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Live Review: Garth Brooks at Joe’s on Weed Street

| July 16, 2019

Garth Brooks at Joe’s on Weed Street Monday July 15, 2019 (Photo courtesy of 8 Ten, Inc.)


Garth Brooks

Joe’s Bar, Chicago

Monday, July 15, 2019

As the best-selling solo artist of all-time in America, it was far from expected that Garth Brooks would step down from filling stadiums to play for less than 500 people in a spot as intimate as Joe’s Bar on Weed Street. But considering the man who moved more units than Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Madonna on these shores just dropped a surprise duet with Blake Shelton called “Dive Bar” (as a precursor to the full-length album Fun), it only made sense for him to visit those types of venue roots on opening night of this titular tour (with another half-dozen to be mysteriously announced on the fly).

Brooks clearly loves Chicago because this is the second time he’s kicked off a significant undertaking in town, and while the magnitude wasn’t quite as momentous as when he came out of retirement following 13 years with a whopping 11 Allstate Arena sellouts, this once-in-a-lifetime gig was arguably more memorable. For starters, it was filled with his most die-hard fans who won tickets from either US*99 or Big 95.5 (with another line of less lucky hopefuls forming across the street), plus it completely turned the Country Music Hall of Famer’s typically massive concert formula upside down.

To those who scored the exclusive privilege to step inside the miniscule-by-comparison club for around 100 minutes, it was one surely for the history books, not only for the fact that Brooks and his longstanding band were close enough to touch, but also because it was beamed globally as part of a Jimmy Kimmel Live! airing later in the evening. “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House” got everyone nice and loose prior to the inaugural live appearance of “Dive Bar” (performed twice to be totally TV-ready), which after being officially released earlier in the day, already had faithful singing along and rejoicing over Brooks’ partnership with Seagram’s 7 Crown (who are currently pushing an initiative to #JoinThePact where pledgers commit to never driving impaired).

However, even that sure-to-be-a-smash with a socially-responsible angle couldn’t hold a candle to “Friends In Low Places,” a career cornerstone that was shockingly inserted in the third slot and a sign of the set’s unconventional format. Sure, Brooks and company kept the kicking up loads of dust with crowd-revving regulars such as “Two Pina Coladas,” “The Dance” and “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” but intermixed direct and extremely unexpected requests from attendees, including the obscure “The Red Strokes” and “All-American Kid.”

In a solo acoustic segment, the headliner namechecked everyone from Merle Haggard to George Jones, Randy Travis and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as he covered slices of their songs with a deep reverence, then demonstrated why he’s worthy of mention alongside them all (though he’d be too humble to admit it) thanks to the additional classics “Rodeo,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up),” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Shameless” and “Standing Outside The Fire.” For the grand finale ballad “The River,” Brooks was beaming as he crooned lines like “I will sail my vessel/’til the river runs dry” with the hunger of his honky-tonk beginnings and a sense of sheer joy to be on a stage of any size that rarely befits a superstar of his status.

-Review by Andy Argyrakis, Photo courtesy of 8 Ten, Inc.



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