There is no other way to describe a Garth Brooks show: full throttle. From start to finish – Garth, his band and the crowd were giving it 200%. The exchange of energy inside the Scotiabank Saddledome inside the heart of the Calgary Stampede was unlike any other experience. Garth lived up to every expectation any fan had – and then he went way beyond that.
The lights went down and he rose through the stage as the band kicked into ‘Rodeo’, because what other way could you kick off a Garth show at the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede. The crowd was electric. As he ripped through his string of hits including ‘Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House’, ‘Much Too Young’, and ‘The Beaches of Cheyenne’ fans of all ages joined in sounding louder than Garth at points throughout the show.
Perhaps one of the most memorable Garth performances of the show was ‘Unanswered Prayers’, where he let the band have a little break so he could do it acoustically. Moments into the song, the crowd took over (perfectly in tune) while Garth looked around the arena, beaming and clearly getting teared up. By the end of the song, he gave the crowd a round of applause. It’s not often a performer can have that kind of experience. But, this is Garth after all.
Garth also travelled with some surprise guests including singer/songwriter/musician Steve Wariner. Together they performed their hit ‘Longneck Bottle’, as well as Wariner sang his hits including ‘Lynda’ and ‘Holes in the Floor of Heaven’. A few songs later, Garth’s keyboard player played a very familiar melody. Garth began to sing ‘In Another’s Eyes’ – his duet with wife Trisha Yearwood, which they recorded long before they were every married (to each other). Moments later Trisha walked across the stage to thunderous applause. After their duet, Garth handed the spotlight over to her to perform her hit: ‘She’s In Love With The Boy’. After she left the stage, she came back to an enthusiastic crowd that anticipated another song from Ms. Yearwood. Together, her and Garth did a stripped down version of her emotional hit ‘Walkaway Joe’. The president of the Calgary Stampede came out to present Garth and Trisha with matching belt buckles marking the 100th anniversary and thank them for being a part of their celebration.
The last half of the show was unlike anything else – from ‘Friends in Low Places’, to ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ – everyone was still on their feet and there was no signs of slowing down. By the time the end of the show came, Garth played his favourite track he’s ever recorded – ‘The Dance’. But before he began the song, he made the announcement that he has one more baby to finish high school and in two years he will be back on the road.
“Trisha and I have been talking, and we will be ready to hit the road in a couple of years. We will tour and by God, we are coming back to Calgary. I say this with zero ego, but I know that there are a lot more people outside on the grounds tonight that wanted to be a part of this show, than the number of people that we can fit in here. All I know is, we will charge the same amount per ticket and whether you want one show or one hundred shows, we’ll play until you want us to stop”.
The crowd went wild (to say the least).
No surprise, Garth returned to the stage for an encore: ‘Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til The Sun Comes Up). Classic Garth: water bottles being sprayed across the drum kit, running across the stage – all in a Calgary Flames jersey with ‘Brooks 12’ on the back. You could tell his energy was drained. After he left the stage for the second time – Garth returned again to a crowd that was foot stomping, cheering, and applause that was hell bent to not stop until he came back. He returned for ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ – just him and his guitar, centre stage. Once more, he left the stage- the crowd again wanted more. He came back to centre stage, out of breath saying, “You guys are unlike anything else. I’m shocked, I’m tired, and I’m gonna need some help with this one.”
His final song of the night was him, his guitar, and 16,000 of his closest friends that all sang ‘American Pie’ – which felt so intimate that you may as well have been around a campfire.
There will never be another Garth Brooks. This was a show that brought goosebumps, tears, laughter, and music at its finest with one of the best bands and best performers there will ever be in country music. I am so grateful I had the chance to be a part of this very special night during the 100th Calgary Stampede. You can bet that in two years, I will be in line to see another Garth show. There is no comparison. He’s Garth. That’s it. That’s all.