Ain’t Goin’ Down: Ultimate Tribute to Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks is one of the world’s best selling artists of all time, so when Eric York started performing his tribute to the multi-platinum artist years ago, he was all about getting it right—and not because of the trademark loud shirts Brooks is known for wearing. Respect for the man, and respect for his music, put York in a league by himself despite being part of many a cast where he performed his high-energy take. His was one of the standout performances each and every time. In fact one of his first shows as Brooks happened about 17 years ago, at the very same resort he now returns to when he returns with the show “Ain’t Goin’ Down” — Ultimate Tribute to Garth Brooks at Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort.
Brooks’ integration of pop and rock and roll elements into the country genre had hardcore country fans questioning his loyalty to country music, yet his multi-platinum recordings and record-breaking music attracted a larger audience with live performances earning him immense worldwide popularity. This progressive approach allowed Brooks to dominate the country single and album charts, while also crossing over into the mainstream pop arena.
Brooks sold more than 160 million records, so York’s approach had to keep all of that in mind.
Since those first shows in Laughlin, York has kept pretty busy as a tribute artist, sometimes also taking on the role as Kix Brooks in the Las Vegas version of the “Country Superstars” show.
“Eric has worked in ‘Country Superstars’ for the past nine years and was an original cast member,” said Leonard Quenneville, show producer. “His Garth is one of the best and has actually been ‘signed off on’ by Garth himself.
“He has been performing as Garth for 20 years,” he added. “He and I have produced Garth shows all over the country for the past nine years. We are excited to do this full-length show at the Riverside for the second year in a row. It’s the big stage we’ve dreamed of since we started working together in 2007.
As far as York is concerned, he’s looking forward to coming back to town, in addition to being front and center in his own show. It is a bit of a homecoming for him.
“It had been about 16 years since I was there,” York said. “We went up the road a little ways to Vegas, and I’ve been working nonstop. I think the longest I had off was about six months in the whole 16 years. We’ve gone from hotel to hotel and bounced around, but we’re still kickin’.
“I am very excited about coming back to Laughlin. It’s like coming back home again. I love playing at the Riverside. I love that stage. I think some of my best experiences on stage were down there. I’ve still got stuff on video from playing down there and doing ‘The Dance,’ and everybody’s holding up lighters and things like that. I have some memories that are really deep from playing the Riverside.
“Also, I love the people, especially the people at the hotel. They were so nice. The only thing was the 150 degree heat, but other than that…,” he laughs.
When York first got that call from Quenneville about performing in Laughlin, he thought it was to be part of the “Country Superstars” show. When he found out it was to be the appetizer, entrée and dessert of his own show, he was elated.
“I’ve just been pulling out all of the stuff that I know people would like there—there’s going to be surprises galore. I mean it’s gonna be a party. The crowd better eat their Wheaties because people will be tired at the end of my show, I’ll guarantee it.”
While stage theatrics are a given, the true star of the show is the music. With so much to select from, we had to find out what song is York’s personal favorite.
“My favorite Garth song has kind of bounced around,” York said. “The big three that go over with audiences are always ‘Friends in Low Places,’ ‘The Dance,’ and ‘Ain’t Goin’ Down ‘Til the Sun Comes Up.’
“There are a lot of obscure songs that he did, and I’m going back through them and I’m listening to the first three albums—just listening to ’em all the way through. I’m just bringing all that original feeling to the show…that feeling that I had when I first discovered the guy.
“You can get a little jaded when you’ve been in Vegas for a while and people treat it like a business and the bands treat it like a paycheck. The love gets driven out of it where it just becomes work to a lot of people.
“But as soon as I found out I was coming back to the Riverside Resort, something just clicked. Fortunately, I’ve been told I look 10 years younger than my actual age so the look is still there.”
And the voice?
“My voice coach said, ‘if you’re not emotionally invested in what you’re singing, it’s not going to come out right. The only way you can sing well is when you’re feeling it.'”
York is feelin’ it, thanks to going back and rediscovering the early Garth…and quite possibly, the early York, when “Friends in Low Places” hadn’t become a cover band anthem and was the stuff only Garth and a guy like York could do justice. You know. Back when performing was not just a job.

Don’s Celebrity Theatre, Riverside Resort
Thurs-Sun, September 7-10. 8 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)