Country legend Garth Brooks is in hot water this week after holding a sold-out concert in the middle of a COVID-19 surge. Fans are left on the fence about what he should have done.
Sold-Out Arrowhead Stadium
Brooks returned to touring from the pandemic with an enormous stadium tour canvasing the United States. There have already been numerous sold-out shows, so tens of thousands are in attendance. With COVID-19 still raging, many are questioning if continuing to tour is the right thing to do.
The stadium tour just brought Brooks to Kansas City, where he performed in front of a record 74,500 fans in attendance. Many showed up without masks on, and there’s no way of knowing how many unvaccinated folks were there. Videos from the show reveal as packed a house as you could possibly have.
The Kansas City Missouri Health Department held a free clinic to administer vaccines, even having a drawing for seat upgrades. They gave out only 35 shots in four hours. It’s hard to view this as anything other than discouraging.
While the Kansas City show went on unabated, Brooks is starting to have second thoughts. He’s taking a break after a show in Nebraska and will then reassess whether to continue to tour at all. Brooks said, “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,”
Concerts Still Happening?
This Brooks concert presents an obvious question: should concerts still be happening at all. Kansas City has passed mask regulations this week as hospitals continue to fill up. The Kansas City Royals are requiring all visitors to Kaufmann Stadium to wear masks, but it remains to be seen how many stragglers there inevitably will be.
The state of New York is taking an even stricter approach. Visitors to Madison Square Garden will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test in order to enter. This mandate extends to performers as well. UFC fighter Michael Chandler’s refusal to get vaccinated has put his fight in jeopardy. Some bands, like the Mountain Goats, will only play to masked crowds for safety reasons.
Other concerts are starting to get canceled as well. The New Orleans Jazz Fest just announced it was canceling its 2021 event because of the virus, which had already been postponed from its usual weekends in the spring. Limp Bizkit canceled its August dates, and Lynyrd Skynyrd has put their tour on hold. Other festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza could be next.
Concerts are fun, but indoor venues with thousands of unmasked people yelling and singing are objectively risky at the least. We’ve seen what Sturgis can do. Ultimately, it will be up to artists, States, and individuals whether or not concerts are a good idea.