Garth Brooks is in South Bend. Here's what he said before his concert at Notre Dame Stadium

Back in town, with 2018 memories of first gig here and Habitat build.

Joseph Dits
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — “What’s up with the weather here?” country music star Garth Brooks asked as he opened a press conference Friday in Notre Dame Stadium, 3.5 years after he’d played here in rain, snow and wind.  

While he’s grateful for a forecast 20 degrees warmer — and dry — for his big concert Saturday night in the stadium, other memories of 2018 also drift back, like slamming nails for Habitat for Humanity within earshot of President Jimmy Carter and a quiet local giant known as LeRoy Troyer. 

But, oh yeah, the weather. Brooks said that, after his bone-chilling October 2018 gig here in front of a sold-out crowd — with temperatures in the 30s — he watched it when it aired later on CBS and asked, “What concert is this?” 

From 2018:Review flashback: Garth Brooks created magical moments at Notre Dame

The audience, he said of their decidedly warm reaction, “didn’t act like it was cold.” 

Saturday’s return was meant to be the closing show for his current stadium tour, which kicked off after his last Notre Dame concert, but COVID changed the lineup. The finale will come in Ireland in September and, he added, “The university loved this date, so we stayed with it.” 

Still, he said, a stadium tour won’t return anytime soon because of the toll on his crew. 

“This is the most they’ve worked since the early ‘90s,” he said. “The one thing we pride ourselves on is being home for kid’s graduations, birthdays and that kind of stuff. I owe them a definite vacation.” 

On Friday, Brooks’ towering stage, marked with his signature small “g,” rose at roughly the 20-30-yard-line. He said that will allow more of the audience to act “as one,” unlike 2018 when he played at the 50 yard line, dancing in all directions to address them all, “which is hard as heck on an entertainer.”  

Also different this time: No stops and starts for film crews.  

“This time — ha — both feet are going to be on the gas pedal from the word go,” he said. “I’m going to lose 30 pounds tomorrow.” 

Tickets have still been available this week for Saturday’s concert, while Brooks’ website has said that more than 70,000 tickets have been sold in the nearly 81,000-seat stadium. 

Garth Brooks answers questions during a press conference Friday at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

His last stadium show was a week ago, April 30, at Louisiana State University, where the concert with 102,000 fans reportedly registered a small earthquake in Tiger Stadium. Sound levels reached 95 decibels, triggering warnings on many cellphones about potential harm, as the crowd sang along to Brooks’ song “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”  

“It was deafening,” Brooks said Friday. On social media, he refers to the LSU gig as “GarthQuake.” Also when asked, he said the song itself is his favorite among his songs, though it normally “flies under the radar everywhere but in Baton Rouge.”  

At Notre Dame, he said: “We know what to expect from these people here. … I don’t have any problem if they wear helmets and face paint. Let’s make a good game out of this, let’s get this competition going.” 

The Notre Dame and Garth Brooks flags fly as the administration building's golden dome can be seen in the background Friday at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

The Tribune had a few minutes to chat one-on-one with Brooks and couldn’t pass up recalling how Saturday’s gig also brings him close to Mishawaka. Brooks and his wife, fellow country music star Trisha Yearwood, sweated as they labored through a muggy week in August 2018 on a Habitat for Humanity house in Mishawaka. Brooks stuffed nails in his mouth as he worked alongside Mayor Dave Wood and other local officials on the same house.  

It was one of 23 houses rising in the same neighborhood in that year’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, which Brooks and Yearwood join every year at a different location around the world.  

We asked about the late LeRoy Troyer, the local architect who was a close friend of the Carters and who played a pivotal role in landing the Carter Work Project here. 

“LeRoy was more like a witness to God that meant a lot to him,” he said. “What I loved about him, and I was one of those guys you can take from not knowing anything about carpentry. And he treated you the same as the people who do. There was always respect. He wouldn’t let you get out of any work because you’d say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that.’ He’d say, ‘OK, let’s learn.’ Which made you love him.” 

The "Welcome to Roseland" sign with a promotional "Welcome to Garthland" poster over it on Ind. 933 Friday.

Troyer had served on Habitat for Humanity’s international board, established Habitat affiliates in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties and served as the “house captain” each year on the house where the Carters worked during the Carter Work Project. Troyer worked on the Mishawaka project but died later that year at age 81. 

From 2018 Habitat build:Two men key to landing Carter project in Mishawaka

“Anytime you get to work with the Carters, that stands out,” Brooks added about the Mishawaka project. “One of the things that really make me smile, because I’m married to the love of my life just as they are, is: They had an argument – over the size of a board, how long it should cut. And it got to be pretty good. She wasn’t taking any of his crap, and he wasn’t backing down. Me and Ms. Yearwood looked at each other because they are, what, 30-40 years older than us. We’re praying to God that that’s us in 30-40 years. That’s what made it fun. They were as real as can be.” 

After this weekend, Brooks’ next stadium concerts will be May 13-14 at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals. After that, it’s on to the New England Patriots’ home at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts. Through June, he goes to Birmingham, Ala., Salt Lake City and Edmonton, Canada, and onward. And in September, he finishes the tour in the Croke Park stadium in Dublin, Ireland. 

“Can’t tell you how sweet the people at Notre Dame have been to us,” he said. “I will tell any artist out there: Your career, if you’re still performing, is not complete without performing at Notre Dame.” 

Before and at the concert 

The concert itself: Starts at 7 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m. 

Tickets to the concert: At about $92, tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com/GarthBrooks. 

Parking: Campus lots open at 10 a.m., though the university has said that on-campus will be “extremely limited.” To order in advance, visit gameday.nd.edu.    

Shamrockin' Concert Kickoff: The Irish Green at the southern entrance to Notre Dame’s campus will host several local food trucks from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, leading up to the concert. Live music will be provided by Paul Erdman and Zach DuBois. Food trucks include Rulli's Pizza, Smothered and Covered Fries, Rohr's, REAL Grille, Tattoo Taco, Keim's Elephant Ears, Sweazy Q BBQ, Cool Running's and Junbuggies. Tickets to this event cost $10 each, while kids ages 11 and younger enter for free. That doesn’t include the cost of food and drink. The proceeds will benefit financial aid at Notre Dame. Organizers strongly recommend buying tickets in advance through a link here in this story. 

More eats and drinks: Several cafes and dining facilities on the Notre Dame campus will be open during the day Saturday. Rhor’s at the Morris Inn will celebrate Kentucky Derby Day with a drink called "Trisha Yearwood's Cherry Mint Julep.” (We don’t have to tell Brooks fans, but fellow country star Yearwood is also his wife.) For details, visit https://gameday.nd.edu/special-events/garthbrooks2022/. 

Tailgating: This is be allowed from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in parking lots, but not once the concert starts. 

In the stadium: Alcoholic beverages and food will be available for purchase. 

Cashless stadium: All concession and merchandise concessions in and around Notre Dame Stadium cannot accept cash. 

COVID policy: Masks are optional in the stadium. Also, vaccinations and negative COVID tests aren't required.   

For more information: Visit https://gameday.nd.edu/special-events/garthbrooks2022/.