Offstage, Garth Brooks puts on his humble hat. He’s calm, soft-spoken and sincere.
But you can tell that he gets excited about Minneapolis even if he doesn’t raise his voice.
“This has been the biggest city for us in our career,” he said Friday afternoon before his first of two nights at U.S. Bank Stadium. “For anybody who thinks country music is only limited to Oklahoma, Texas or the South, I quickly explain this story.”
Minneapolis is the only city in which Brooks has scheduled two concerts on his first-ever stadium tour. “If you were stupid enough to do three [stadium shows], this is the only city do it in,” he added.
He’ll set a record for the most tickets sold for a concert at U.S. Bank Stadium, with about 70,000 each night. He marveled that there were 85,000 requests in the first 15 minutes when tickets went on sale.
He’s also well aware of the history of U.S. Bank Stadium. And that doesn’t just mean the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the Minneapolis Miracle by the Vikings. He knows the stadium has received mixed reviews for acoustics at concerts by Taylor Swift, Guns N’ Roses and Kenny Chesney, among others. So Brooks, who has played in three domed stadiums already, dispatched his sound expert since 1989, Dan Heins, to attend to things.
“He has taken it personally on this one,” Brooks said with laser-focused intensity. “You’re gonna see a [ton] of black felt that he’s brought in to cover everything. You’re gonna see carpet on the football floor. You’re gonna see a top on the stage — we usually do it topless indoors — but he’s got it to keep all the sound down here. And then he has personally hung all the sound for the upper rows so they get theirs and everybody else gets theirs.”
Dressed in faded Wrangler bluejeans, a Nike T-shirt, running shoes and a purple Garth ball cap, the 57-year-old country icon answered questions from area media for an hour in a stadium conference room.
The Oklahoma native spoke of his fondness for the Twin Cities, recalling proudly how Target Center set a one-city attendance record in 1998 with 184,000 tickets sold, then lost it to Chicago (186,000) in 2014, when he returned to the road after a decadelong hiatus to raise his three daughters. So Target Center officials quickly added two more shows (for a total of 11) in order to regain the mark of 203,235 in 2014.
His wife, country singer-turned-Food Network star Trisha Yearwood, was excited to return to Minneapolis so she could visit Paisley Park on Friday morning.
“She’s got the most talented guy as her hero and she just got back,” he said. “She was chatty Kathy, and she can’t stop talking about it. She loved it.”
He’s a Prince admirer, too, putting the Minnesotan in a “very rare category” with Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard as elite entertainers, songwriters, singers and musicians.
Brooks mentioned a documentary series that A&E Network is shooting during the tour. Later this year, he’ll drop a new album, “Fun,” which he called “just honky-tonk music.”
In the middle of the news conference, the megastar’s cellphone rang loudly. He apologized and reached in his pocket to turn it off. A radio DJ asked if it was Yearwood. Said Brooks: “If it was, I’d take it.”
It was one of the few instances of humor from Mr. Humble Hat.
When asked why he was so popular in Minneapolis, Brooks demurred. He credited the fans and the music. He then demonstrated that he sings three words and the fans carry the rest of the tune.
He clearly respects the opinions of the people. For example, in an off-the-podium moment when a St. Cloud DJ complimented him about “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” TV series, he asked what she thought of the idea of Yearwood opening a restaurant.
The DJ could hardly contain her excitement.
And Brooks seemed locked in on his one-person focus group — humbled and encouraged about taking on another endeavor. Just don’t expect the restaurant to be in Minneapolis.