Strolling into a room full of reporters and cameramen in a hoodie and ball cap, sporting a big, warm smile, you’d be excused for thinking the man who is arguably the most famous voice in country music was one of the crew.
But whether it’s the façade of a seasoned performer or genuine earnestness, Garth Brooks seems like he could be anyone’s best friend — or at least for two nights, the buddy of everyone in Edmonton.
“You know, I think the thing with Edmonton is — the same thing for all the places you enjoy — it’s the people, right?” he said while sitting on the edge of a stage, talking with reporters Friday afternoon.
“And these people, they don’t just show up — they show up ready to play and they show up with an expectation.”
Brooks is no stranger to Edmonton: in 2017, he sold out not one — not even two or three — but nine concerts with his wife Trisha Yearwood at Rogers Place: “Every one of those nights were bad-ass nights.”
In total, about 160,000 fans took in those shows five years ago. He said that level of dedication raises the bar for him and his crew.
Brooks said the 2017 shows also left him with high expectations of the crowd showing up at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday and Saturday night.
“We want these people to leave here thinking this was a better show than the arena show. So that’s what we came to do.”
The sold-out shows in Edmonton are the only Canadian dates on a tour that has taken him across the United States and will finish in Dublin, Ireland.
Brooks said he is hoping for polite but energetic crowds, adding there’s a level of sincerity to his fans.
“They know their country music inside and out.
“When you play country music for a country music crowd, there’s a way that it gets in your soul.”
Music brings back memories, Brooks said, explaining his goal is to quickly transition the show from a concert to a big party of 61,000 people.
“If you can get in that party mode in the first two songs — then just Katie bar the door, it’s going to be fun.”
Brooks said his goal is to make people walk out of Commonwealth Stadium loving each other more than when they came in: “Not an easy task here, because they come in loving one another already!”
“Garth Brooks music (is) all about inclusion, not exclusion. We cannot make it on our own. We need each other. So black and white need to learn to work together. Red and blue need to work together. Canadians, Americans need to learn to work together, right? So that’s what we do.”
Music brings together people who might otherwise have nothing in common, Brooks said.
“Maybe if they were in the same room, they wouldn’t agree on anything. But there they are, friends in low places, arm in arm, right at the river.
“That’s a beautiful thing, that tells me that music, for me, very well could be the voice of hope.”
Brooks said he records the audience at his concerts and listens back to them singing along to The River: “I’ve been doing this for 100 years. Right? And I still cry like a baby when it happens. So I think that’s a fun thing I sort of look forward to.”
The stadium tour actually started in 2019, but was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brooks said cancelling the tour was the right thing to do, but added he’s so much more excited for it now.
There’s nothing that compares to performing live, he said, adding that he “1,000 per cent” feeds off of the energy of the crowd.
He said he learned that lesson during the COVID-19 pandemic, when live concerts weren’t a possibility, so in the United States, they were replaced with drive-in shows. Brooks put together a filmed concert, which he said an estimated 750,000 people attended at drive-in movie theatres across the United States.
“All you’re doing is performing to cameras,” he said, explaining the singing and cheering of the fans makes a difference for him as a performer.
He also noted he is just one part of making the show come alive. He was performing with Blake Shelton in Boise, Idaho when they ran into technical difficulties.
“So Blake Shelton is going to surprise us on Dive Bar, everybody knows it’s coming, and the sound system starts to squeal and starts to go out. Now you’re in front of all these people. Now you realize what you are without your crew.
“Without the crew, without the band, without the people, it just doesn’t happen. That’s why this is a statement of honesty — not humbleness — I’m lucky to be a part of this.”
For anyone who is going to the concert, it’s important to remember Commonwealth Stadium has a clear-bag policy. Purses or clutches that you can’t see through will not be allowed.
The City of Edmonton will be operating park-and-ride to and from the stadium at six locations, similar to how it does during Edmonton Elks games, however, it will cost $6 for the special event two-way fare.
- Eaux Claires Lot
- NAIT Lots A/B and D (109 Street and 118 Avenue)
- Note: parking is $5 at these lots.
- Calder City Lot (124 Street and 124 Avenue)
- Davies City Lot (86 Street and 61 Avenue)
- Lewis Farms (1021 Webber Greens Drive)
- Note: To accommodate Valley Line West construction, this lot will have a lower amount of available stalls for five to six years. If you use this lot, please plan to arrive early, or use lots at Calder or NAIT.
- Mill Woods Town Centre (66 Street and 23 Avenue)
All Commonwealth Stadium park-and-ride service starts two hours before the event begins and ends once the stadium clears after the event.