Anticipation ran high in Canada’s Capital since it was announced that the best selling solo artist in US history, Garth Brooks, would be making his return to the city for the first time in 19 years this past January. The wait came to an end on Friday as thousands of fans descended on the Canadian Tire Centre for the first of 4 shows.
Fans started to arrive at the venue 4 hours before the show was slated to begin, my wife and I included. Coming from just outside of the city we figured that going early would be best so as not to get caught in what would be certain traffic chaos with fans rushing to get to Kanata and the rest of the city just trying to get home from work all at the same time. We enjoyed a quick bite to eat at Bert’s Restaurant inside the Canadian Tire Centre, the food was so good and reasonably priced that this may become a new pre-show tradition for us.
I’ve been to many shows over the past few years at the Canadian Tire Centre and even with sold out shows there are numerous seats left empty to accommodate staging etc but not for Garth. Almost every possible seat was not only used but occupied by the time Garth took to the stage around 8pm on Friday night.
Aside from his grand entrance to the tune of the title track of his latest album “Man Against Machine”, the night was filled with Garth cranking out hit after hit. As Garth himself told the crowd, “I’m just like you. I buy the concert tickets just like everyone else and when I go to a show I want to hear the old stuff…so we’re going to give you the old stuff”. I was a bit surprised that he stuck to his old material and stayed away from his newer material which, of course, includes Man Against Machine and his 4 albums of covers that were included in Blame it All On My Roots – Five Decades of Influences. The sold out crowd didn’t seem to mind, if they did they certainly weren’t letting on.
Garth’s wife, Trisha Yearwood, joined him on stage about midway through the evening for a duet of “In Another’s Eyes” there’s honestly no other way to hear this song than with the two of them singing it together…especially live on the same stage at the same time. Trisha then took over the stage for a few of her songs with Garth hanging back with the band, cheering her on…and even coming out at one point to make a request.
Garth certainly pointed out a few times how much he loved Ottawa, on numerous occasions saying “I Love This” when the crowd took over and sang his songs back to him. As the show wrapped up Garth told the crowd that one of the things he loved about Ottawa was the people, “there are people working here that were working here 19 years ago” he even commented on the fans “what do I remember about Ottawa,? he asked “I remember the people singing, I love that. You blew everyone else away!”
In all it was a great trip down memory lane, but for this diehard Garth fan I have to admit I left a bit disappointed. Not by Garth or the music but I guess after 20+ years of anticipation I was expecting more. Garth brooks was the master of live entertainment but seeing him one week after catching, an equally talented performer, Johnny Reid, at TD Place I was left feeling as though Garth could’ve brought more. Garth certainly brought the energy, running around his circle stage on more than one occasion but to me the frequent, teenage like, heart symbols he kept doing to people in the audience seemed out of character. To me growing up Garth has been larger than life, his music was life defining for me. His song “The Dance” actually saved my life in a very low point in my life and gave me the strength and confidence to approach the next stage of my life with a whole new perspective. Perhaps when you place someone on such a pedestal and then find out that they are just as human as you and I it’s a bit of a let down…but not really all that bad of a thing.
So in closing if you are going to the remaining two shows this weekend, enjoy…you’re in for a wild ride down memory lane. I still wish, more than anything, to have a chance to shake the man’s hand and thank him for everything he and his music did for me over the past 20 years. I guess it’s nice to know that my musical hero is just a human like me…thanks for that too Garth.
After Ottawa Garth returns to the US for a series of sold out shows but something tells us Canada hasn’t seen the last of Garth on this tour. We still expect dates in Western Canada to be announced before the end of 2016 but time will tell. Of course, as always, for full tour details visit www.garthbrooks.com!