Review: The Ultimate Garth Brooks Experience at Vicar StreetTweet
In 1997 I was a mere twelve year old. I wasn’t really old enough to go to a gig, and that year there was a series of gigs in Croke Park which as far as I am aware was his last appearance in Dublin. I count myself as a fan of Garth’s back catalogue and I think I am almost resigned to not getting to see Garth live in my back yard.
Cue 2009, Garth comes out of retirement for a recurring slot in Vegas. This effectively meaning you won’t be able to see him anywhere but there. A short lived glimmer of hope, dashed in the length of a press release. Attempting to meet a demand for Garth’s music here in Ireland, Friends in Low Places formed, Trevor Smith an uncanny look-a-like and Ken Gillicthey as lead guitarist started up the show which consists of an eight piece band and attempts to the replicate the electrifying live production of a Garth Brooks show.
This is the ‘Boots and Hats’ tour which apparently is going to be heading on tour in Europe which shows how popular this show has gotten since it’s inception. Cut this back story to now, Vicar Street. Support act Blue Cedar Project have just warmed us up with covers of ‘The Band – The Weight‘, ‘Old Crow Medicine Show – Wagonwheel‘ and ‘Gillian Welch – Caleb Meyer‘ (at least I think that it was Caleb Meyer) before finishing with an original ‘Sick, Sore and Sorry‘ which was actually fantastic and really got the crowd going compared to earlier covers. Would definitely like to see more of the originals from these two.
The main attaction kicks off, the drummer providing a pounding beat as one by one that crew assemble on stage walking on stage then a huge cheer as Garth (Trevor Smith) comes to the stage. Kicking off with the upbeat ‘The Fever‘ followed closely by ‘Two Of A Kind‘ and ‘Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)‘. It’s uncanny, the band sound great, Trevor looks the part and does look like Garth.
‘What She’s Doing Now‘ is beautifully executed, ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes‘ continues the slower ballad with the crowd in full voice. The tempo is raised again for ‘Standing Outside The Fire‘ before we are back with the ballads of ‘The Beaches Of Cheyenne‘ and ‘Unanswered Prayers‘ which is sung word for word by the crowd who were slowly finding their full voice. A rendition of Garth’s version of Bob Dylans ‘Make You Feel My Love‘ is stunning before they finish off the first half of this show with ‘The Dance‘.
The second half of the show is set up to be fast paced and hard hitting, it’s exactly that. Opening back up with ‘Ireland‘ you’re instantly back involved and singing, ‘Thunder Rolls‘ sounds so amazing in this live setting and they don’t only do the CD version either, the full live version with the extra verse, of course we all know the words and help Trevor in his task. ‘Tearin It Up / Burn It Down‘ is one of Garth best songs live and Friends In Low Places do it justice. The crowd responding in perfect with the refrain of ‘HEY!’ as the bass and guitar riffs take you to another world.
Next we are introduced to Irish legend Don Baker who has agreed to come out and do some songs with the band. He performed ‘Six Day On The Road‘ and ‘Winner In You‘ and absolutely brought the house down with unbelievable harmonica solo’s. Absolutely incredible addition to the show, and Don even took his shirt off and tossed it to the crowd as he immersed himself in the show. Moving on they steamroll through ‘The Old Stuff‘, ‘Longneck Botle‘, ‘Shameless‘ (originally a Billy Joel song) and ‘You May Be Right‘ (also a Billy Joel tune). It’s at this point that the show takes off entirely with a perfect closing sequence. First we are treated to a terrific performance of ‘The River‘ and the crowd have abandoned their seating, all on their feet, singing and waving and dancing along to this classic Garth hit.
Don Baker makes a welcome return for “Ain’t Goin Down Til The Sun Comes Up” as Trevor effortlessly works his way through the complex and pacey lyrics of the song accompanied by Don with some heavenly harmonica. They look to close out the show with a fine rendition of ‘Friends In Low Places‘, their title track if you will, but the crowd howls out for more and there is one notable exception from the set list.
Fortunately Trevor and company are well aware and come back to the stage to finish the show off in style with ‘Baton Rouge‘. An exemplary tribute to Garth Brooks, one of the finest tribute bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, doing not only justice to the music but the stage show Garth is so famous for. Although no pyrotechnics were allowed due to some Vicar Street upgrades recently it truly was only seeing Trevor fly around the venue on a winch short of being an immaculate representation of a Garth Brooks live show.
I only have DVD’s to base that on, but this live show has reignited a flame deep inside me that yearns to see the real thing. This might just be the year I hop a flight to Vegas and see the man himself performing live in the Wynn Hotel. If you cannot get yourself to Vegas then do yourself a favour and get to a venue hosting these lovely men. The fiddle was flawless, the guitars were great, the vocals were voluminous and it was a show worthy of the title The Ultimate Garth Brooks Experience.
Two Of A Kind
Much Too Young
What She’s Doing Now
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Standing Outside The Fire
The Beaches Of Cheyenne
Bob Dylan – make you feel my love
Tearin it up/Burn it down
Six Days Out On The road (Don Baker)
Winner In You (Don Baker)
The Old Stuff
Shameless (Billy Joel Original)
You May Be Right (Billy Joel Original)
Papa Loved Mama
Ain’t Going Down Till The Sun Comes Up ( with don baker)
Friends In Low Places