Garth Brooks takes New York for one incredible ride!
 Garth Brooks puts a country music match to the entertainment tinderbox known as New York City.

By Jeff King

 The day began like all others in New York-with congested traffic and crowded subways. The difference between this day and all other, however, was this time everyone shared a common destination to do something which they never dreamed the would do: hang out in Central Park after dark. What could cause this abnormality in the nation's largest city? The King of Country Music, Garth Brooks! The New York Police Department estimates that approximately 250,00 people came to watch the free Garth Brooks concert on August 7th. The crowd, however, appeared to be much closer to the N.Y. Parks Department estimate of 1.1 million. Fans began to fill Central Park's North Meadow as early as seven or eight that morning. By three o'clock, five hours before the concert, it was a near impossibility to find a (non-muddy) spot even remotely close to the stage. We settled for mud. The hours before the show seemed liked a Fleetwood Mac concert with all the rumors being bantered about the crowd. Guests ranging from Billy Joel to Kiss were allegedly to appear with Garth. It was also rumored the concert was going to be made into an album. As the crowd's anticipation grew, Brooks' longtime friend and native New Yorker Victoria Shaw whetted the crowd's appetite by sampling The River and She's Every Woman , both of which she wrote with Garth. Finally the moment had arrived! Brooks rose from center stage and instantly electrified his legions of fans with a song about the last thing anyone would think of when thinking about New York: RODEO! This electricity fueled Brooks to the point of breathlessness, especially after the raucous songs Papa Loved Mama, Two of a Kind and Working on a Full House. As frenzied as the crowd had already grown, they stepped it up a notch after Brooks performed his hit cover of the Billy Joel song Shameless. Everyone expected the rumors to be true that Joel would perform the song with Brooks, which was not the case. But those rumors did prove to be true a moment later when Garth finished Shameless . Billy Joel emerged from backstage to lend his hands in a piano accompaniment to Ain't Going Down 'Til the Sun Comes Up, making a number one country hit even better. It then became Garth's turn to assist Billy as the two performed a duet of Joel's classic New York State of Mind. The spotlight then turned from the two superstars as Garth introduced the newest member of his band, fiddle play Jimmy Mattingly. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers showed that New York is indeed a good town for country music as they went wild over Mattingly's fiddle introduction to The Fever. Garth eventually won back the spotlight when he played what has become probably the most explosive chord in all of music: the one which begins Friends In Low Places. Garth allowed the crowd to once again prove they were a country music crowd by having them sing the infamous third verse to Friends. He then closed out his regular set with a heart-wrenching rendition of The Dance. But even with part of the rigging on fire, the show did not end there. Garth came back onstage to finish his HBO special with the rock anthem American Pie, which he performed with Don McClean. McClean's appearance shot even greater energy through this already endorphine-driven crowd. Even though the music had died down on HBO, it lived on in New York. For Garth had indeed come to, "Ride in Central Park tonight!" After HBO went off the air, Brooks returned to the stage and preformed two classics off his first album: Much Too Young and If Tomorrow Never Comes. Perhaps the greatest surprise of the night came when Billy Joel rejoined Garth to finish off the evening with a version of You May Be Right that showed they both just might be crazy! All along, this show was billed as a media spectacle, which it was. But much more than that, it was a gift. A gift to all those New Yorkers who love country music. Even though they're not supposed to as seen from the perspective of the rest of the world's standards. A gift to all those who traveled from around the world just to see Garth perform. Throughout the night, Garth showed emotion which could only be felt by those who were there. From his first "Thank you, New York" to the crack in his voice at hearing one million people softly singing along to Unanswered Prayers, to the tears of joy at the end of The Dance which could only be seen by those in the front row or on one of the Jumbotron screens placed around the meadow, to the special encore just for those at the concert, to the free encore presentation September 13th for all cable subscribers. This was not a show to promote Garth Brooks or a new album or to make money (Garth actually lost money on this event). The show was done to simply tell Garth Brooks' fans 'thank you'. No Garth, from all your fans, THANK YOU!

(Editor's note: Jeff King is a country music afficianado that hails from the part of America with deep country roots known as East Tennessee. He is currently a freelance writer in Nashville supporting his country music habit writing insightful pieces like this for organizations like ours.)

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