’s just crazy. I wish I could explain it, but I feel very lucky that it’s happening.”

Brooks has often been credited with broadening country music’s mass appeal in the early ’90s with his rock star kind of approach. Before him, the genre had been dominated for decades by traditionalists such as Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson and Hank Williams Jr.

Today, there’s a new generation of country artists who are blurring the lines more and more between pop and country, making Brook’s early tunes seem almost purist by comparison. Brooks said he’s encouraged that his music is still resonating with today’s audiences.

“What I grew up on was Haggard and George (Strait). but also we were raised with Kiss, Queen, Kansas, Styx, all these guys. So that music found its way in, too. Well, today’s generation is raised on hip-hop, beat stuff,” he said. “What I wanted to know was, will (my) music make the leap of time? And it did.”

In the latest leg of tour dates, the two said the fans have been as receptive as ever to their older tunes.

Yearwood said “the common element has been joy.”

She added that they chose to return to the Lowcountry on their come-back tour because they like the culture here, and the supportive fans.

“For me, I love the fact that we get to be in a city for a few days and really soak it in. And it really does go back to honestly playing the places where you have fun,” she said. “I’ve played Charleston several times, and ... this feels very similar to where I was raised and how I was raised. And the food’s great.”

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail