DALLAS Garth Brooks sings about having friends in low places, but he also has friends with big hearts: A live auction at the ACM Lifting Lives Gala on Friday night raised nearly $600,000 for Lifting Lives, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music.
That’s in addition to the money raised by the benefit-worthy admission prices to the gala itself, which featured performances by Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood, as well as Hunter Hayes, Little Big Town, the Band Perry, Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban. Exact totals of proceeds were not immediately available.
Proceeds benefited ACM Lifting Lives, and Garth Brooks’ charity, Teammates for Kids, as well as Children’s Health Dallas and Cook Children’s Fort Worth.
Brooks, a nominee for Entertainer of the Year at Sunday’s 50th Annual ACM Awards, was the one who approached the academy about hosting the gala. He had already had plans to do a fund-raiser for Teammates for Kids in Dallas, and decided to combine it with a fund-raiser for Lifting Lives.
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“It means another opportunity to raise a lot of money for kids,” Brooks said on the red carpet before the gala concert. “What I love when you work with Dallas’ Children’s for 20 years, and you work with [president and CEO] Rick Merrill over at Cook’s for the same amount of time, you see that these guys don’t waste pennies at all. So the money is going to stay here, for Texas’ future and its children, and it’s going to be in good hands.”
The gala was a highlight of a busy week for Brooks and Yearwood; they just completed a four-night concert stand in Portland, Ore., and she was scheduled to fly to North Carolina on Saturday to launch a furniture line — and then fly back to North Texas for Sunday’s awards show at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“It’s the busiest we’ve both been, probably in our lives,” Yearwood said. “But it’s good. We’re having a great time, and we’re together 99 percent of the time.”
“That’s what kills me,” added Brooks, who has been married to Yearwood since 2005. “We’re both busier than we’ve ever been, but we’re together 99 percent of the time. That’s what we decided to do when we got married, and we’re doing it.”
Brooks and Yearwood were both very engaging on the red carpet, talking about her cooking (she recently published her third cookbook) and their touring together, and at one point breaking from the cameras to each hug a reporter they both recognized.
There have been reports that Brooks might have to lip-sync during Sunday’s show, simply because the Portland marathon took a tool on his voice.
“It’s gone,” Brooks said with a laugh. “It’s funny, I can talk, but the second I try to sing — well, you’ll see tonight. I’m doing Friends in Low Places. It’s going to sound like hell, but hopefully, everybody will be singing.”
The crowd did sing during that song, which Brooks performed — sounding pretty robust, really — with Urban as part of a knockout finale that also included Yearwood singing She’s In Love With the Boy backed by Brooks and Urban and his band, and young artist Hunter Hayes joining Brooks and Urban for The Dance — a Brooks hit that was released before the 23-year-old Hayes was born. Hayes, on keyboard, engaged in a duel with Urban on guitar that was one of the highlights of the concert.
The Band Perry — singer Kimberly Perry and her brothers Neil and Reid — had another of the highlights: Singing Bright Eyes, a song they co-wrote with campers at the ACM Lifting Lives camp, who joined the siblings and their band onstage to perform the song, a sweet and uplifting number that showed a different side of the band after their raucous set.
Friday’s crowd in a ballroom at the Omni Dallas Hotel was a small fraction of the size expected for Sunday’s awards, which should easily break a record for attendance at a televised awards show.
But all the acts — who donated their time — performed as if they were playing before a full stadium house, with Hayes getting things off to a fiery start with such numbers as I Want Crazy; Little Big Town switching from their delicate ballad Girl Crush to more raucous numbers like Pontoon; Lady Antebellum continuing to rouse the crowd with a set climaxing with their hit Need You Now; and Urban displaying his guitar pyrotechnics, especially during his solo on Put You in a Song, which practically had the guitar talking.
Among the items auctioned off was the 1987 Chevy pickup that Brooks drove to Nashville before he was a star. The initial winning bid for the truck was $185,000 — and then the buyer donated it back for re-auction, and it netted an additional $90,000. Another Brooks truck, a 1994 model, went for $285,000 — back to Brooks himself, who competed with the crowd to up the price for the pickup.
The gala was originally planned as two galas, one at the Omni and one at the Fort Worth Zoo, but organizers decided to combine the event into one after hearing from donors asking if it would be possible to attend both events to see all the artists performing.
ACM Party for a Cause Festival
12 p.m. Saturday
Globe Life Park, Arlington
7 p.m. Sunday
AT&T Stadium, Arlington
On television: KTVT/Channel 11
For a complete listing of all ACM Awards-related events, as well as ticket information, visit ACMcountry.com.
For more ACM coverage, including stories, videos and photos, visit DFW.com/acm50.