In the summer, when promoters announced a Canadian tour for country music megastar Garth Brooks, the itinerary did not include Edmonton. Hundreds of irate fans registered their disappointment with radio stations and newspapers. Finally, they succeeded in getting the Alberta capital included. And when the Oct. 18 date was confirmed for the city’s Northlands Coliseum, the 17,000 tickets sold out in less than 45 minutes. In fact, Brooks set a Canadian record for multi-city tours when tickets in each of the six stops—Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and, coming up on Nov. 13 and 14, Ottawa—were snapped up in less than two hours. That response should not have been a surprise—after all, the Nashville musician has sold almost two million CDs and cassettes in Canada. But Brooks told Maclean’s he was “stunned” by the adoration he has encountered. “I went from wondering if anybody would recognize my name,” he said, “to being in the middle of a show and throwing a guitar high as you can and letting it smash—just ’cause you’re in awe of what’s going on around you.”
Throwing guitars is a spectacle more reminiscent of heavy-metal concerts than of country music shows. But 32-year-old Brooks has deliberately tried to recreate the high-octane level of the rock events he attended while growing up in the 1970s, complete with their pulsing lights, screeching guitars and frenetic action. That, combined with his catchy, middle-of-the-road sound, has won Brooks fans of all ages. Effortlessly straddling country and pop, the Oklahoma native has become the first country
star since Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers to top both charts.
Known for emphasizing the importance of family, Brooks took his daughter, Taylor, 15 months, and wife, Sandy, now expecting their second child, on tour with him to Canada. And he expresses disdain for many of the trappings of stardom. “I try and stay away from limousines and stuff like that,” said Brooks. “It’s not my way. And I don’t feel comfortable with
aspects of this business most people recognize—spoiledness, attitude and ego.”
That down-to-earth quality was a big draw for fans in Edmonton. Brooks did not disappoint. “He gives such a lot to his fans,” said civil servant Cindy Ekman, 28, who had camped out in a ticket lineup for three nights. By the time the singer left the Coliseum stage, it was strewn with roses—more evidence, if any was needed, that Canada’s love affair with Garth Brooks is still going strong.
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