Brooks & Dunn Wrap Circus, Promise Another

There were hugs and handshakes all around as Brooks & Dunn ’s Neon Circus and Wild West Show packed up for the season following their concert Sunday (Aug. 5) at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa., near Pittsburgh.

This year’s tour -– which grossed $14 million, with total attendance around 528,000, according to the duo’s management — also featured Toby Keith , Montgomery Gentry , Keith Urban and Cledus T. Judd .

Organizers have promised that the tour will return next year – sets have been designed, venues picked out and a wish list of artists drawn up. An announcement could be forthcoming in January.

This year’s troupe, together more than two months, became a close-knit family with a wacky sense of humor. Throughout the tour, pranks and jokes were the name of the game, and nobody was immune. The last show provided a final chance for some good laughs before everyone went their separate ways. The Pittsburgh audience got to witness many of the stunts firsthand.

It all started with Urban. He dedicated his show to Judd, who couldn’t attend the final performance due to a family emergency. During Urban’s first song, the band pulled out cameras and snapped pictures of the audience and each other, while Urban caught the action on video. The first prank of the night involved faint whoopee cushion noises coming from Urban’s monitors. Later during his set, a group of crewmembers rode electric scooters past the band.

When Montgomery Gentry took the stage, the tour crew threw paper wads at the duo from backstage. Urban emerged with video camera in hand, and a guitar technician came out dressed like Montgomery. During their final song, the crew came out in Indian costumes and danced around the stage until Gentry stripped off his shirt and joined in the hoopla.

Keith’s show ran smoothly until a man strolled across the stage reading a newspaper. He opened the door to an oilfield shack on the set, revealing another man sitting on a toilet, and shut the door fast. Amused by the situation, Keith opened the door again to see who was there. The man came out and left the stage with a stream of toilet paper hanging from his pants.

Brooks & Dunn were the next targets. During “Brand New Man,” their guitar player slipped offstage for a second, and Urban took his place, dressed in the guitar player’s shirt and hat. It took Brooks a while to realize what was going on, and Urban pretty much had to get in Dunn’s face for him to figure out the switch.

Then the crew came out and stood in salute alongside a wooden Indian. Chief Tenbeers, as he’s known, belongs to Brooks and had been stolen at a Toronto tour stop. Later in the show, Brooks & Dunn were settling down with Roger Miller ’s ballad, “Husbands and Wives,” when Elvis rode out behind them on an electric scooter. The concert’s grand finale included all the artists and crew filling the stage to sing and dance to a lively version of “I Ain’t Living Long Like This.”

After the show, with seats empty and the set packed up, it seemed as if nobody wanted to leave. Artists and crew were hesitant to say goodbye to what had become their family on the road.

Twelve trucks, 10 buses, 123 crewmembers and about 100 local workers brought the tour to 39 venues around the country. “We’re moving a small city every day,” Brooks & Dunn’s manager Clarence Spalding said before the final show. This “small city” has a sense of community. “It starts with Kix and Ronnie,” Spalding said. “They set a tone. They’re here all day. Kix and Ronnie are on their buses or out shooting basketball; you’ll see them wandering around. They don’t get hotel rooms.”

In fact, none of the artists get hotel rooms. Instead, they park their buses at the venue and hang out all day, whether it’s playing basketball, lying out in baby pools or playing golf. Spalding recalled a recent phone call from Judd, who summed it up best. “He said, ‘I feel like it’s my last two weeks in high school. I’m excited about graduating, but all my friends … you just don’t see them like this.’”