The Tennessean: Garth concert to keep flood in the forefront

Posted on October 29, 2010

It’s been six months since the flood, but Garth Brooks wants the world to know we’re still recovering.

There’s no telling which celebrities might join Brooks onstage during his flood relief concert in December. But when he announced the benefit show in Nashville on Thursday morning, he brought along all of the state’s biggest political stars.

Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood were joined at the State Capitol building by Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Jim Cooper, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Mayor Karl Dean — a remarkable display of political power for a concert announcement. But the combination of size, star power and timing elevated the significance of the event.

“One of the things that I remember being concerned about (immediately after the flood) was, after the first three or four weeks, the reporters and TV cameras all go home,” Bredesen said. “And yet you still have all of these people who are dealing with very significant problems.”

Brooks’ concert will be held Dec. 17 at Bridgestone Arena, a little more than seven months after the flood and months removed from most of the high-profile benefits held in its wake, including GAC’s “Keep on Playin’ ” telethon (May 16) and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Nashville Rising concert (June 22).

“In a way, it’s even more important” now, Alexander said. “To remember that for many families, the disaster is still a disaster, even though the floodwaters have receded. This will help remind us of that.”

All of the proceeds from Brooks’ concert will go toward the flood relief efforts of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Foundation President Ellen Lehman first met with Brooks in mid-May for a “brainstorming” session.

“I think he understood what a shot in the arm it would be to do something when Nashville really was back in much of its glory,” Lehman said.

“He really grasped, maybe before anybody else in the room, the fact that by doing something around Christmastime, he could help deliver the message, by word and by deed, that this is a marathon. It’s not a sprint.”

Pols feel ‘privileged’ to join in

The concert is notable for more than its timing, of course. It is the first full-length Nashville performance since 1998 from the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history, with 128 million albums sold. It’s also his first full-band concert anywhere since coming out of “retirement” last year to do a series of stripped-down solo shows at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort.

Cooper noted “an electric feeling” in a room of industry elites when Brooks performed at the 2010 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony this month. “When he got up there, he was rocking the house. He laid into that guitar. He was bending every string to the breaking point and beyond.”

On Thursday, at least, Brooks wasn’t aiming to be the center of attention. “I wasn’t supposed to be hearing my name as many times as I’ve already heard it,” he said.

Tennessee’s politicians also seem keen to make the area’s needs the focal point of the event.

“I’m not in any way trying to contribute to Garth’s career,” Bredesen said with a laugh. “He doesn’t need it, it’s not appropriate and all of those things. But I think anyone who’s willing to step forward and help keep a light on the needs of people across Tennessee, and certainly here in Nashville, I think that’s a valuable service, and I’m happy to be a part of it and support it.”

Corker also was happy to be part of the morning, calling it a touching experience.

“I see a lot of concern and fear and anger throughout the country,” he said. “To be a part of something this morning that, as I mentioned in my comments, was like a balm, where here we are focusing on the goodness of our people, the greatness of our state, and the warmth and hope and everything that surrounds this event? That just made me feel very privileged to be a part of it.”