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Garth Brooks, god of country music, to play sold-out show at Notre Dame stadium

and | Thursday, October 11, 2018

Lina Domenella | The Observer

When Garth Brooks speaks, he preaches. He rambles in run-on sentences, a series of mounting cliches and free associations, all delivered with inexhaustible charm.

As Brooks walked into a press conference in August to discuss his upcoming concert at Notre Dame Stadium, dressed in boots and a sweaty t-shirt — he had been working on the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project earlier that day — he broke the ice easily, laughing and moving around the room in a disarmingly approachable way.

He’s down to earth, but he’s also a superstar. On Saturday, Oct. 20, Brooks will bring his charismatic personality to play the first-ever concert in the University of Notre Dame Stadium.

“It’s gonna be huge,” he said.

Brooks is the best-selling solo artist in the United States in terms of album sales. This show sold out in less than three hours. Notre Dame Stadium seats roughly 84,000 people, so that’s 24,000 tickets per hour — but this is far from unusual for a Brooks show. He once sold over 180,000 tickets in a three-hour span. In fact, he sells tickets so quickly that he repeatedly causes ticket vendor websites to crash. 

Yet Brooks also thinks critically about how to sell tickets to his shows. All tickets for his shows are first-come, first-serve and cost the same amount — “We’ve never been into paying more to get better seats,” he said. For the Notre Dame show, tickets were $98.95, and student tickets were half that, at $50. On the Friday night before the show, students will be able to watch him perform his soundcheck onstage — for free, with a student I.D.

“This place was built for concerts,” Brooks said of the Notre Dame Stadium. His show will be in the round, performed on a freestanding stage in the middle of the stadium field. In a preview into the stadium from his Facebook Live show, “Inside Studio G,” Brooks stood in front of the empty, recently-constructed stage, which has huge screens on many sides. Large letter “G”s projected onto the seats and bright purple lights shone out from the stage.

“This is all gonna be front row feel,” he said, smiling and gazing around at the stadium. “Front row — that’s like dessert, man.”

In the presence of Brooks, you get the impression that the “Aw, shucks,” humble persona isn’t just a ploy. It’s real and raw. Since achieving stardom, Brooks has built his public image around doing good for others — and “love,” which he talks about all the time in press conferences, in songs and at the end of nearly every tweet. When asked what songs he would recommend to a student just encountering his music, he ran through the standard list: “Friends in Low Places,” “We Shall be Free,” “The Change,” “People Loving People.”

“It would be the songs that urge you to be better to the people around you, and yourself,” Brooks said. “If there’s a message that you sure want to get to kids your age — it’s to love one another.”

In choosing an act for the first-ever concert in the Notre Dame Stadium, Brooks’ “reputation for treating others with respect and kindness” stood out, executive vice president John Affleck Graves said at the press conference. “We looked for somebody who was committed to the communities in which they lived and worked. … I can’t think of somebody who we could be more proud of,” he said.

“I hope that this night will be a real emotional night for everybody,” Brooks said in August. “And — forgive me,” he said with a chuckle, motioning to his publicist and Notre Dame leadership standing by, “this is gonna be the worst term and you’re gonna catch so much crap for this — but it’ll be more of a” — he took his hand and thumped it to his chest, closing his eyes for a moment — “I don’t wanna say a religious feel. Just more of a love feel. More of that,” he said, with a sigh.

On Oct. 20, Brooks joins forces with another powerful brand: Notre Dame football. Front and center in the bookstore will sit rows of shirts for sale that read “I’ve Got Friends in Irish Places” and caps embroidered with Garth’s circular “G” next to Notre Dame’s traditional “ND.” The promotional video for Brooks’ concert cuts in and out of a football game and one of Brooks’ concerts in rapid succession, bright lights and excited crowds blurring into one exciting, heart-thumping montage.

“You bet your ass they picked the right audience,” Brooks said at the press conference. For Brooks, audiences’ enthusiasm for Notre Dame football can and will be channeled into his concert — Trisha Yearwood, the country music star, Food Network cooking host and his wife, will even host “Trisha’s Tailgate” the morning before the show on the Irish Green. Walking through the empty stage on “Inside Studio G,” nine days out from his performance, Brooks talked about the upcoming day in elated tones. “It is going to be a game day,” he said.  

Garth Brooks and the University of Notre Dame; a god of country music and the house that Rockne built. In Brooks’ vision, all of it seems poised to merge.

“When you walk on that field, something is there,” Brooks said in August. “I don’t know what it is. I wish I could explain it.

“But whatever that is, it can also transfer into the music. And when you put those two together, you could have a night like I’ve never had.”

Editor’s note: Associate Scene Editor Brian Boylen contributed to this report.

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