This past weekend, Garth Brooks rolled into Cleveland, OH and turned the Quicken Loans Arena on it’s head! Though I have watched many Garth concerts via home video, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into once the first show of Garth’s two night stay in Cleveland, began!
There was a bit of a delay before the show began, but the Cleveland crowd was ELECTRIC! Each time that the light flickered on stage, hinting that Garth may be starting at any time, I had very noticeable goosebumps up and down my arms! Rewind back to 1994, I had received my first ever CD player for Christmas, along with the newly released, Garth Brooks: The Hits, CD. I had heard his music prior, but this was the prime event that led to my Garth fandom.
Around 7:20PM, a familiar “head shape” appeared behind the screen that surrounded the stage. The music crashed and the concert I had been waiting the majority of my life had begun! The title track to Garth’s 2014 album, “Man Against Machine” led off the show. Not many people around my seat sang along (Heck, I barely know the words), but that would change shortly after. Garth exploded into classic hits like “Rodeo,” “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House” and noted that he hoped the Cleveland crowd would remember the words to “Beaches Of Cheyenne.”
By this point, the Quicken Loans Arena was a mad house! Everyone was singing along with each song and dancing in the little room they had between seat rows. Garth let us all know that when he buys a ticket to see one of his favorite artists, he is there to hear them play the “old stuff,” and that was just what we were gonna get! “Two Pina Coladas,” “The River,” (Which was beautiful!) and “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til The Sun Comes Up)” moved the setlist along. Just as included in the Double Live album, Garth strummed on his guitar just enough for the crowd to know that it was time for “Unanswered Prayers” and just the same, the Cleveland crowd took over the vocals with Garth commenting along with “Wows” and “yeah!’s” as we all sang along.
After “That Summer,” Garth informed his audience that the song he gets the most requests, letters and questions about is “The Thunder Rolls.” With the first crack of thunder, the sold out arena erupted in cheers! After belting out the extended version of his smash hit, Garth apologized for having not been in town for 19 years, and whether he planned it or it slipped out by error, he took what I would assume was the majority of us by surprise when he said something along the lines of “because Cleveland is F*cking AWESOME!” Whoa! My dad, who was sitting a few seats down from me, was cracking up!
Garth then proceeded to sing the intro to “In Another’s Eyes” as a segue to introduce his wife, Trisha Yearwood to the stage! Not surprisingly, Trisha sounded fantastic! Yearwood performed a quick five song set to give Garth a bit of a rest before he would return to finish out his set. Trisha sang her major hits, including “XXX’s And OOO’s (An American Girl),” “How Do I Live,” “Georgia Rain” and “She’s In Love With The Boy” before wrapping the set up with her newest song, “Prizefighter.”
Garth continued on with the hits in his version of Billy Joel’s “Shameless,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and true Brooks classics in “Friends In Low Places” (Yes, he pretended that he wasn’t going to do the third verse, and yes, he DID do the third verse, haha) and of course, “The Dance.”
Lights out again, with Garth coming out the the stage alone for the encore set. Garth went wild with his cover of “The Fever,” originally recorded by Aerosmith. Garth was going NUTS during this song! He climbed on the drum cage, rocking it back and forth before running around on the conveyor belts that were built into the stage. Garth told the Cleveland crowd that he was having too much fan to wrap up where he normally would and that even though the next show was to start within the next 45 minutes or so, “They can wait!” Trisha joined him on the stage once again for a performance of “Walkway Joe,” which was really great and unexpected!
Next, Garth noticed a sign in the crowd, being held by a women and her children whose husband/father in an active duty member of the U.S. Military. He brought the three daughters up to sit with him on stage as he performed “All American Comeback Kid.” There weren’t many dry eyes in the house as the crowd followed the song with a huge U.S.A. chant!
In what would be the most memorable moment of the show, Garth commented on the U.S.A. chants and the flags waving around the arena, but he mentioned that there was another very important flag in the crowd as well. A woman and her family were flying the flag of Ireland. Garth informed us that this woman had lost her husband (I hope I’m getting this right!) and her son had bought her tickets to take her mind off of his passing when Brooks was scheduled to perform in their home country. Unfortunately, that concert was canceled. Fast forward to June of 2015, the son had purchased tickets again and traveled his mother to Tampa, Florida to see Garth, whom had been contacted and made aware that they would be there. A scheduling conflict involving the NHL Stanley Cup came up and the show was canceled AGAIN! The family had gotten in touch with Garth, but Brooks insisted that they do not tell him where they will show up, in fear that he may be bad luck! Cleveland, OH was the next choice and they were finally seeing Garth perform! What a wild ride! Garth dedicated and closed the show with “Standing Outside The Fire” for the family and the crowd all sang along.
This show was an absolute blast! If you get a chance to make it out when he comes to your town, do not skip it! Who knows when he’ll be back around again! I may be spoiled now, as I can’t imagine another show ever matching up to this one… Except maybe for another Garth show…