We thought we had an idea of how big Garth Brooks in Ireland was going to be when we bought our tickets almost a year ago. “Sure,” we said “it’ll be an experience.” It turns out we hadn’t even begun to grasp how this one event would consume the whole nation. Now, at last, we arrived for the last of Garth’s five sold out Dublin stadium shows (yes, he’d sold over 400,000 tickets in one city).
Breaking away from the stream of cowboy hats at Connolly station, we walk past chancers selling fancy-dress cowboy hats at every major junction, and pubs which have temporarily rebranded themselves, like ‘Garth Central’. At our hotel lobby two young women (in outfits which would make Dolly look demure) ask us to take their photo with a life-size cardboard Garth. We take the lift (in which a new Garth-themed restaurant menu has been placed offering ‘Shameless Desserts’ and ‘Thunder Rolls’) up to our room where the main TV channel is showing a one-hour special on this Garth ‘homecoming’.
He is a PR dream and we are suddenly aware that we’ve been using the term ‘superstar’ far too freely before now. Garth Brooks is, literally, the talk of the town as these ten snippets heard throughout our Garth ‘pilgrimage’ reveal.
“No, I didn’t know anything was happening. I thought it must be a Dublin trend when I saw all the people selling cowboy hats so I just bought one.”Man in crisp new cowboy hat outside our hotel, who was probably the only hotel guest NOT in town for Garth Brooks.
Cabbie: It’s a bit crazy at the moment ’cause there’s a big country music show in town.
Us: We’re here for that show.
Cabbie: Oh, so will you be drinking from nine in the morning too?
“I’m not sure whether that’s meant to be a welcome or a warning to country fans.”Woman in The Big Romance bar for the Saturday country fans pre-drinks, where the usually hipster cocktail joint at had plonked a Cowboy hat on their balaclava wearing mannequin [pictured above] in honour of their temporary new demographic.
“The stuff that goes on in this stadium doesn’t go on in any other stadium in the world.”The man himself on stage in Croke Park before leading us in a tribute to his musical inspiration, Freddie Mercury. He wasn’t exaggerating about the uniqueness of the stadium; we saw a women carrying a tower of gin cans, people pulling strangers into the aisles to dance, the police singing along with the American Pie encore…
“I don’t think a lyric’s ever spoken to me this much”
Our Judi, hearing ‘Much Too Young to Feel this Damn Old’ while still recovering from going out for ‘just one drink’ (a few ciders and a Baby Guinness) the night before.
“The O2 should come here for staff training.”Brummy woman pointing out the number of (friendly but ready) security and police officers in the stadium, in contrast to the London’s O2 arena, where stretched staff where overrun by interlopers at a country festival earlier that year.
“Ireland I’m proud of myself because I’ve made it through the night without breaking down and crying…”Mr Garth Brooks, before crying his way through the very next song.
“How much did YOUR room cost?”Everyone, everywhere, as Dublin’s mammoth prices even shocked us Londoners.
“It’s not right for a man to give you the best night of your life then make you wait 25 years for the next one.”Older Irish woman in the toilet queue referring to the 25 years since Garth last played in Ireland. At least that’s what we think she was referring to.
As for the show itself? Believe the hype. This was an 80,000-person karaoke party with everything you’d want from a Garth Brooks show, including a Trisha Yearwood duet.
Tears? Yes, from both Garth and drunk people around us.
Audience interaction? That would make a children’s party entertainer proud.
Trisha Yearwood? Yep. His country singer wife joined him for a duet of Shallow and stayed to take part in a Queen tribute, reminiscent of Garth’s 1997 Ireland show where she was a backing singer on his tour.
Hit after historic hit so that you cannot remember what songs he possibly has left to sing, but then you get surprised with an even bigger hit? Absolutely, with every lyric coming out of hiding from the deepest recesses of our brains.
Apologies to our friends and partners who were relieved we’d found each other so they didn’t have to be dragged along as plus ones, but you will be made to watch the Netflix special this concert was recorded for. And, yes, over every crowd shot we will keep repeating: “We. Were. There”.
P.s. See our Garth Brooks and Ireland trip snaps over on our Instagram: @britsinboots