Garth Brooks worked his way to the top of the Top 10 tours list. With 105 shows, he performed at the pace of a hungry young country rookie. Other superstar acts burning up the road included Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire.
George Strait went in the opposite direction, with fewer but bigger shows, and it paid off as the only tour never to play to an empty seat.
Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 country tours for 1998, as ranked by Amusement Business magazine.
1. Garth Brooks
Gross: $34,883,676; 105 shows, 101 sellouts
Attendance: 1,726,417 (capacity 1,730,047)
That white grand piano with the hole cut in it — the one Garth used to make his entrance onstage — can finally get a rest. After crisscrossing the United States and Canada for almost three years, with brief forays into Ireland and South America, Garth has pulled off the road.
During his tour, he filled the arenas in 100 cities with fans happy to see the superstar who keeps his focus on entertainment.
“You can see everybody from the front to the back of the arena,” Garth said before one show late in his tour. “You may not be able to see faces, but you can see silhouettes and shadows. You can tell by a person’s shadow whether or not they’re enjoying the song. I’m trying to make it a party atmosphere, so the more people you can get on your side the better.”
2. George Strait Country Music Festival
Gross: $32,948,832; 18 shows, 18 sellouts
Attendance: 881,717 (capacity 881,717)
George and his all-star supporting cast filled all 18 stadiums where they played in 1998’s big “event” show. Asleep at the Wheel, Lila McCann, Lee Ann Womack, John Michael Montgomery, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw joined George for the all-day shows.
“I just feel fortunate enough to be able to do these kind of things,” George said. “I never dreamed I’d be able to play in stadiums like this — 60,000 people. That just blows my mind.”
3. Shania Twain
Gross: $27,083,481; 73 shows, 40 sellouts
Attendance: 941,996 (capacity 1,074,253)
In May, the long wait was finally over. Shania Twain hit the stage for the first time since becoming a star. Even as her The Woman in Me was becoming the biggest-selling album by a female country artist, she wouldn’t tour because she didn’t have enough songs to do an entire show of her own music. With the addition of more hits from her latest album, Come on Over, she decided the time was right.
A spectacular high-energy show was the result.
“This tour is the same ‘me’ you would have seen years ago in a rock club in some northern Canadian town,” Shania said. “I’ve always been energetic. I’ve always been communicative with the audience.”
4. Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn
Gross: $10,485,248; 22 shows, 1 sellout
Attendance: 260,591 (capacity 300,071)
With a few added twists, Reba and Brooks & Dunn repeated their 1997 joint tour, which was also a fan favorite.
They had a new hit to sing — the No. 1 “If You See Him/If You See Her” — and added rising stars Terri Clark and David Kersh as opening acts. One thing stayed the same — the coin flip to decide whether Reba or Brooks & Dunn would go on first. “It was very easy,” said Reba’s manager and husband, Narvel Blackstock. “These acts respect each other so much there was no ego problem at all.”
“It’s a loaded night of entertainment,” Reba said. “Lots of fun. High energy and four different groups.”
5. Alan Jackson
Gross: $7,168,362; 32 shows, 10 sellouts
Attendance: 305,335 (capacity 391,609)
Alan sees the irony — he’s a shy guy who decided to make his living standing in front of thousands of people. “I’ve never been comfortable in front of a lot of people,” he admits. “And that’s what’s weird.”
Alan keeps hitting the road because he still enjoys making music and the gang he makes it with. “It keeps you younger than if you worked a regular job,” he said. “My band have been with me since I started up here, and they still travel with me on the bus. We still hang out and have a drink and cut up on the road just like a bunch of high school kids.”
6. LeAnn Rimes and Bryan White
Gross: $5,687,082; 31 shows, 13 sellouts
Attendance: 247,529 (capacity 332,083)
LeAnn and Bryan gave fans something to cheer about in the Something To Talk About tour. “The enthusiasm from the crowds is incredible,” Bryan said. “The most excitement comes when LeAnn and I do the encore.”
LeAnn adds, “Taking my music on the road to more and more people has always been a dream of mine. Now I’m living my dream.”
7. Tim McGraw
Gross: $3,174,172; 21 shows, 1 sellout
Attendance: 141,322 (capacity 186,982)
In addition to his shows with George Strait, Tim made the Top 10 on his own with a series of solo concerts.
He uses his live shows as a testing ground for new songs that he’s considering for his next album. “It’s a lot of fun doing stuff like that and seeing how the audience likes it,” Tim said.
8. Clint Black
Gross: $2,909,188; 24 shows, 3 sellouts
Attendance: 128,699 (capacity 250,148)
Clint took a break of almost three years from the road before hitting the tour trail again to promote his Nothin’ But the Taillights album.
“It’s as exciting today as it was when I started,” Clint said. “Nothing could ever replace singing my songs to an enthusiastic audience.”
During his tour, Clint’s collected shoes for the less fortunate. Inspired by his recent No. 1, “The Shoes You’re Wearing,” the program has collected more than 40,000 pairs.
9. Brooks & Dunn
Gross: $2,461,646; 16 shows, 10 sellouts
Attendance: 102,832 (capacity 113,775)
In addition to their joint dates with Reba, Brooks & Dunn toured on their own with a new stage set that maximized what Kix Brooks calls “the redneck fun factor.”
“This year Bubba, our inflatable steer head, is gone,” Kix said. “We had four 30-foot-tall inflatable girls and a big inflatable cowboy boot instead. And we took this big robotic steer head and mirrored the whole thing. We put it in the middle of the coliseum and lowered it during the show like this huge redneck disco ball.”
10. Clay Walker
Gross: $2,375,595; 26 shows, 1 sellout
Attendance: 129,714 (capacity 189,365)
“What I’m here to do,” Clay said, “is entertain people and to make them have a good time.”
In return, the appreciation of the fans gives Clay a reward. “Knowing how many folks out there love and support me really gives me some hope and strength for my life. That means a lot to me.