high places | 

Roy Curtis: ‘Garth makes a deep connection with his audience, transports them beyond the everyday...’

‘Brooks proves music is the soundwave to the soul’

Garth Brooks on stage at Croke Park

Garth Brooks on stage at Croke Park

Roy CurtisSunday World

IT FELT like an uncontainable invasion of joy, an elevation of the human spirit, a reminder of music’s singular power to uplift and unite.

For 10 days, Dublin was reimagined as a corner of rural Montana, all ranch-hand denim and cheesy Stetsons, Ireland in delirious thrall to a 60-year-old cowboy-hatted half-god.

It is not often that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche shares a sentence with Garth Brooks.

But a line from the 19th century intellectual gets to the essence of the grand diversion Brooks gifted the nation.

“Music unites all qualities: It can exalt us, divert us, cheer us up, or break the hardest of hearts with the softest of its melancholy tones.”

Anybody who walked the streets of the capital city as Brooks rode ever deeper into Ireland’s affections will understand.

As he dispensed his folksy, lived-in wisdom, the Tulsa bronco took hold of the hidden crevices of the heart.

It is something the achingly cool brigade – humourless, condescending types who regard Brooks as the entertainment equivalent of dog-poo on their shoe – will never comprehend.

Garth touches people. He makes a deep, almost spiritual connection with his audience, transports them beyond the everyday, splashes colour on the grey.

I was not among the 400,000 who made the pilgrimage to Croke Park, but wandering around the city centre over the last two weekends was to feel the force of goodwill that pursues Brooks.

His supreme endowment is a capacity to make people happy.

This American granddad conjures images that allows people to remember, permits them to forget.

Garth Brooks on stage at Croke Park

He casts spells, makes magic, transforming 80,000 bodies into a single exultant creature, in the process evoking that lovely line about music being the soundwave of the soul.

Several friends, at best Brooks agnostics, were coerced by their spouses into attending last week.

If they set off for Croke Park with all the cheer of men contemplating the dentist’s drill, they returned as giddy converts, seduced by the emotional force of his show.

Watching clips they had recorded, the stadium ablaze with light cast by tens of thousands of phones, artist and audience tuned to the same exact coordinates on the bandwidth of rapture, was to observe something verging on a religious experience.

As the huge, bewitched congregation sang along to the words of The Dance – Holding you/I held everything/For a moment/Wasn’t I the king – the thunderbolt struck.

In telling his own story, he tells yours.

It is easy and fashionable to be cynical, to mock Brooks’s songwriting, to sneer at his homilies, to lampoon his singing voice, to dismiss him as some kind of shallow counterfeit.

And then you see the gleam in the eyes of the post-concert crowd as they pour into the bars to relive their evening.

Brooks was a soothing balm for some, an escape for others, a counterpoint to the prevailing despair.

To many there was no deeper meaning. It was was just a supreme showman providing a blockbuster spectacle.

It shouldn’t matter that not every Brooks utterance summons the depth and cerebral insight of Leonard Cohen, that his fingers are not touched with the alchemy that allowed Jimi Hendrix to make a Stratocaster sound like the voice of a divinity.

But Brooks has his own special power.

He is a surgeon of the soul, a two-hour consultancy restoring and invigorating people at their very marrow.

Brooks takes an audience in his palm and, just by being himself, he makes their day brighter.

He weaves himself into the tapestry of the listener’s life.

It is a priceless quality and in its own way profound.

The English writer, Virginia Woolf offers the most glorious description of what it is to be lost in music.

“It stirs some barbaric instinct – lulled asleep in our sober lives – you forget centuries of civilisation in a second, and yield to that strange passion which sends you madly whirling around the room, oblivious of everything save that you must keep swaying with the music.”

Dublin swayed for 10 days, oblivious to everything other than the certainty that Garth Brooks, with his capacity to carry his flock to a brighter part of the cosmos, has friends in high places.

Today's Headlines

More Comment

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos