Garth Brooks tells IndyStar he hopes weather conditions will cooperate with tonight’s concert at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.
David Lindquist, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH BEND – It rained. It snowed. And Notre Dame Stadium needed a showman the caliber of Garth Brooks to salvage the first concert in the facility’s 88-year history.
Brooks kicked off a new phase of his touring career Saturday at the storied college football venue, on a night that fulfilled his prediction of being “bare-a– cold” during the show.
“Garth: Live at Notre Dame!” – as the concert will be known when highlights air Dec. 2 on CBS – started an hour later than the scheduled time of 7 p.m. local time. High winds made it too dangerous to hang speakers above the star-shaped stage in the middle of the stadium. While 84,000 attendees waited for that situation to change, steady rain fell and then snow arrived to spark hardy cheers that seemed to signify “What next?”
Even Brooks, the unflappable dreamer who agreed to play this October outdoor concert, made a mid-show admission that he figured the weather would make it a night to put his head down, do the job and then get out of town.
But the performance turned out to be enjoyable beyond its endurance-test qualities. The wind died down and precipitation ended, more or less.
Brooks and his fans found their groove on “The River,” the fourth song of the show and a moment when every corner of the stadium lit up, thanks to smartphones held high.
This light show will serve as an organic TV highlight when the CBS special airs. Other parts of the concert delivered unvarnished lessons in what it takes to make “live” music work on network television.
Fans were asked to sing tunes already performed by Brooks to create “sweetened” audio tracks. They sometimes cheered with superhuman gusto merely to follow directions. And the production saddled the crowd with an iffy “let’s do the wave” gimmick that didn’t seem to click.
These segments slowed the show’s momentum, and Brooks didn’t help matters by neglecting to tune his guitar for one number and by nearly forgetting to play a different song on the set list.
Saturday’s made-for-TV event occasionally resembled a dress rehearsal, and it would be fitting if Brooks follows through on an idea he mentioned during the show: He said he would like to end a three-year run of playing North American stadiums at the site where it’s beginning – Notre Dame Stadium. But let’s make it a date between May and September.
Washington resident Jennifer Zimmerlee traveled from the West Coast to make the Notre Dame concert her 51st time to catch Brooks in action. None of the previous shows featured snowfall, she said.
Zimmerlee’s fan resume includes being in the audience when Brooks made his 1993 TV special at Texas Stadium and his 1997 TV special at New York City’s Central Park.
“You try to do the epic events,” she said. “When I can, I get the ‘firsts’ for Garth.”
Brooks overcame Saturday’s TV demands and harsh weather to supply honky-tonk thrills on songs such as “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” and “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).” New tune and show opener “All Day Long” also thrived in the context of good-time country.
The Oklahoma native turned to a sizable chunk of rock ‘n’ roll classics to make the most of a stadium packed with eager singers: “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude,’ by The Beatles; “Night Moves” and “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger; and “American Pie” by Don McLean.
College campuses are expected to be a major component of Brooks’ three-year stadium tour, and he unveiled his Beatles covers as part of something he called the “Music 101 Trilogy” to provide context for young audience members.
The Paul McCartney compositions were sandwiched within a song titled “Live Again” by singer/songwriter Gabe Dixon – an underground artist who played keyboards on McCartney’s 2001 “Driving Rain” solo album.
For Notre Dame, Brooks’ collegiate touches included playing a “ND”-logo electric guitar and inviting the school’s cheerleading squad and leprechaun mascot onstage during signature anthem “Friends in Low Places.”
Merch tents outside the stadium offered a special “I’ve got friends in Irish places” T-shirt for $35, and Brooks performed his 1995 song “Ireland” as part of the concert’s encore segment featuring just the singer and an acoustic guitar.
Near the end of the show that almost stretched 2½ hours, Brooks thanked Notre Dame for making the memorable night feel like “a home game” for his cast and crew.
The encore segment, billed as a “housekeeping” exercise mostly devoted to playing audience requests, ended with three songs written about music.
Brooks revised Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” — a kiss-off to anyone who’s doubted a musician’s drive — as “Guy Goin’ Nowhere.” A rendition of Seger’s road-weary “Turn the Page” followed. And McLean’s “American Pie,” a fan-focused Buddy Holly memorial, closed the show.
The show’s full set list:
1. “All Day Long”
2. “That Summer”
3. “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” (Dennis Robbins cover)
4. “The River”
5. “Papa Loved Mama”
6. “Two Pina Coladas”
7. “Unanswered Prayers”
8. “Night Moves” (Bob Seger cover)
9. “Standing Outside the Fire”
11. “Music 101 Trilogy” of “Live Again” (Gabe Dixon cover), “Let It Be” (Beatles cover) and “Hey Jude” (Beatles cover)
12. “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up)
13. “The Thunder Rolls”
14. “Callin’ Baton Rouge” (Oak Ridge Boys cover)
15. “Friends in Low Places”
16. “The Dance”
17. “She’s Every Woman”
18. “The Red Strokes”
20. “More Than A Memory”
21. “Guy Goin’ Nowhere” (Ashley McBryde cover)
22. “Turn the Page” (Bob Seger cover)
23. “American Pie” (Don McLean cover)
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