That’s a wrap for the Garth Brooks Stadium Tour. A monumental journey that finished with five legendary shows at Croke Park in Dublin, the likes of which we have never seen, and may never see again. Five nights that brought unrivalled joy for nearly half a million in attendance, and will go down in Irish entertainment folklore.
Having made the trip from Birmingham for the final night of the run on Saturday night, I cannot emphasise the sheer scale of the event. Walking the streets of Dublin and stopping off for a couple of pints pre-show, it felt like Garth fever had totally taken over the city. And boy, you Irish folks know how to drink! The communal atmosphere that was generated around Dublin really was something special, and the economic benefits of these shows must have been enormous.
Fast forward to the show. As the stadium gradually filled up and 8pm drew nearer, you have to remind yourself that this has been done five times in the past week. FIVE. Thinking of the past legends that have played in that legendary stadium, it feels like you’re creating new history. The atmosphere and noise level in that place is something else; walking out in front of that crowd, even for someone with Garth’s vast experience, must have been the biggest buzz imaginable.
Needless to say, the set was hit after hit after hit. With a golden catalogue like Garth’s, and his unrivalled ability to connect with a crowd, it’s just so easy for him. Once the opener “All Day Long” was out of the way (why he chooses to open with one of his worst, fairly unknown songs is beyond me!), the likes of “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House,” “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” and “Two Pina Coladas” cranked up the atmosphere, and from then on it was a masterclass in how to work a stadium.
The show was being recorded, presumably for some kind of Netflix special, so in the middle of the show we were treated to a special Queen tribute, as Garth wanted to pay homage to one of his musical heroes, Freddie Mercury. A medley of smash hits, including “Radio Gaga,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Another One Bites The Dust” got the crowd into full-on singalong mode, and it provided one of the most visually-impactful moments of the show. From the balcony, the sight of the thousands on the floor clapping in time was something to behold.
The slower, heartfelt moments in Garth’s shows are always the big highlights. When you have the likes of “The River” and “The Dance” to call upon, two of the greatest country songs in living memory, you can’t really go wrong, and the 80,000 in attendance lapped them up, lighting up Croke Park and singing along to every word. Trisha Yearwood was also introduced for a memorable performance of “Shallow”; it’s a shame we didn’t hear more from Trisha due to the filming commitments for the night, but great to see her nonetheless.
The main section of the show concluded with one of Garth’s all-time greats, “Standing Outside The Fire,” which has to be one of the finest live tracks in existence. With the Dublin faithful reluctant to leave, Garth returned solo for an acoustic encore, which included a rapturous rendition of “American Pie,” a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” and performances to roll back the years with his first #1, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” and the simply gorgeous “Unanswered Prayers,” a staple in any Garth set list.
Garth is truly the showman of a generation. Soak in every moment with him while you can. His unwavering energy on stage is as infectious as it gets, and he never lets the atmosphere die for a second. The phrase ‘leaving everything out on the stage’ can never be truer. This was an iconic night to be a part of; let’s hope he sticks to his word of a return to Ireland soon, so we can relive that euphoria all over again.