Live (On TV) Last Night: Garth Brooks

What he's doing now: Singing poorly.

After getting caught up on Usher's super-strange "Saturday Night Live" performance on the DVR, I was flipping through the channels last night when I landed on CBS just as Garth Brooks was being introduced on the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't.

Garth has a pretty fine rep as a live performer - more for his showmanship than his musicianship, I guess. But last night, he was pretty lousy: The graying, semi-retired singer was not in particularly good voice while performing a long, meandering medley of hits - and, in fact, he sounded downright winded during the second half of his performance. Could it be that he'd worn himself out trying to pull on those two-sizes-too-small jeans he was wearing?

The medley itself was not particularly well-conceived, as there was no real flow or sense of continuity. Not with "Thunder Rolls" rolling into "Callin' Baton Rouge" into "Friends in Low Places" into (in order) "We Shall Be Free," "The Dance," "Good Ride Cowboy," "In Another's Eyes," "More Than a Memory," "Rodeo" and "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)." Ten songs in less than eight minutes = some super-short snippets. On Extended Play, Todd Martens likened it "listening to all the 30-second clips on one of Brooks' greatest hits sets on"

At one point, Trisha Yearwood sashayed onto the stage, spilling out of some sort of royal-blue gown; but even she couldn't save her husband. Their voices simply didn't mesh during "In Another's Eyes," not with Garth getting all screechy, and Yearwood quickly returned backstage. Hopefully she was out of earshot at the end of "Rodeo" when Garth held a note to particularly painful effect.

After the performance, Brooks accepted something called the Crystal Milestone Award from Reba McEntire. More proof that he was off his game: In his speech, he made the mistake of referring to Reba as "Miss Yearwood."

If you must: Garth's ACMs performance is linked here - for now, anyway.

Taylor Swift's weird, watered-down performance of her new single, "You Should've Said No," is also worth watching.

The list of winners is here. A lot of the usual suspects: Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year. Brad Paisley and Sugarland both picked up a couple of awards each. Rascal Flatts. Carrie Underwood. Brooks & Dunn. Blah blah blah.

But the Academy must be doing at least something right: Miranda Lambert's superlative "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" was honored as the album of the year.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  May 19, 2008; 9:23 AM ET Awards Shows
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I only caught the tail end of Brooks' performance and rather liked it, although the earlier portion of the broadcast had me in a warm mood about the event in general.

It's hard to explain, but watching these guys and gals perform live was a joy for me. No pop-music put-ons, no lip synching (!), no performances that was more about dancing than singing, etc. Sure, Country performers have their own set of expectations -- every guy must wear a cowboy hat, and wear it well. And those giant video screens might help the folks in the balcony, but they're a distraction to the home viewer. Still, when the singers are having so much fun, I'll give them more credit than they deserve. Even Rodney Atkins' four-hit melody, which was sung poorly, was enjoyable, if only because Atkins himself seemed to be enjoying his moment on the stage so much.

A little enthusiam goes a long way.

Posted by: Discman | May 19, 2008 11:38 AM

Since when did Chris Gaines start singing country music?

Posted by: Ronnie | May 19, 2008 4:33 PM

Not "every" male country artist wore a goofy hat last night. Keith Urban makes the rest of those "twangers" look like amateurs. Keith was the highlight of the show for me -- so much energy, spot-on singing, masterful guitar -- he's the real deal! He was robbed of that Entertainer award. You won't see a better live show than Keith's.

Posted by: Kathy | May 20, 2008 1:00 AM

Garth Brooks has more talent under that big black hat than all of Washington, D.C. combined. He made Country music big again. It was good to see him back at the ACM's.

Posted by: Jimmy | May 20, 2008 8:07 AM

that was a kick ass performance, the best on stage last night and no bad about it

Posted by: brandon | May 21, 2008 1:17 AM

awesome garth you are the man

Posted by: rhonda | May 26, 2008 8:19 PM

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