Garth Brooks kicks off Dive Bar tour with electrifying, intimate Chicago show

The country music superstar, more accustomed to playing mega-arenas, proved he has plenty of friends in small places, too.

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Garth Brooks performs at Joe’s in Chicago, Monday, July 15, 2019, on the first stop of his Dive Bar tour. Garth has partnered with Seagram’s 7 Crown to secure 700,000 pledges to #JoinThePact, a pledge to never drive impaired.

Garth Brooks performs at Joe’s in Chicago, Monday, July 15, 2019, on the first stop of his seven-city Dive Bar tour.

Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP

There was a moment during the Garth Brooks concert Monday night at Joe’s on Weed Street when the back room of the legendary Chicago venue felt as if it its walls were not able to withstand the sheer power of the six-time CMA Entertainer of the Year combined with the unbridled adoration of his fans.

“I’ve just been waiting to get in a box like this because this is going to explode,” Brooks let out in that iconic growl of his before tearing into his 1994 hit “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”

And yes, the place (no dive bar by any means) indeed felt like it was about to burst not just once, but many times during the first show of Brooks’ seven-city Dive Bar Tour. But when the night was through, Joe’s Bar remained intact and Brooks further cemented his stature as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

Garth Brooks performs at Joe’s in Chicago, Monday, July 15, 2019, on the first stop of his Dive Bar tour.

Garth Brooks was unstoppable at Joe’s Bar in Chicago, on Monday, July 15, 2019, during the first stop of his Dive Bar tour.

Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP

Donning his iconic black cowboy hat and a Bob Seger t-shirt, Brooks had not been on stage for more than five minutes before he clued fans in on a big secret.

“There is no set list tonight,” he casually told the crowd as he prepped for a taping of a couple of songs — including “Dive Bar,” his new duet single with Blake Shelton — which aired late Monday night on a segment of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

You’re gonna pick the set list,” he told the ecstatic crowd.

In true dive bar fashion, Brooks spent a good portion of his Monday night gig taking requests from the 650 or so lucky recipients of a radio show ticket “giveaway” and other guests for the sold-out show.

Sure, Brooks would call the shots on the majority of songs such as “Friends in Low Places,” “The Thunder Rolls” and “Two Pina Coladas.”

But it was the requests that certainly threw the biggest curve balls at him and his six-piece band, requests such as “The Red Strokes” off his 1993 album “In Pieces.”

“I’ll play you just a little bit. And forgive me, it’s gonna suck,” Brooks endearingly admitted as the band shuffled behind him.

Then, there was a request for “All-American Kid” off 2014’s “Man Against Machine.”

“You may have hit one that we don’t know,” Brooks quipped.

Fans packed Joe’s on Weed Street Monday night, July 15, 2019, to catch Garth Brooks on the first stop of his Dive Bar tour.

Fans packed Joe’s on Weed Street Monday night, July 15, 2019, to catch Garth Brooks on the first stop of his Dive Bar tour.

Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP

And while the night’s early requests seemed to throw off a bit of the initial energy of the show, it was clear sailing from that point on. For an artist who routinely finds himself in stadiums and arenas, the true artistry showcased on requests such as “The Dance” was nothing short of breathtaking.

Brooks also shined during an acoustic set where he told his band to take a five-minute break while he basked in a medley of songs from his greatest musical inspirations, including covers of hits from legends such as Merle Haggard (“Mama Tried”), George Jones (“The Race Is On”) and Randy Travis (“I Told You So”).

“I don’t want to overstay our welcome but I never get to do this and I’m having a blast,” Brooks said with a wide smile after he and his band’s cover of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ In the Dark.”

The rest of the night was chaotic in the very best of ways, as the volume frequencies were pushed to their limit for songs such as “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up)” and “The Thunder Rolls.”

“Everyone talks about stadium gigs and how cool they are,” Brooks yelled to the crowd. “But I’ll take the honky-tonks any day.”

Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.

SET LIST

Two of a Kind, Workin’ On a Full House

Dive Bar

Friends in Low Places

The Red Strokes

That Summer

All-American Kid

Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)

Two Pina Coladas

The Dance

Callin’ Baton Rouge

Beaches of Cheyenne

Mama Tried/The Race is On/Amarillo By Morning/Uncle Pen/I Told You So/Don’t Close Your Eyes (acoustic medley)

Fishin’ In the Dark

Rodeo

Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up)

The Thunder Rolls

Shameless

Standing Outside the Fire

Encore:

The River

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