Garth BrooksFor a guy in retirement, Garth Brooks has been phenomenally busy for the past few months, culminating in a sold-out show in Kansas City last night, a concert which was simulcast to digital theatres throughout the world. I went to the Cinemark theatre in Mesa, Arizona to see the show, and wasn’t disappointed.

Brooks is a juggernaut, and is still breaking records in retirement. His latest single debuted at number one on the Hot Country chart in August, a feat described by Billboard as “almost impossible” since the chart is based on radio airplay alone. The single is being sold on a triple-disc album called The Ultimate Hits, which includes a DVD of music videos, which Brooks has been endlessly promoting (and which is selling for only $13 – around £7 – with $10 of that going to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer foundation). Then, Sirius Satellite Radio (on which I listen to Howard Stern every morning) contracted Brooks to give him an entire channel of his own for two weeks, called Garth Brooks radio. This, all without mentioning perhaps the biggest record of all: the Recording Industry Association of America announced a couple of weeks ago that Brooks has overtaken Elvis Presley to become the biggest-selling solo artist in recorded history.

By the time they announced a solitary, one-off concert to mark the opening of Kansas City’s new Sprint Center, the fans were ready: all tickets sold in less than 10 minutes. Another show was quickly added, and then another, until finally a total of 9 concerts at the center had been sold out, all in less than 2 hours. How to get even more butts in seats? Broadcast the November 14th show, the final of the nine, out by satellite, live, to hundreds of selected theatres in America, Canada and Europe.

And that leads me to last night. I didn’t know what to expect, really: I’d seen Brooks perform before in my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, but I’d never ‘been’ to a concert where the performers were almost 1400 miles away. (By the way, some fans from Belfast flew to Kansas for the show; a USA Today reporter caught them on the way out afterwards.) The shows had rave reviews, so I was interested.

Basically, it was the old stuff with most of his original band and an incredibly loud audience, high emotions and a performer who, for the first time since he first announced retirement 10 years ago, promised to come out of retirement and be back touring and recording someday. There was nothing unbelievably spectacular, as some who had seen Brooks’ shows before might have expected. No artificial rain, no fire, no hidden wires or crowd-surfing, no guitar-smashing, no rope ladder-climbing or fireworks, helicopters, choirs of hundreds, piano-jumping, cymbal-throwing, confetti-shooting, or crazy special effects. It was all about the man and the music. Still, it was a hell of a show, and almost everyone came out with a smile on their face.

One advantage of this retirement discount pricing is that you can now pick up 6 Garth Brooks concerts on DVD, spanning his whole career, for less than $10 here. If you’ve never seen the top-selling solo artist of all time entertain a stadium, it’s worthwhile. It might be years before you can do it for real… and, who knows, maybe I’ll get to be there in person next time.