In 1997, global news highlights included the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the birth of Dolly, the sheep that was the world’s first cloned animal. Closer to home, Garth Brooks had a memorable summer with the mid-August release of “In Another’s Eyes,” the Grammy-, ACM- and CMA-winning duet with his future wife, Trisha Yearwood. Twenty years ago today, on August 7th, 1997, just 11 days before that single was issued, Brooks headlined a free concert in Central Park, breaking attendance records (more on that later) and marking the entertainer’s only New York City date on his massive second world tour, which ran from 1996 to 1998.
Following the 1995 release of his sixth studio LP Fresh Horses, which sold seven million copies in the
It’s particularly fitting that a 1979
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On the park’s North Meadow the stage, which spanned 360 feet and included a lighting rig 100 feet wide, was one of the most elaborate built for a
While the New York Fire Department officially reported that a crowd of 980,000 had attended the concert, in 2008, the New York Times alleged that attendance numbers for many of the Central Park shows had been wildly over-inflated, quoting then-New York City parks commissioner Adrian Benepe asserting, “The truth is that those historical crowds, you couldn’t accommodate that many people if you crammed them into every open space in Central Park – Great Lawn, North Meadow, Sheep Meadow.” In the same article, Doug Blonsky, a former city parks administrator said, “You would get in a room with the producer, with a police official, and a person from parks, and someone would say, ‘What does it look like to you?’ The producer would say, ‘I need it to be higher than the last one.’ That’s the kind of science that went into it.”
Whatever the truth, Brooks’ Central Park concert, which was broadcast live on HBO and released on home video later, did exceed expectations and create anticipation for the eventual release of Sevens, which was his penultimate studio album (not counting the alter-ego “Chris Gaines” side project) before 2001’s Scarecrow and his 13-year hiatus from performing and recording. Sevens returned Brooks to the top of both the Country Albums and Billboard 200 charts, selling more than 10 million copies in the
The HBO special, Garth: Live From Central Park, was nominated for six Emmy awards and was 1997’s highest-rated music special. In July 2016, Brooks returned to