A month after Garth Brooks restarted his three-year stadium tour, the country superstar says after his next two shows, he will reassess if he should continue given the COVID-19 resurgence due to the fast-spreading delta variant.
Brooks’ Aug. 7 show at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium will go on as planned, as will the Aug. 14 show at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. According to Brooks’ website, more than 74,500 tickets have been sold for the first show and over 86,000 for the second.
However, tickets for Sept. 4’s Seattle show at Lumen Field, which were slated to go on sale Friday, have been put on hold.
“It breaks my heart to see city after city go on sale and then have to ask those sweet people and the venues to reschedule,” Brooks said in a statement. “We have a three-week window coming up where we, as a group, will assess the remainder of the stadium tour this year. It’s humbling to see people put this much faith in you as an artist, and it kills me to think I am letting them down.”
Brooks typically announces a show around two months in advance, rolling out the dates one at a time. Also on the docket are two sold-out stadium dates rescheduled from the pandemic: a Sept. 18 Cincinnati show and a Sept. 25 Charlotte, N.C., show, as well as newly announced dates in Baltimore on Oct. 2 and Boston on Oct. 9. Prior to the pandemic, Brooks was playing a show every three weeks or so; for the summer and fall, he was hoping for a show every weekend, and he has kept close to that pace.
After a 16-month pandemic-imposed hiatus, Brooks relaunched his tour July 10 in Las Vegas, followed by Salt Lake City (July 17) and Cheyenne, Wyo. (July 23), making him one of the first acts to go back into stadiums at full capacity. His July 31 stadium show in Nashville was canceled because of weather and a new date has not been announced.
While Brooks requires that his band and crew be vaccinated and masked backstage, the tour is relying on local COVID protocols for concert attendees. In a press conference prior to the Nashville show, Brooks suggested that fans do what they feel is right for them: “If you see somebody in a mask, don’t look odd at them. If you’re seeing somebody not wearing a mask, don’t look odd at them.” He further reinforced mask wearing during Monday’s Inside Studio G episode on Facebook, saying, “You can’t be safe enough. You can’t be cautious enough. Keep your space. Keep your distance…Please feel free to wear the masks at the concert. Nobody is going to look at you strange, I promise.”
The Kansas City Chiefs and Missouri Health Department will hold a vaccination clinic at Arrowhead Stadium before the concert and on Wednesday, the facility updated its guidelines to mandate that all attendees must wear masks when in enclosed stadium areas, though not in the stands at the outdoor facility. Kansas City instituted an indoors mask mandate on Aug. 2.
As he prepared to return to the road, Brooks told Billboard in late June that keeping everyone safe was his top priority. “Let’s say we get the best reviews we’ve ever gotten in our life; still, for me, the most important thing is what happens after that in that city,” he said. “Did everyone come out of it OK? And if so, then, thank you, God. That’s what you’re hoping for more than anything.”
Brooks’ representatives did not immediately respond to a query if they were aware of any COVID cases traceable to his concerts and there have been no press reports of any resulting outbreaks from his outdoor shows.
Brooks is now having to contemplate the one thing he said he didn’t want to have to consider. When asked in June what would happen if he had to shut down, he told Billboard, “I don’t know. I have to tell you the truth — after 16 months of being shut down from financially to mentally, everything, I just don’t want to think about it. I’m sure [my managers] have a plan. For me, my job is to look forward, and run as safe and as fast as I can.”