He’s got friends in Long Island-adjacent places. Garth Brooks is coming to Yankee Stadium July 9, for a show that will be captured on film for an even bigger audience. (Streaming or a recorded TV special? That’s all yet to be determined.) You could call the Bronx incursion of music’s most famous belt-buckle bearer an Okie-out-of-water story…
…but, if you did characterize it that way, you’d be proving to have a short memory. Because Garth already proved just how at home he can make himself in the Big Apple back in 1997, when his free Central Park concert seemed to make all of Manhattan into that proverbial low place he came to fame singing about. Depending on which crowd figure was accurate — estimates ranged from 750,000 to 980,000 — it was either the biggest or second-biggest concert in American history. By that standard, July’s Yankee Stadium gig will be a comparative club gig. But the probability of an instant sellout when tickets go on sale Friday will again establish that Brooks remains just as sure a draw above the Mason-Dixon line as below it.
Brooks stopped by the stadium Tuesday to promote the on-sale, and he took time out to tell Yahoo Music why the stadium offer felt like “a gift” between his usual runs of multi-night arena shows. Plus, he looked even farther ahead to a Christmas gift that’s in the offing.
YAHOO MUSIC: You’re the master of the singular ticket price, with every seat set in the same $70-80 base range. Will that be the same at Yankee Stadium, too, even though the people in the front will be getting a very different experience than the fans in the back? One price point still fits all?
GARTH BROOKS: Yeah. I just like the luck of the draw. Truthfully, man, it would break my heart if my child said “Hey, Dad, how come we’re not sitting down there?” and the answer is, “We can’t afford it.” I’d rather much that child is hearing that it’s just the luck of the draw, and you get your tickets when they come up, and whoever gets in there, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact of who can afford more or not. You know the great John Lennon quote, [paraphrasing] “You fans up there in the balcony make some noise; you people on the floor rattle your jewelry” [when the Beatles performed for the queen, but fans were allowed upstairs]? That kind of thing is what I always try to stay away from.
You haven’t played in New York City since you did Central Park in 1997, which by some estimates had the biggest attendance at any concert in history. After you came out of retirement, you’ve been back on the touring circuit for more than a year and a half, but you avoided NYC up until now. Is that because you were trying in vain to figure out how to do even bigger and better than Central Park, which you really couldn’t do unless you played from the top of the Empire State Building?
When you take on something like Central Park, I guess you never look past it and go, “Well, if I play here again, how are you gonna do it?” But the truth is, man, it doesn’t matter to us. It doesn’t matter if it’s five people or 5,000. We just want a place to play and have fun. But when this call came from Yankee Stadium, it was like, “Oh, that makes all kinds of sense to me to come back and do this.”
You’re doing multiple nights at arenas on the rest of your tour dates — a level of venue that is kind of mid-level for you, between the intimacy of your Las Vegas residency and the ability to do stadiums if you wanted to. Why stick with arenas — other than this? And when you do this stadium one-off, do you have to adjust the show?
You’re dead-on. Say we’re averaging somewhere between 95,000 and 100,000 in each city. How do you want to do that? Do you want to do it as a stadium show, or do you want to do individual arena shows where the whole room gets a little more up close and personal? That’s kind of how we wanted to do it. But then something like this comes along where just the name itself, Yankee Stadium, is the event. You take that as a gift. Now my job is to try to make this feel like a small arena to these people who show up. And then the job of the guy filming it is to make it look as big as he can. You get the best of both worlds, I think.
Speaking of which, how will this be filmed, and for what? Will there be a live TV or streaming element, or will you record it and save it for another purpose?
Right now that’s still on the drawing board. We really don’t know what’s going to happen. You go through the on-sale first and see what the parameters are and see what you have to work with. The rain-or-shine thing kind of gets you [thinking about weather hazards], too. Same way it was in Texas Stadium [filmed for a TV special in 1993]; even though it was a stadium that was domed, the roof was open on it always at that point. And the same way with Central Park. All these things come into play when you’re trying to film something.
You’re on what you describe as a three-year tour, though the dates are put on sale bit by bit. How do you calculate the length of a tour and put that precise number on it?
BROOKS: I think the reason we do it is because that’s what we’ve always done. This is our third time we’ve done a world tour. The one in the early ‘90s went for three years; the one in the late ‘90s went for three years. Usually that’s the time it takes to see the allotted cities. But those tours were 96 cities or something. We’ll never make that number on this one… A big difference between now and the ‘90s is, all you had to compete with then were hockey games and basketball games. Now, arenas are like this stadium: I’m in Yankee Stadium right now and I’m watching ‘em set up for a graduation. They’re all starting to realize that every event in the world can fit into your arena, and you’re competing with thosel kinds of things for that arena space, too. So getting arenas (for multiple-night runs) is harder and harder as time goes by.
YAHOO: You put out a new album a couple of years ago, and you’re still performing some of the songs from that, like “Mom.” Will you be bringing any new music in the near future?
If you want talk about the big difference [between the ‘90s and now], how do you try out new music without it being on YouTube the next day? That’s one of the things that’s been taken away from the live show: We used to be able to experiment and know, “Hey, this song’s really working well out on the road, so let’s go and let’s cut it — let’s do this thing.” Now, a lot of the stuff’s mostly what we call working in a lab, behind closed doors. New music is not as easy to work on on the tour as it is in the studio.
So any new album release from you is still a ways off?
Oh, no, I don’t think so. We were supposed to be [out with something new] this last Christmas. The tour has kind of – thank God — pushed everything back, with the way people are showing up. We feel very lucky. Right now me and Miss Yearwood are just finishing up our first-ever Christmas album — I mean, our first album together [period] — which is coming out this Christmas. Then the [other studio] late summer or fall record, we’ll get started working on that here in the next week or 10 days.
You’re the first country act to play the new Yankee Stadium. You put in a cameo with Billy Joel when he was closing out the old Shea Stadium. Do you put stock in the historical value of firsts or lasts in these kinds of venues, or is a building just a conduit for your show?
It’s funny. If you ever dabble in screenwriting or movies or anything like that, they say one of the most important characters is where it’s shot. That becomes a character itself. So there is no building that’s just a building. We just played a place in Grand Rapids, and it was so tight, I don’t even know how the stage got in there. You’re going, “Holy cow, this is like dynamite getting ready to happen,” because it was so packed. Each building is its own thing. Where you’re at in Southern California, for example, Anaheim [the arena now called the Honda Center] is a little more what I would call soft-seated. It’s a lot more plush, and it’s a bigger room than the old Forum. Whereas you would hit a chord in the old Forum and it bounces around for 15 or 20 minutes, like the old rock palaces – just fantastic. And then you have things like the Staples Center, which seem to be right in the middle of the two. So each building has its own fingerprint, and you prepare for that when you go in, how to play them differently.
How do you prepare to play Yankee Stadium, when you haven’t done that before? Prepare to experiment?
Right. The whiteboard’s blank right now. Scheming and dreaming will probably start after this on-sale on Friday, and we’ll start to put together what I consider the most fun part, and that’s [considering] all the possibilities, which you’ll only try to pull off 10 percent of. But just getting to think of stuff is fun.
You’ve got a heck of a support act, in your wife. In the press conference you did for the event, and even in this interview, as always, you refer to your wife as “Miss Yearwood.” Is that a term of respect or deference you just got used to before you were closer to her, and it just stuck?
You know what, you’re dead on. Because forever I used to call her “Miss Yearwood.” She was an artist on another label, she was married to somebody else, and you worked with her every day, so “Miss Yearwood” is kind of what it became. And then you fall in love and you start to date each other, and then you meet Jack, who was her father [he died in 2005]. This is a good man who has two daughters, so the Yearwood name is going to go with these two daughters. Her older sister’s already married, and she took her husband’s name — sweet couple. But it’s something that means a lot to her for that name to stay around. So the “Miss Yearwood” thing also kind of helps with that. It’s a tribute to her father who’s a good, good man. So, all good things, actually.