Garth Brooks Taps Chicago for Start of Tour

6:47 PM PST 07/15/2014 by Ray Waddell, Billboard
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Garth Brooks is out of retirement - starting his world tour in Chicago this September.

The country star will start his world tour in a market he hasn't played in nearly 20 years.

Garth Brooks announced the first date this morning for his upcoming world tour: Sept. 4 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, near Chicago, a market Brooks hasn't played in 17 years. There is no word on when the rest of the tour will be announced, but it appears the door has been closed on a stand in Dublin, not part of the tour proper.

The Brooks world tour, expected to include as many as nine shows in each market, will be his first full-blown road work since he announced his retirement from touring in 2000. At that time, Brooks was already the biggest touring act in country music history and one of the top ticket sellers in the world for any genre. Last time out, Brooks shattered Country touring records with an outing centered around his 1998 Capitol release Sevens. That three-year extravaganza grossed more than $105 million (Country's first $100 million run) and drew close to 5.5 million people. Notably, Brooks charged a relatively paltry $20 per ticket when he likely could have demanded three times that amount or more.

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Since retiring, Brooks has made sporadic live appearances, including a Hurricane Katrina benefit; a Grand Ole Opry appearance in 2005; a Live Earth concert in Washington, D.C.; an acoustic residency in Las Vegas that wrapped early this year; and multiples in L.A., Nashville, and Kansas City, Missouri.  At the time of his retirement, Brooks said he would not embark on a full-blown tour until his youngest daughter graduated from high school in 2015, and he has held to that promise.

But when Brooks has put tickets on sale, they have blown out immediately, as Boxscore numbers attest. A Nov. 14, 2001 show at the Forum in Los Angeles sold out at 17,600, grossing $290,489 on a bargain-basement ticket price. A Nov. 5-14, 2007, run at the Spring Center in Kansas City, Missouri, blew out nine shows and 164,080 tickets for a Boxscore gross of $5,058,470, with tickets at about $30.   

A double at Staples Center in L.A. in January of 2008 grossed nearly $4 million and moved nearly 100,000 tickets at $45 a pop, and the flood relief benefit at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena in December  2010 sold out nine shows and grossed $4,057,020 on 147,528 tickets sold at $27.50 each. Save the Nashville benefit, all of these engagements were promoted by Ben Farrell, president of Lon Varnell Enterprises, a Nashville-based independent promoter that is expected to be the promoter of record on the upcoming run. 

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Tickets to the Chicago show will go up Friday, July 25, at 10:00 a.m. CT on the Ticketmaster website. There will be a six-ticket limit per purchase, and no sales at the venue box office or Ticketmaster outlets on July 25. Tickets will cost $56.94 plus $2.56 tax and a $6.00 service charges, totaling $65.50, an extremely low ticket price for an artist of Brooks' stature. Such a low price surely has secondary market resellers salivating, as Brooks' one-size-fits-all pricing sets the stage for a huge markup of the best seats, potentially in the thousands of dollars per ticket. That said, Brooks has always been an outspoken critic of ticket scalping, and it is likely he will take extreme measures to combat brokers on this tour. 

And despite his absence from the marketplace — or because of it — the tour will most likely be an arena record-setter in terms of attendance, depending on how long he stays out and how many dates he plays. U2's 360 tour is currently the attendance record-holder at 7.2 million, and that record is likely safe, considering U2 played only stadiums in a configuration that boosted capacity by as much as 20 percent. But next in line is the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge tour of 1994-'95 at 6.6 million attendance, according to Boxscore. Brooks is third for Sevens, but a move up a rung is within the realm of possibility.

This story originally appeared on Billboard.com.

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