For four dayslast summer the residents of Dallas were immersed in Garth Brooks-mania while the country singer filmed the largest concert series in the history of country music for this NBC spec. Texas Stadium was filled four times with total attendance of more than 250,000.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to translate any of that excitement to the small screen, delivering instead an uneven and mostly uninteresting recap of that extravaganza.
Initially conceived by Brooks and Nashville-based producers High Five Prods. — the latter taking its name off the production during the editing stages — the multimillion-dollar concerts were intended to top all of Brooks’ previous efforts.
While no one but Brooks and High Five topper Bud Schaetzle knows the exact ramifications of the falling out between the two on the finished product, it is clear the ball was dropped somewhere along the line.
Opening aerial sequence of the Dallas night skyline segueing into a peek into the stadium’s dome to reveal the fans below is a goosebump-inducing introduction that holds plenty of promise.
In fact, most of the concert footage of the singer’s show — an effects-heavy presentation punctuated by fire, thunder and rain — is creatively presented, with just the right mixture of fan hysteria, band action and frames of the front man himself.
Director of photography Toby Phillips deserves kudos for his camera placement and shot selection, creatively covering every angle of this mammoth event.
But bumpers surrounding the commercials — which feature Brooks in a living room watching TV and laughing at various musical acts covering his tunes — are a ridiculous waste of time and talent. The space should have been used for concert footage.
The intention here is unclear, especially when the singer does his best Macaulay Culkin impersonation reacting to one of the more hideous acts covering his trademark “Friends in Low Places.” The segs certainly beg the question: Could Brooks be trying to show the audience — and Hollywood — his acting skills?
Roaring versions of “The Thunder Rolls” and “American Honky Tonk Bar Association” highlight the spec, while Brooks’ efforts on the sax during “One Night a Day” are equally exciting.
The fire-and-flame-supported “Standing Outside the Fire” loses punch in the edits, and song selection for the spec ignores some of the singer’s better works , and skews toward marketing tool rather than bona fide concert recap. Crew members touting Brooks’ virtues on camera also detract from the spec.
Brooks is backed by top-notch musicians and singers, among them talented backup singer Victoria Shaw, a longtime Brooks collaborator, who shines during every moment she’s caught by the camera. The occasional shots of Shaw amply explain why she was recently the subject of a Nashville record-label bidding war.
Show’s much-talked-about finale, “Ain’t Goin’ Down Till the Sun Comes Up,” during which the singer flies over the heads of the crowd to the farthest reaches of the stadium, is fun to watch, even if it loses some of the translation from the live performance.
The quickly paced presentation will find much favor among Garth followers, and should garner significant ratings numbers, much as the 1992 spec for the net set records.