SALT LAKE CITY — Garth Brooks couldn't hold in his excitement.
The legendary country singer paced enthusiastically around an upper deck of Rice-Eccles Stadium during a press conference Friday before insisting on taking a look out the window at the giant stage set below.
"I gotta see this," he said, marveling at the huge structure. "Been waiting for this one."
Brooks will perform at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday as part of his current tour, which the country superstar says will be his last concert series to take place at stadiums. Before the stadium show, he'll also perform a set Friday night at the Westerner in Salt Lake City as part of his Dive Bar Tour.
Ahead of the performances, Brooks spoke with members of the Utah media Friday. And while that term might suggest prepared statements delivered from behind podiums, Friday's event was anything but. He walked back and forth on a stage as if he were performing his songs, noting that he prefers to have a conversation instead of just talking at people in front of him.
It's finding those personal connections that fuels Brooks and makes playing in Utah a great experience, he said.
"You know when you come here — every time, just polite, sweet people. Makes it a joy to be where you're playing," he said.
The earnest entertainer got a little emotional several times while talking about being able to perform in Utah and returning to touring after the music industry largely took a year off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brooks' stadium tour started in 2019 but was put on hold during the pandemic. The tour restarted on July 10 in Las Vegas, a show that was postponed multiple times before it finally happened.
He was a little out of practice after not performing for so long. But Brooks said having a great crew, band and audience in Vegas made it easy to get back in the swing of things.
"The band sounded great, and then here come the train wrecks one after another from not doing it," he said. "And you see that the people just looked at it as joy and love ... and that's when it got fun."
A lovely conversation with Garth Brooks, who may be the nicest and most wholesome person I've ever interviewed. pic.twitter.com/yZDJsExMiJ— Jacob Klopfenstein (@JFKlopfenstein) July 16, 2021
When an audience allows the performer to make mistakes and just roll with it, it's special, Brooks said.
"These people will allow me to do it, I've seen it here before," he added. "They're not looking for perfection, they're looking for sincerity."
Brooks thrives off of an audience and what they give back to him during concerts. It's an exciting moment to hear an audience belt out "Friends In Low Places," his signature mega-hit, but then turn around and sing "The Dance," a more melancholy ballad, with the same enthusiasm they had for "Friends," he said.
"So you get 'Friends In Low Places' and you get the hoopla, and here comes something like 'The Dance,' and you can hear it in their voices — the sincerity that's in it."
The concert will be a hot one — temperatures at showtime are expected to be in the triple digits. Brooks encouraged people not to get to Rice-Eccles Stadium early; the show, scheduled for 7 p.m., will likely start a little late so that people don't bake in the heat, he said. There will also be some areas available in the stadium for people to cool off.
Utah Transit Authority will be altering its service to get people to and from the concert on Saturday. Starting about 4:30 p.m., TRAX trains will be running every 20 minutes between the Draper Town Center station and the Stadium station, with no transfers necessary, according to UTA. Red Line trains will also be running every 10 minutes from Fashion Place West to the Stadium station.
After the concert, UTA has designated 10 extra TRAX trains, which will run every 4-7 minutes as needed and will service every station on the green, blue and red TRAX lines.
Saturday, Brooks will be playing in front of tens of thousands of Utahns. But he said it doesn't faze him when audiences give back as much as what he puts into a concert.
"That's easy, man, when you get to play with people and hear them sing back to you," Brooks said. "Being sincere and falling in love is the easy part."