Garth Brooks talks about gratitude the way lottery winners and sports champions do.
“I don’t think I was an ass in the ’90s, and I don’t think I took things for granted,” he said at a recent news conference. “But there’s a word for getting to tour at this age, this late in your career, with the numbers of people showing up and the attitude they’re showing up with: grateful.”
When the country superstar started his 16-year touring hiatus in 1998 so that he could raise his three daughters, he was the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century. And the 54-year-old Grammy winner is quick to say that he wasn’t sure what his career would be when he returned.
Now he knows.
“Those 16 years were the best gift I’ve ever received in my life — it came from God and the people — and that was to go home and raise my babies,” Brooks says. “In the last two years, everything has changed.”
More than 4 million people have already seen Brooks on his comeback tour, which started in late 2014, and he is showing no signs of slowing down, as he gets ready for two shows at Yankee Stadium on Friday, July 8, and Saturday, July 9.
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In the ’90s, at the peak of his chart-topping success, Brooks sold 5 million concert tickets in a three-year tour. In his current tour, he has already sold 4 million and there are still 16 months to go.
The Yankee Stadium shows will be his first in New York since his record-setting concert in Central Park in 1997. And Brooks plans to make them special.
“Whatever happens in this town is going to be epic,” he says. “Whatever happens in this town is going to be fantastic. . . . That makes for a lot of fun.”
Brooks says he has a new way of looking at concerts now, and it’s based on his experiences as a music fan.
He says he remembers seeing Queen in concert and wishing that singer Freddie Mercury would notice him in the crowd. He wanted to tell him, “I know this might sound demented, but I’ve made decisions based on your lyrics. I’ve had days that were going crappy, and your music turned it around.”
Brooks says he wants to give that experience to his fans as well as tell them what they have meant to him. “I’ve spent the last 25 years of my life as an entertainer, trying to, as much as I can, lock eyes with them and say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for my life. Thank you for my kids’ college. Thank you for my dad’s sleep. . . . It was a great comfort to my dad to know, ‘OK, this kid can provide for his family with his music.’ ”
Inspired by ‘fantastic’ Billy Joel film
It’s not clear whether Brooks will ask his pal Billy Joel to stop by at his Yankee Stadium show on Friday. (Joel is playing a stadium show of his own Saturday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.) However, Brooks credits Joel for making him want to play Yankee Stadium because of The Piano Man’s famous concert film at the old Yankee Stadium. “It was just fantastic,” Brooks says. “He talked about his boyhood. He talked about White Castle. He talked about all that stuff. They had great musicianship going on at the time, right about the time ‘Storm Front’ was coming out. Jon Small shot that. Jon will be shooting this.”
Brooks says that Joel was part of his Central Park show, and he hopes to make the Yankee Stadium shows different, though he quickly adds, “There’s a rule in music that everybody before you is a god and everybody after you is a punk. It only makes sense: Billy Joel is a god for me. His music is in everything we do.”
Two for a special tour
One way the Yankee Stadium shows will be different is that Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood, will be a part of them, opening the concert and being a part of his set.
“Performing and being artists is who we are,” Yearwood told Newsday before her most recent show at NYCB Theatre at Westbury. “Garth and I have always said home is wherever the other one is. The prospect of getting to tour as man and wife and for the first time getting to do what we have both been called to do and be together? It’s kind of the ultimate dream for us. We’re just excited about getting to do what we love to do.”
Brooks smiles when told of what his wife said. His voice gets quieter and, uncharacteristically, he pauses before responding.
“She has defined everything for me as happiness,” Brooks says. “She doesn’t tour like this. We’ve both been married before and never saw our spouses. And we decided when we got married, ‘Why get married if we’re going to be apart, right?’ ”
He says the tour wouldn’t have been possible if Yearwood wasn’t on board, both as a performer and as his wife.
“You’re touring with the love of your life playing music and people are showing up in great numbers with great attitudes,” Brooks says, still smiling. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”