NORMAN — Garth Brooks stood triumphantly on what any other day he might have considered enemy territory: a massive stage on the south end of University of Oklahoma's football stadium.
“You know, I find it very interesting that the second something bad happens, all the sudden borders between states mean nothing. All the borders between cities mean nothing. All the sudden where you went to college means nothing. ... You've treated me like one of you guys tonight, so I will salute you with the only way I know how from where I'm from, with the cowboy salute of honor,” the Oklahoma State University graduate exclaimed, striding to all points of the stage to wave his white cowboy hat to the screaming crowd.
“God bless you Oklahoma! I love this place!” the country music superstar bellowed as his band played the final bars of an extended version of his smash ballad “The Dance.”
The Owasso resident wasn't the only superstar to express such unifying sentiments along with using his formidable musical talents to thrill the more than 60,000 fans Saturday at the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert. Nor was the Country Music Hall of Famer the only one on the star-studded lineup to add “God bless Toby Keith” to his outpouring of support for the tornado-torn Sooner State.
“Toby Keith gets my vote for man of the year,” “Cabo Wabo” singer Sammy Hagar said as he closed his set with an inspirational request “Eagles Fly.”
“When Toby asked to be here there was no question. I dropped everything. I was supposed to be in Cabo, OK? Now, that's giving it up. That's OK. Cabo ain't going nowhere. I had to be here, right here, right now.”
The show Saturday set a record for the largest paid audience for a concert in the history of OU's stadium, exceeding attendance for previous monster musical draws Rolling Stones and U2, said Keith's publicist Elaine Schock. The concert is believed to be one of the biggest in state history.
Gov. Mary Fallin introduced Keith's closing performance, declaring “What a great day in Oklahoma.”
“May was a very tough month for our state, a very tough month for our people in our great state, and we have shown time and time again that when things are challenging in our state, our people come back and they come back Oklahoma strong. And we are proving that we are a resilient people,” Fallin said, thanking Keith and the other stars who put on the show.
In addition to closing the event, Keith, who was born in Clinton, raised in Moore and now lives in Norman, organized and hosted the sold-out charity show at OU's Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Net proceeds benefit the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund.
“It was like herding cats. You've got a lot of managers, you've got a lot of artists, you've got a lot of folks ... that you've got to deal with to make everybody's happy. So we've had to go through all that,” Keith told media backstage Saturday afternoon shortly after his daughter, Krystal Keith, belted the national anthem to open the show.
“But everybody's here for the right reasons, and it's gonna be a big show for Oklahoma ... and it's gonna take care of some people for a long time.”