So this past weekend Garth Brooks rolled into Hamilton, Ontario, Canada after 19 loooong years. Last time Garth was in town the venue, now FirstOntario Centre, was called Copps Coliseum and I was in my early 20’s. Garth returned not for one sold out show, but FIVE. I don’t think there is another artist alive that could sell out five shows in four nights in this market.
As the title of this story indicates, going to see Garth Brooks is an experience. It’s unparalleled by most other concerts. Seeing Garth perform live is on many people’s bucket lists the same way seeing the Grand Canyon or swimming with dolphins is on so many others. Not surprisingly when Garth kicked his 5 show residency at FirstOntario Centre on Thursday night it was the hottest ticket to be had this year. People flooded Ebay & Kijiji hoping to score tickets to witness one of the worlds most elite entertainers perform on Canadian soil.
Garth has a reputation for daredevil antics and eyebrow raising stunts on stage at his shows. This show, however, is a reflection of where he is at in his career. He zips back and forth across the stage when the show opens, climbs on top of the “cage” surrounding the drummer, takes breathers when he needs to, admits that he isn’t as young as he used to be, and leaves his heart out on the stage before he leaves – and he doesn’t need a zip line or a guitar smashing session to do it.
Garth talks to the audience. He is an expert showman and makes everyone feel as though they’re participants – not just bystanders. It’s an incredible gift and its no wonder he has so many fans follow him on multiple stops throughout the tour. This being said, every venue has it’s difficulties and in Hamilton – on the Friday night show that we attended (I can’t speak for the other nights, having not been in attendance), the sound system was such that where we were sitting we could carry on conversations without raising our voices and hear each other perfectly. It made it difficult to feel completely immersed in the music. This is the only strike against this concert and it had absolutely nothing to do with Garth’s performance. It was like putting a sports car on a concession road and expecting it to deliver race track results.
The night was full of hits from Rodeo, Shameless, Ain’t Going Down Till the Sun Comes Up and the one that is one hell of a sing along Friends In Low Places. I don’t think there are many other artist that has a catalogue that could easily play for 3+ hours (Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel along with the Stones maybe) but to keep up that energy for that long. Not likely. I remember going in and purchasing the cassette of No Fences in September of 1990 and thinking how many more times I had to purchase that one due to literally wearing it out or my tape player eating it. Garth could have played for 4 hours a night and still miss some of the fans favourites. So we asked all the staff that took the show in over the course of the weekend to give a quick quote. Here are those quotes:
STAFF QUOTES –
“Wow. What can I say about Garth Weekend in Hamilton! It’s been 19 years between visits (I certainly hope it’s not another 19 years until the next) but the wait was worth it. What a show. What a showman. What a fantastic live music experience from Canada’s own Brett Kissel, to Karyn Rochelle, the lovely Trisha Yearwood and then G himself. I was totally blown away. Loved every single second of this event. All I can say is come back soon Garth.” – Scott Burns
” After waiting nearly 20 years to scratch Garth Brooks off my concert bucket list, he did not disappoint in Hamilton Ontario. From the second the countdown started, to the final tip of the hat he did not stop being the entertainer I had always pictured. Playing everyone’s favorite cowboy sing alongs, to the random request for his songs he picked out of the crowd held signs, the man is a legend, no questions. Finishing up the show with an incredible version of American Pie not one person in the First Ontario Center wanted the night to end.” – Bill Woodcock
“Most Incredible Concert I have ever seen. The whole night was over the top amazing. It was very humble and moving when Garth read a sign, that said Comeback Soon!!! He thanked all the fans for letting him take the time off to raise his children. Then yelled, if he’s coming back to Hamilton he wants to see every person back here with him. And to have Brett Kissel open the show was equally amazing. We all have dreams, and I would say about 15K came true last night at the FirstOntario Centre and that includes Brett. If I have to sum up the evening in one sentence it would look like this . Amazing mind-blowing Incredible epic remarkable and Astonishing. You can’t describe GARTH BROOKS in one single sentence.” – Ray Williams
— Sound Check Ent. (@SoundCheckBlg) March 26, 2016
With all of our veteran concert goers you will see that we all have it ranked fairly high on our Bucket list in a sense of concerts.
One of the really cool parts for us Canadians was the young man who stood on stage with just his guitar and one hell of a smile to start the night off. Brett Kissel opened the shows on Thursday, Friday and Sunday and the minute he stepped on stage you could see the crowd’s excitement build. Brett played a solid 3 song set that included the fan favourite 3-2-1 that lead to a solid sing-a-long on Friday night that made my hair stand up on end. I have had an opportunity on numerous occasions to chat with Brett and to see a dream come true for such an incredible performer was nothing short of magical.
It was also great to see how the experience brought Trisha Yearwood into the show. In most cases you are used to seeing artists open for the headliner but not in this case. Trisha joins Garth on stage about midway through the show and kind gives the big fella a rest. Trisha sang the hits such as Prize Fighter and She’s In Love With The Boy but it was her new single Broken that had the crowd excited. Broken is still so new the band didn’t even know it yet and was played with tracks backing her beautiful voice. Garth and Trisha have a few special moments during the night and it was amazing to see the couple perform together there is no doubt about that.
We also have to say we love heading to Hamilton for the shows and Garth couldn’t have picked a better place for his return to Ontario. FirstOntario Centre was jammed but was able to work the crowds with minor delays on the big switch over between shows on Saturday night when you had 30,000 people crossing paths there are bound to be a few snags but from what we witnessed everyone was jovial and very accommodating. Huge thumbs up to Core Entertainment for managing that process. We also made it over to the tail-gate parties on a couple of the nights and Scott will have a whole piece dedicated to those artists coming up later today.
Ottawa is the next stop on the World Tour and we will be there once again in full force. Seems we were checking just to see if there were any tickets remaining for those diehards and there are still a few remaining. They can be found www.capitaltickets.ca If you are wondering just how good it is. Check out this amazing cover of Bob Seger’s Night Moves and tell us you don’t want to be part of the Garth Experience…
And don’t be shy, head on over and follow me on Twitter
Corey Kelly / @CoreyKelly76
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