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For Brooks and fans, a most unusual change of pace

Six String Grille and Bar, Foxboro, Mass., February 5, 2020

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

To say that this was a change of pace for Garth Brooks - not to mention his fans - would be an understatement of the highest degree. Brooks all but begged during the show to be playing next door at Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots play.

But, alas, Brooks exuded joy and excitement at the chance to play before about 500 people at a club, the seventh and final show of his Dive Bar tour, which started last year.

Brooks, of course, is more apt to be found at stadiums and arenas, not clubs. For someone who started in the dives of Stillwater, Okla., these shows found Brooks going back to his roots. He referenced his club days, which was a proving and developmental ground.

He needs to do neither these days, but he played liked he did. The beauty of the 75-minute show was breaking down the wall between performer and fan, which goes with the territory of large scale venues and shows.

This was a night of Brooks and his very long-standing band (the rookie of the group has been with GB since 1995, and three have been with him since Stillwater) to play songs from throughout his career including a few of recent vintage.

The latter would include the perfect song music-wise and lyrically, "All Day Long," to get the night rolling. "Somebody's gotta start the weekend/Somebody's got to unwind/Somebody's gotta find that honky-tonk/Out on the county line," sang Brooks with gusto.

It was hump day, not the weekend exactly, but, hey, close enough.

A bit later in the set, Brooks did justice to his current single, "Dive Bar," another song fit for the setting. Song partner Blake Shelton wasn't in the house, but no matter.

Aside from that, it was pretty much vintage Brooks with a few traditional country songs, ballads and tropical songs. While sometimes rocks a bit too much, tonight, there were no overblown rockers. He stood up strong on the country side with "Rodeo " and what he referred to as the most traditional country song he'd play, "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House."

The ballads were exquisite with "The River," "Unanswered Prayers" and the closing song of the night, "The Dance."

Brooks revved it up a bit with the fast-paced, "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)" and) and "Callin' Baton Rouge," a song from The Oak Ridge Boys."

And "Friends in Low Places" sounded as good as ever with the crowd singing along with gusto here and throughout.

As for covers, whereas Brooks might typically do his take of Billy Joel's "Shameless," Brooks was more than content to show off his country bona fides. As a result, George Strait's "Amarillo By Morning" and an upbeat, rousing, fun version of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishin' in the Dark" also were on the list.

Fiddle ace Jimmy Mattingly did his thing as usual playing a dyed-in-the-wool country music instrument that has fallen out of disfavor with the new breed of country acts. The rest of the band was part of a well-oiled musical machine, playing with a sense of blisss throughout.

Brooks bounded about the stage, working the crowd with his amazement that the crowd would sing along in song after song after he heard them doing the same for songs that came through the speakers as the crowd awaited Brooks. He shouldn't have been.

The only negative was that at 75 minutes, more Brooks would have been very welcome.

If allowed to conjecture, while Brooks said on an internet segment after the show from his vehicle that he would love to come back to the club, one suspects that next time around, Brooks will be playing the big house next door.

But on this night, in what truly could be a once in a lifetime experience, Brooks and his fans were thrilled that he wasn't.