The Garth Brooks World Tour

Date Seen: February 18, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $75 CDN

Rating: 93%

Garth in front of the drummer's cage

Garth in front of the drummer's cage

16 years ago, Garth Brooks announced his retirement so that he could focus his time on his young family. His eldest daughter graduated high school a few years ago and now Garth is back on the road in a very big way. 

Yesterday was one of 9 sold-out concerts that Garth will play in Edmonton, Alberta. At 55, he has lost a bit of his country-rock energy that once made him the ultimate showman. However, his humour, vocals and extreme generosity prove he still has what it takes to dazzle a crowd. In his signature black cowboy hat and his handsfree microphone, he rocked Rogers Arena. He proves song after song that he is still the entertainer of our time. Impressively, this is the 7th leg of his World Tour which began in 2014 and will continue well into 2019 overseas. 

To be fair, I’ve never been a Garth Brooks fan. Growing up in rural Alberta, it was unlikely a day went by where I didn’t hear a Garth Brooks song. He was the most popular and awarded country musician of his time—and for good reason. But his music never really resonated with me. Trisha Yearwood is a very different story. I had always enjoyed her clear voice and distinctive sound. I had read her biography and been wowed by her concerts before. When they announced the concerts, I wanted to go, more to see Trisha but also to see if Garth would live up to the hype. I got a ticket a few days before the show and I’m very glad I did. 

The show featured a quick opening act by Mitch Rossell. He provided enough time for everyone to grab a drink and their seats but little else. With a countdown clock, Garth promptly took the stage a half hour after the concert began. His staging was revealed when an oversized video curtain rose up and revealed the band stretching to both sides of the arena. Technically the show is in the round but the stage was at one end of the arena. Garth played the majority of his show forward to the mass of fans on the floor. This was unfortunate for the folks sitting behind the stage who paid the same for their tickets and were not warned of a ‘rear view.’  An easy fix would have been to move the stage to the middle of the arena and truly play in theround. 

The show began as Garth comes up through the stage and jumps right into his older hits like “Rodeo” and "Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House.” The crowd loves it and can’t get enough. The applause and screaming is off the charts. Garth himself seems genuinely shocked and touched. He greets the crowd in a warm and familiar way making him instantly likeable. He promised the crowd that he was there to give them a show and to play all his old music. And he certainly did. I don’t think there was a song played that I didn’t know the words to. Highlights included “That Summer”, “The Thunder Rolls” and “Unanswered Prayers” where the lights were dimmed and every cell phone owner lit of the arena with their lights. By the time “Ain’t Going Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up)” came around, Garth was already sweating and panting but proceeded to run around the stage and give it all he had. He later joked that the reason he played with a guitar was more to cover his gut. But Garth does just fine and the crowd couldn’t care less. This is the Garth that they have loved and missed for the past twenty years. 

Garth and Trisha indicating their 9 shows in Edmonton, Alberta from Garth's Facebook page

Garth and Trisha indicating their 9 shows in Edmonton, Alberta from Garth's Facebook page

In the middle of the show, Garth introduces Trisha Yearwood to the stage. This cues Garth’s break and Trisha takes over like a pro. She isn’t flashy or loud or lively. Dressed in all black, she sang a few of her biggest hits including “XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)”, “How Do I Live?” from Con Air and her first big hit: “She’s in Love with the Boy”. Yearwood sang a newer song “Prizefighter” which she recorded in memory of her mother who she lost 5 years ago to breast cancer. But her big moment came when she dueted “Georgia Rain” with Karyn Rochelle who wrote the song and is a back-up singer on tour. Not only is the song beautiful but Trisha generously gave Karyn the final verse and let her shine. Karyn was nearly in tears by the end. 

Garth comes back on stage looking refreshed and continues to belt out song after song. His voice is pitch perfect and he sounds just like he did on his albums. In all fairness, he usually only has to sing half of his songs because the crowd overtakes him with their singing. But you can tell it is warming his heart and he interacts with the fans so graciously. “Friends in Low Places” had the crowd singing along like they do on karaoke night. For the “The Dance”, Garth sings it for a couple who are celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary that day and are requesting that song on a 10 foot sign. Only the guy’s wife has disappeared to the washroom and he is stuck holding the sign with his buddy. Garth asks: “I know this is a free world and all, so is this your guy’s 39th anniversary???” The guy shakes his head and says his wife will be back in a minute. So Garth proceeds with the touching ballad and ends just as the wife shows up. Garth promises to fly them out anywhere in the world he is playing for their 40th anniversary. You know it’ll actually happen. 

Two hours in and Garth is still going. He invites Trisha back to meet a few younger girls who Garth had noticed went crazy when Trisha first came out. He asked her to come over and meet them and the young girls instantly broke into tears on the big screen. Trisha shakes their hands and then offers them a song. Eventually they settle on “Walkaway Joe” as it’s the only one Garth can play on the guitar. Trisha sits down on the stage and sings the song directly to the three girls and it is touching and sweet.

The concert continues and encores melt into encore. Garth comes back out in all his glory and walks around the stage. He is looking for requests that fans had put on signs. One mother/son were asking for the song “Mom” and he also spotted a pregnant fan in the audience and dedicated the song to them. Another sign asked him to sing “The Change” —a song Garth recorded to pay respect to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. And it continued on until there were no more requests. Garth had given the crowd all he had.

The applause rang loud one more time as a thank you to country music’s biggest legend just before the lights came back on. Garth left knowing that Edmonton was happy to have him and I’m certain the crowds at the other 8 shows will do the same. It’s good to have Garth back.