Joe Maldonado is such a big Garth Brooks fan that he named his son after the country-music superstar.
Not Garth, which actually is the singer’s middle name, but Brooks’ little-known first name, Troyal.
Naming his son Troyal showed he was “a real fan,” said Maldonado, a 44-year-old maintenance supply salesman from Roseville.
Troyal Maldonado, 16, goes by Troy. His dad goes by “The Garth Fan.”
Joe has seen the singer 25 times. He has collected countless pieces of memorabilia, the most precious of which is a Stetson hat Brooks signed during a 1996 Atlanta show.
On Sunday, Joe and wife Debbie, along with Troy and their five other children born since Brooks last played Sacramento almost 18 years ago, will attend Brooks’ show at Sleep Train Arena.
They’re among the 84,000-plus people who bought tickets to Brooks’ five-day, six-show run, which kicks off Friday and for which tickets are scarce and mostly singles. It is the biggest musical event at the arena since … Brooks played five shows, for about 79,000 fans, in August 1997.
The Sacramento shows mark the first California stop of Brooks’ 7-month-old “The World Tour,” his first large tour since he semi-retired in 2001 to raise his three daughters.
Brooks has said the new tour – during which he sings classics such as “Friends in Low Places” and songs from “Man Against Machine,” his first full-length studio album in 13 years – might last three years.
As is his tradition, Brooks started small with two Sacramento shows, then added dates to try to accommodate every fan who wants to see him, pricing all seats at an egalitarian $74.88. (Brooks tries to undercut scalpers by offering as much supply as demand. To that end, he played 11 shows in both Chicago and Minneapolis last year.)
“We’re extremely honored that Garth Brooks chose Sacramento for his first California appearance on ‘The World Tour,’ ” said Juan Rodriguez, the Sacramento Kings’ senior vice president of arena operations and general manager. “The fact that we added additional shows illustrates Sacramento’s enthusiasm for this remarkable icon.”
Brooks was not available for comment, pre-shows, about why he chose Sacramento. But he likely will address the matter at a press conference scheduled Friday afternoon.
He has expressed affection for Sacramento in the past. In 1997, he told The Bee that “Sacramento is one of our favorite spots.”
Maldonado spoke to Brooks during his semi-retirement, at a 2008 wildfire relief concert in Los Angeles, and a 2011 Las Vegas show that was part of Brooks’ residency at the Wynn.
Maldonado said that whenever he mentions he is from Sacramento, Brooks lights up.
“He says, ‘Oh, Arco Arena – I love playing there,’ ” Maldonado said of Brooks, who used the old name for the Natomas arena for which his six-concert run is likely to be a last big musical hurrah. (The Kings’ new downtown arena is scheduled to open in October 2016).
Maldonado likes to be conspicuous at shows, wearing brightly colored shirts and hoisting signs that tend to draw the attention of Brooks’ management. The superfan has spent time backstage and on stage with Brooks.
Fans need not get that close to get the Brooks effect, Maldonado said.
“You can be in the back row, and you feel like he is there for you,” Maldonado said. A fan since Brooks released his first, self-titled album in 1989, Maldonado was drawn to Brooks’ music, showmanship and humility, he said.
Brooks, a fan of theatrical rock groups KISS and Queen, introduced the arena-style show to country music in the 1990s. He backed up his twang with big drums and guitar and thrilled audiences by hoisting himself via wires to fly over the crowd.
“Man Against Machine” drew mostly favorable reviews when it was released in November, and since has gone platinum. But Brooks is selling out multiple dates in arenas because of his catalog (he is the best-selling solo artist of all time, below the Beatles and just above Elvis Presley, according to the Recording Industry Association of America) and because he built a reputation as an audience-friendly live act.
Fans appreciate his longtime practice of putting one reasonable price on every seat, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert industry-tracking magazine Pollstar.
“When Garth retired, he was as hot as anybody could be, and he was doing the same thing,” Bongiovanni said. “I think his fans appreciated that.”
Bongiovanni said the current tour has included counterintuitive stops.
“I wouldn’t count Sacramento or Lexington, Ky., or Greensboro (N.C.) as must-play markets,” he said. Nor would he have thought Buffalo, N.Y., was a hotbed for country music before Brooks played six shows there earlier this month.
“Part of what he is doing is (going where) he is getting the best possible deal from the arena to keep ticket prices down,” Bongiovanni said.
Brooks’ tour, which next hits Portland, Ore., likely will reach Los Angeles and the Bay Area eventually. In the meantime, Sacramento can benefit from being its only California stop.
“We are getting the Bay Area market and the Reno market,” said Mike Testa of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. “If you want to see him, Sacramento is it.”
Estimating the economic thunder of Brooks’ Sacramento concert run is harder than estimating the impact of a convention coming to town, Testa said, because concertgoers do not behave like conventioneers who stay in official convention hotels.
But Testa conducted an informal survey of Sacramento hotels earlier this week to see if Brooks’ fans are booking rooms. It revealed a spike in bookings for Saturday, when Brooks will perform twice, at 7 and 10:30 p.m.
He can assume people are coming into town for Brooks’ shows because there is no big convention in town, he said.
“If you are looking at the (weekend) calendar for Sacramento, Garth Brooks is the major draw.”
Liz Mishler, owner of Natomas’ Bella Bru Café, always consults the Sleep Train calendar and staffs accordingly.
“We have extra bartenders, extra bussers, extra servers” on the schedule for all five nights of Brooks’ shows, Mishler said.
Testa expects Brooks fans from the Bay Area and counties just outside the Sacramento metro area, like Sutter and Nevada, to book rooms in town to avoid driving home after the show.
Dave and Jenn Schmall of Penn Valley (Nevada County) are going to Friday’s show and staying at the Sheraton Grand. Jenn Schmall is from Oklahoma, where Brooks, an OSU grad, is especially beloved.
The couple plan a “mini-vacation,” Dave Schmall said, that includes dinner out Friday and “perhaps some shopping” Saturday.
Regardless of geographic origin, concertgoers at Sunday’s show might share a compulsion to look in section 114. That’s where the Maldonados will be trying to stick out like eight sore thumbs.
Joe Maldonado is reviving the yellow sign that’s been a good-luck charm for nearly 20 years. In 1996 in Atlanta, Brooks saw the sign asking Brooks to “please sign my hat” and complied.
Troy held the sign in 2008, at the L.A. benefit show. Father and son wore red, white and blue cowboy shirts, in honor of Brooks’ early ’90s look. Brooks’ people pulled them backstage, where Troy met his namesake.
On Sunday, “all the other kids will take turns holding” the sign, Maldonado said.
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Visit sacbee.com/entertainment Saturday morning for a review of Brooks’ Friday-night concert.
What: The country superstar is playing six shows over five days at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena. His wife, singer Trisha Yearwood, will make guest appearances at his shows. (Tickets are very limited.)
When: 7 p.m. Friday; 7 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cost: $74.88 (including tax, facility fee and surcharge)