“Have you ever been on a date, and the whole time you’re worried that your date isn’t having a good time,” Garth Brooks asked me before he took the stage on the fifty-yard line in Notre Dame Stadium. “Even though they might be having the best time on the planet? That’s how I feel right now.”
His pre-show anxiety wasn’t about the crowd (84,000 people), the setlist (23 songs), or even the staging (in the round). His biggest concern was a wintry mix of snow, rain, 13 mph winds and temperatures hovering right around 35 degrees. Would it ruin his plans to make history on Saturday night (Oct. 20)?
Not a chance.
Brooks’ fans packed into the stadium in South Bend, Indiana for the first concert ever held in the home of the Fighting Irish. And after a one-hour weather delay, he gave the crowd more than two hours of music to thoroughly take their minds off the cold.
There were new songs, like “Live Again,” which included a short Beatles medley in the middle. There were covers from his musical hero Bob Seger, “Night Moves” and “Turn the Page.” There were expected cover tunes, like the show-closer “American Pie” from Don McLean, and unexpected ones, like his guy version of Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Goin’ Nowhere.” And there were appearances from the Notre Dame football cheerleaders and the school’s leprechaun mascot.
But the majority of the concert was devoted to the hits and more hits. Brooks started the show with honky-tonk tunes and heartfelt ballads, like “That Summer,” “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House,” “The River,” “Papa Loved Mama,” and “Two Pina Coladas.” Then he gave his band a break. “You guys can take a few seconds to maybe go get warm,” he said. “I’m gonna be with these people.” He performed “Unanswered Prayers” — a fitting song because of the football setting — by himself.
The band came back for a steady stream of more crowd pleasers: “Standing Outside the Fire,” “Rodeo,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up),” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” (Oak Ridge Boys cover),” “Friends in Low Places,” and “The Dance.”
But by about 10:00 p.m., Brooks let his band leave the stage again while he stayed behind to take some requests and give the hardy crowd the acoustic encore they deserved, with his “She’s Every Woman,” “The Red Strokes,” “Ireland” and “More Than a Memory.”
The concert was filmed for a TV special Garth: Live at Notre Dame!, which will air Dec. 2 on CBS.
Brooks’ North American Stadium Tour will start in Glendale, Arizona in 2019, and he will continue to play about a dozen stadiums a year for three years, before heading back to Notre Dame to end the tour.