The Super Bowl, the Final Four, Garth Brooks.
Do events get any bigger at U.S. Bank Stadium?
This weekend's two-night GarthFest had the buildup of other recent super events at USBS: Instant sellout, news conferences and rabid fans. If you thought the Patriots and Eagles fans were amped and the Virginia and Texas Tech faithful were hyped, then imagine 70,000 all rooting for the same team.
The response was overwhelming on Friday. Like maybe the Vikings finally won the Super Bowl. Big wish.
Fans were on their feet for 2½ hours. They sang along together to nearly every song. They lit up their cellphones on tender ballads. And they cheered vociferously for their favorites, which was about every other tune.
Garth responded with a typically winning performance because he was, as always, in Garth gear, the only one he knows. Part giddy, part grateful, all gung-ho.
Like Jimmy Fallon fawning over his guests, Garth gushed over the crowd's reaction. Like Neil Diamond in overdrive, he delivered more grand arm gestures. Like Taylor Swift winning another award, he basked in the spotlight extra-long. And then when the crowd responded with extra-loud ovations, he took his big black cowboy hat off.
Garth, 57, is a big ham, a little cheesy, with a slathering of emotion. But the crowd loves it. And he plays to his crowd. He points at signs, slaps hands with folks in the front row and photo bombs selfie shots while still singing. He cherishes his connection with the fans. And they value his attitude and ethos as much as his music.
Like no other stadium or arena act, Garth keeps his tickets at one price for every seat, this time a people-friendly $75.
While this is his first all-stadium tour, Friday wasn't his first rodeo in an indoor stadium. Aware of the acoustical challenges in a dome and the complaints at previous concerts at the Vikings stadium, he went the extra miles to ensure improved acoustics.
Not only was he the first music attraction to take advantage of the $5.2 million curtains covering the stadium ceiling and glass wall (they will be removed for football season), but he had his longtime sound engineer Dan Heins research the acoustic situation. The Garth team ended up carpeting the stadium floor, hanging drapes over the stadium scoreboards and other hard surfaces, putting a canopy-like roof over the stage, and setting up speakers for different levels of the stadium — firsts for concerts at the Vikes venue.
The result was improved acoustics. It wasn't nearly as echoey in the upper levels and back of the stadium. You could actually decipher the words in the far reaches for a change. If there was a sound issue, it was that the mix was a bit muddy, making it hard to pick out the individual instruments.
If there was something that kept this from being a championship performance, it was the staging. To squeeze in a record-setting crowd for a Minneapolis stadium concert, Garth became the first music act to seat people behind the stage. While it was a stage-in-the-round, it wasn't in the center of the venue. It was where the stage has been for all other concerts.
The stage was not particularly tall. That meant if you were on the football field, you might have struggled to see Garth over folks in front of you. And with this setup, that meant that the video screens over the stage were giant, not humongous like at other stadium gigs. In other words, no one had a great seat (unless you were in the front row) and no one probably had a bad seat.
But, at least, fans got to hear 30 years of his hits, including last summer's honky-tonkin' "All Day Long," which opened the show. Garth sparkled on ballads, including the solo acoustic readings of "Unanswered Prayers" and Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love," which he dedicated to a fan who proposed to his gal. But the high point had to be "Friends in Low Places," the massive singalong anthem with confetti and streamers that made it feel as if Minnesotans finally won a championship.
Oh, they did. "This has been the biggest city for us in our career," Garth said in a preconcert news conference. Yes, the Twin Cities is his biggest market. The all-time record-holder for one Garth engagement — 203,235 for 11 shows in 2014 — and the first to warrant two stadium shows. Yee-haw!