- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2014


There are so many huge tours by country artists these days — George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean and at least a half-dozen others — it’s easy to think it’s always been this way.

But the truth is the idea that a country artist could regularly fill a stadium was, well, pretty much invented by Garth Brooks.

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Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Brooks ruled country (and a big chunk of rock and pop, for that matter) before pulling a John Lennon and walking away from the industry to spend time with his family. He said he didn’t want to miss seeing his three young daughters grow up.

And, poof, just like that, he was gone.

Depending on whose numbers you trust, he was the third or fourth best-selling musical act — behind The Beatles and Elvis, right there with Michael Jackson.

That was almost 15 years ago. Today, with his youngest daughter about to graduate from high school, the 52-year-old Oklahoman clearly seems to be laying the groundwork for what would be one of the entertainment industry’s most extraordinary comebacks.

In November, Mr. Brooks released “Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences” — a six-CD/two-DVD box set of 77 (count ‘em, 77) cover songs and 33 music videos featuring his takes on a handful of country standards, an entire album of classic R&B and his favorite singer-songwriter odes of the 1970s.

Eclectic? Definitely. Indulgent? Uh … did I mention 77 songs? No matter.

Fans showed immediately they hadn’t forgotten the superstar who had dropped only a smattering of new recordings in more than a decade: “Blame It All on My Roots” shot to the top of Billboard’s Top 200 and Top Country Albums charts. It’s still comfortably nestled in the top 10 on most country charts, even though it retails for $25 to $35 and, again, it’s four CDs of covers, two cds of hits. That’s a lot of Brooks for your buck.

Later in November, he confirmed on “Good Morning America” that, yes, he is getting the band back together. He told country music fan Robin Roberts that he would do a “world tour” in 2014, but offered no details.

Then last month, two shows were announced for July 25 and 26 at the 80,000-seat Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland. Tickets sold out in 90 minutes. A third show was added, then a fourth, then a fifth. Promoters said they’d never seen anything sell so fast.

Almost a half-million tickets were sold in all, so many that residents near the Irish soccer stadium are threatening to sue over the Garth-a-thon.

For five days in late July, Dublin, of all places, becomes the epicenter of all things Garth — an Emerald Isle launch pad for a tour that will be as anticipated and as scrutinized and anything The Stones or Katy Perry or Tim McGraw has on stage this year.

How scrutinized?

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