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Garth Brooks Downunder (1994)

February 6, 2013

90's Flashback

Dedicated fans make it easy work for Garth

Australian songwriter Allan Caswell

On With the Show’s

Flashback to Variety Today 1994


IN the weeks leading up to the Garth Brooks Concert in Sydney, I must admit to having been a little `Garthed-out’ by all the pre-publicity and media hype, but even the traditional `60 Minutes’ interview failed to completely drain my enthusiasm for the concert.

Irritating though it became, the publicity machine obviously worked, as both Sydney Entertainment Centre shows were completely sold out.

The centre’s foyer was a sea of authentic (and not so authentic) cowboy hats and rodeo buckles, not to mention a bigger collection of RM Williams outfits than you’d generally expect to see at the Royal Easter Show. The Country Music fraternity too, were out in force.

In the space of five minutes I ran into Judy Stone, pianist Peter Horan, Bob Howe and several other musicians.

The show was opened by ABC records artist Jane Saunders who, quite deservedly, is considered one of the front runners for next year’s `Female Vocalist of the Year’ award at Tamworth. Backed by a really hot band consisting of ex-Flying Emus John Kane and Ian Simpson, the Fargone Beauties’ James Gillard and drummer Hughie Benjamin as well as guest appearances by Genni Kane and Shanley Del, Jane delivered a really well balanced set. She sang `like an angel’ and managed to impress the 15,000 or so Garth Brooks fans.

Apart from featuring a number of strong songs from her debut album `Stranger to Your Heart’ she also did a really hot bluegrass version of the Crowded House tune `Something So Strong’ which was probably the standout crowd pleaser of her show.

Garth takes centre stage

Garth Brooks – the perfect showman!

The crowd was already in Mexican-waving party mode when Garth’s band arrived on stage, courtesy of a sort of elevator which came up through the spectacular staging set up. As the elevator went down, the man himself appeared on a platform in the centre of it. It was all part of the special effects wizardry which, I guess, has become necessary in rooms the size that a star of Garth’s stature has to play.

Right from the start Garth Brooks proved to be the complete master showman. He worked the crowd beautifully, sang magnificently and seemed to involve everyone in the crowd (even people like us who were back in what seemed like the 249th row).

Everything clicked … Garth’s band were hot, tight and very entertaining in their own right, his stage patter was slick and funny without sounding mechanical, and the lights, sound and staging were better than anything I’d seen before at the Entertainment Centre.

The great thing about Garth’s show was that, unlike a lot of other overseas superstars who only `do the latest album’, he worked his way through the best songs from all his albums so far.

The big songs like `The Thunder Rolls’, `If Tomorrow Never Comes’, `Standing Outside The Fire’, `Friends in Low Places’ (thankfully free of the guitar smashing) and `Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House’ kept coming and the crowd went wild. `The perfect show? … well almost!’

Call me hard to get on with, but I think I would have preferred to see Garth win the crowd over instead of being carried along on a wave of unreserved acclaim. It says a lot for the man’s success that 15,000 people, most of whom wouldn’t have even heard of Garth Brooks a year ago, now know all the words to the songs.

The trouble was that the crowd was so fired up that Garth seemed to find it difficult to pull them back for the sensitive classics like `The River’ and `The Dance’.

My only real disappointment in the show was `Unanswered Prayers’, my favourite Garth Brooks song, which he almost `threw away’ by getting the crowd to join him on the chorus.

These are only minor quibbles about what was, otherwise, a great show. We paid about $40 each for the tickets and got about $60 worth of entertainment. You can’t really ask more than that.

While I don’t go along with the theory that one Garth Brooks tour will suddently turn millions of Australians into Country Music fans, I think it’s safe to say that he has achieved here, what he has achieved everywhere else he has toured – he has become a very big star.

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