August 8, 1997 -- Brad Berson
Depending on whose numbers you trust, country music
mega-star Garth Brooks and a couple of surprise guests at
Thursday night's free Central Park concert attracted between
200,000 and 800,000 people. That's not bad in a city that can
barely sustain a single country music radio station. Who'd
have thought! Either there's a lot of country music fans in
the NYC Metro area, or people will go to any event that's
I had the great fortune to be next to a couple of rednecks
who showed up drunk and stupid, and who became more
thoroughly stupid as they finished smoking their joints.
Their non-stop yelling "wah-hoo" and "I love
you man" really helped make this concert a special time
for me, but I didn't fully realize my appreciation for these
two men until one of them carelessly dropped the smoldering
butt of his Marlboro on my blanket and burned a hole in it.
I'll thank my girlfriend now for convincing me not to set
fire to these two drunken idiots. Very tempting, that was.
I'm all for people being able to smoke in public places. In
fact, I don't mind if they burn to a crisp. ...which reminds
me... country fans seem to be highly over-represented for
smoking. In spite of the open-air concert, I've been blowing
my nose and seeing black for a full 18 hours since. I feel
like I spent three hours snorting the exhaust of a diesel
Not everyone was as obnoxious as my two neighboring fans,
but a good number will still drunk and/or just plain
inconsiderate. I should have known better than to think that
a mere blanket would be enough to claim some personal space.
As it gained footprints from latecomers stumbling their way
hundreds of feet through the outfield for a better view, all
I could do was cringe and maybe try to trip the most invasive
offendors. By halfway through the concert anybody with common
sense folded their blankets in resignation and stood for the
rest of the concert, trying to keep people from trampling the
folded remains of their belongings while still enjoying the
Throughout the concert, helicopters buzzed
above, partially drowning out the sound reinforcement system
as it attempted to overcome the vast acreage of humanity and
all the yelling and cheering. When we got home and saw the
tape from HBO, it sure looked good. Seeminlgy the folks at
HBO made a choice to increase the noise pollution at the park
for the benefit of a few video clips of the concert -goers
from above. As one of the thousands of concert attendees, I
would have preferred to hear the music. Thanks anyway.
The concert was also viewable on huge television screens
placed across the park. Strangely, the pre-concert show was
not broadcast to the screens.
Billy Joel and Don Maclean made guest appearances, and the
former seemed to have gotten more cheers than Garth Brooks
himself! The guest appearances were brief but gave Garth a
well-deserved break. The guests performed on their own as
well as with Garth.
Garth Brooks has proved himself quite the showman. On what
must have been the largest stage ever created - a stage that
required remote controlled cameras on high-speed railways to
cover the action - Garth made a fantastic effort to be
visible to as many fans as possible. Lighting was fantastic,
his presence was outstanding, and his voice held up well even
in spite of running hundreds of feet back and forth trying to
cover the audience on that immense stage. The sound system
was decent, if a little too bassy or not enough midrange.
Possibly if I were closer the sound would have been better.
Or maybe it was those darn helicopters.
New Yorkers proved once again that they can generate more
filth and garbage than anyone else in the country and leave
it casually on the ground in their wake. Concert -goers left
the park strewn with empty and not-so-empty bottles, cans,
food and wrappings, and even their blankets as they all
clamored for inadequate exit paths. Huge signs asking
visitors to leave their trash in receptacles were
Leaving the park proved to be almost as entertaining as
being there in the first place. Police around West 96th
closed many streets around that entrance but did not divert
traffic from Central Park West. Police were then stuck with
the task of managing pedestrian and vehicle traffic at the
park exits. Imagine if you can, a few cops on horses holding
back 100,000 people. If they hadn't all been tired and drunk
there would have been a riot.
If there's anything good to say about the concert
aftermath, it's only that there was no rioting or muggings or
looting like after some other concerts. Local bars
had windfalls of epic magnitude.
Next time I'll stay home and watch TV.