by Julian Spivey
Garth Brooks proving to still be the only superstar in country music big enough to have a concert filmed and aired as a primetime special had his Notre Dame University concert from Oct. 20th in South Bend, Ind. aired on CBS on Sunday, Dec. 2.
The show – the first concert held at Notre Dame’s football stadium – featured 84,000 in attendance and tickets sold out in a matter of minutes. The weather was not complimentary for the show that night in October with rain during the majority – if not all (it was hard to tell on TV) – of the show. It didn’t seem to bother fans a whole lot, though that’s also hard to tell from the televised performed. If you look up the setlist online, you’ll see that there were pauses during the concert in efforts to get more or better crowd shots. I bet that was a pain for those attending live.
The televised concert kicked off with one of Brooks’ newest songs “All Night Long,” released earlier this year and proving to be his best single since he came out of retirement a few years back.
The rest of the show would include many of Brooks’ greatest hits with a couple of spirited cover songs mixed in.
Brooks, a six-time Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, is known as the most dynamic performer in the history of country music – putting on a show that frequently involves (more so in his younger days) him running around the stage and in the past flying through the air and smashing guitars together. At 56, he doesn’t get around the stage as much anymore, but still puts on quite the show and never fails to sell out audiences. The show at Notre Dame inspired Brooks to begin a stadium tour next year not long after wrapping a three-year world tour with his wife and fellow country performer Trisha Yearwood.
One thing that’s perhaps surprising about Brooks’ show at Notre Dame is despite all of his years of fame and popularity he heaps effusive praise on his crowd for their responses to him and his music. He acts like it never gets old – and maybe for him it truly doesn’t or maybe he puts it on a little for the show.
Among Brooks’ finest performances during the show were “That Summer,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” “Papa Loved Mama” and “Rodeo.” Of course, his major fan favorites like “The Thunder Rolls” and the all-time great country sing-along “Friends in Low Places” were featured too. My personal favorite Garth song “Much Too You (To Feel This Damn Old)” wasn’t performed, which is a bit of a bummer, but not all that surprising.
Brooks paid homage to some of his favorite artists which included a cover of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” and a medley that included bits of The Beatles “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.” These were certainly nice enough covers, but I’m willing to bet that both the crowd live at Notre Dame and the one watching on television a little over a month later would’ve probably preferred more Brooks originals.
One thing that seemed a bit off about the televised performance were Garth’s vocals – not that they weren’t performed live, but that they might have been too edited for the televised special. Country music writer Grady Smith on Twitter said: “The overly clean vocal editing on this Garth Brooks special is killing the experience. They took the joy and earnestness and energy out of his voice.” While I agree the cleaning up of the vocals was too much it didn’t really take too much of the joy out of the special for me. After all, it’s still one of the best country artists of the last three decades performing many of his best songs.
Brooks ended his performance on the televised concert with his classic “The Dance,” which he told the crowd at Notre Dame was his favorite song. It was a good way to cap off a nice experience and a good show – one Brooks himself is obviously never going to forget based on his glowing smile during the show.