Garth Brooks explains it all
Wednesday, April 10, 1996
Yes, he is taping the shows for a live album. No, he isn't on the verge of fatal heart attack. And, no, he won't be in Oklahoma City April 19 to commemorate the first anniversary of the federal building bombing.
These things were on Brooks' mind before he went onstage at Michigan State University's Jack Breslin Center, the site of a 1992 concert Brooks has repeatedly dubbed "the wildest night of my career."
"We're all extremely nervous," said the 33-year-old country superstar. "It's like going on summer vacation and falling in love with that one woman. The last time you saw her was the greatest time in your life. Now you're going to see her again, and you wonder if it was all in your head..."
It wasn't. Brooks' two-hour performance -- with 20 songs drawn from his new album, "Fresh Horses," hits such as "Friends in Low Places" and "The Dance," and covers of Bob Seger's "Night Moves" and Don McLean's "American Pie" -- was a flamboyant, energetic spectacle that had more in common with the 70s arena rock heroes of Brooks' youth than the average country show.
With his deep bows and aw-shucks stage patter between songs, Brooks had the 15,000 fans here in a collective swoon for the entire evening.
That's not bad for just $17. In fact, Brooks' concerts are among the best bargains in music; he steadfastly refuses to price his tickets at more than $20 when he could charge twice that and still sell out in minutes.
"The fewer people who come up to and say I can't afford to come cause I can't afford it,' the better I'm going to feel," Brooks explained.
"I've got to tell you, when people are happy with the ticket price, that takes the pressure off you as an entertainer. There's a lot less folded arms out there and a lot more people that want to come and have fun."
Brooks denied rumors that this tour -- which is slated to go around the world and last through 1998 -- will be his last.
"We're not going home," he said. "We don't want that. If people want us back, we'll be back." But Brooks acknowledged that when this tour ends he'll be concerned with his children's schooling; oldest daughter Taylor, who will be three in May, will be ready for kindergarten.
He also has a daughter August, who's 1 1/2. He and his wife, Sandy, are expecting a third girl, to be named Allie Colleen, in August.
At that point, Brooks said, he'll consider other ways of touring, perhaps even a solo acoustic tour "where you just have one artist and eight different guitars ... and just start playing stuff that you love."
The farewell tour rumors popped up after recent tabloid reports about Brooks' failing health, which he claimed are overstated.
A "routine physical" two weeks into the tour did reveal a high cholesterol count but no imminent danger. Brooks said he's watching his diet and conditioning and will have another physical in six months to see if there's been any improvement. "If it's good, I just hope to hell they spread it as much as when it was kinda cranky," he said. "My mom, of course, calls up bawling. People call up and say I heard you were dead...' "I feel great. This (tour) is kicking my butt. I've got to get in shape.
"Brooks other project of late is making sure the Oklahoma City bombing is commemorated properly.
A native of Yukon, Okla., and a graduate of Oklahoma State University, he sent a letter to country radio stations asking them to play appropriate music, whether it's one of his songs -- the video for "The Change" features footage of the carnage -- or something else like Vince Gill's "Go Rest High on That Mountain."
"So long as we, as a country music family, celebrate or recognize Oklahoma and the year that they went through, it will be enough for me," Brooks said. "I just want it to be something that us as a family holds hands and looks at America's heartland and says On today, we're thinking of you."'
Brooks will be thinking, too, rather than traveling back to his home state on the 19th.
"I feel that to be in Oklahoma on the 19th is an extreme honor, and I don't feel I'm worthy of that," he said. "I wasn't there when it happened. I didn't go down and help anybody. We stayed pretty much out of the way by choice, and that's what I'm going to continue to do.
"That day should be for the victims, for the survivors and for the volunteers who fought so hard. It should be their day. If Garth Brooks goes down, to me it looks like Garth Brooks is trying to cash in on something, so I'm going to stay far away and just let them know that, like millions of others, I'm there in spirit."