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updated: 9/5/2014 10:39 AM

Garth Brooks hits the stage in Rosemont

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  • Video: Garth Brooks on Rosemont

  • Country music star Garth Brooks performs at Allstate Arena on Thursday in Rosemont.

      Country music star Garth Brooks performs at Allstate Arena on Thursday in Rosemont.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Country music star Garth Brooks performs at Allstate Arena on Thursday in Rosemont.

      Country music star Garth Brooks performs at Allstate Arena on Thursday in Rosemont.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Garth Brooks speaks to reporters in Rosemont before kicking off his 11-show Allstate Arena series.

      Garth Brooks speaks to reporters in Rosemont before kicking off his 11-show Allstate Arena series.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Garth Brooks speaks backstage before a news conference in Rosemont, where he is kicking off his 11-show Allstate Arena series with wife and fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.

      Garth Brooks speaks backstage before a news conference in Rosemont, where he is kicking off his 11-show Allstate Arena series with wife and fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Garth Brooks greets fans and reporters before a news conference in Rosemont, where he is kicking off his 11-show Allstate Arena series with wife and fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.

      Garth Brooks greets fans and reporters before a news conference in Rosemont, where he is kicking off his 11-show Allstate Arena series with wife and fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens, right, joins Garth Brooks onstage as the country music star kicks off a 11 shows at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

      Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens, right, joins Garth Brooks onstage as the country music star kicks off a 11 shows at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

He's back.

Garth Brooks stepped into the spotlight again Thursday to kick off his Garth Brooks World Tour with fellow country superstar and wife Trisha Yearwood, running through Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

It's been 17 years since Brooks, ranked third behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley among top-selling artists by The Recording Industry Association of America, has performed in the Chicago area.

Fans quickly snatched up tickets for the Grammy winner's 11 Rosemont shows, though some remain available on Ticketmaster.com and other sites.

Brooks, 52, hit the stage with his band Thursday night around 9 p.m., running from one end to the other and pumping his fist for the welcoming crowd. He grabbed a guitar for the second song, which ended with the superstar surrounded by his bandmates in an iconic pose in the center of the stage.

"I'm the luckiest, most blessed man on the planet," Brooks said earlier Thursday at an Allstate Arena news conference. "It's been, like, 1,000 years" since his last tour, said Brooks, who retired from 2001 to 2009 and has performed sporadically since then. "I thank the Lord, and I thank the people."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, also on hand at the media event, declared that "although Illinois is usually the 'Land of Lincoln,' today it is the 'Land of Garth Brooks.'"

Brooks credited Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens for the world tour's launch in Rosemont, even though four other cities were also being considered.

"This gentleman is the reason we are here," Brooks said, putting his arm around Stephens.

It was Stephens who, after viewing only two minutes of a promotional video that Brooks' team released to five cities, asked, "What do we have to do?" to bring the world tour launch to Rosemont, Brooks recalled.

For his part, Stephens spoke of the singer's tickets sales, which Allstate Arena spokesman Phil Chihoski characterized as record-setting for the venue.

"We thought about giving him (Brooks) the key to the city, but we should really give him a key to the box office," Stevens said.

At the media event, Brooks also announced the beta launch of the GhostTunes digital music store, featuring the debut of his digital music catalog along with the works of many other artists. Visit garthbrooks.com or ghosttunes.com.

Brooks acknowledged that getting back in the swing of touring is a "work in progress" and jokingly referred to his band as the "wheelchair and walker tour."

And Brooks' eyes welled with tears as he spoke of Yearwood, who will take to the stage in Rosemont, as well.

"I'm madly in love and can't spend a day without her," he said, adding with a smile, "She's more talented than I am. And she has more Grammys."

Brooks said he kept his concert ticket prices at $65.60 apiece, low by concert standards for an artist of his acclaim, to offer his fans a fair price.

"I don't care who you are, that's still a lot of money," Brooks said. "I hate getting letters, saying, 'Man, I'd love to come and see you perform, but I just can't afford it.' So the goal is to make it affordable and make sure anybody who wants a ticket can come."

• Daily Herald staff photographer George LeClaire contributed to this report.

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