Garth Brooks says he aims to turn Ford Field into a dive bar

Brooks will perform for more than 70,000 fans Saturday night at the Detroit Lions' home

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Garth Brooks' goal Saturday night is to turn Ford Field into a neighborhood watering hole. 

"My job is to try and shrink this place down to a dive bar," Brooks said during a press conference Friday at Ford Field, ahead of his sold-out concert at the Detroit Lions' home Saturday night. 

Garth Brooks speaks of his Stadium Tour on Friday, February 21, 2020 at Ford Field

A dive bar with room for 70,000 — making it the biggest concert in the 18-year history of Ford Field — but a dive bar nonetheless. The country superstar said he's aiming to make his debut Detroit stadium concert feel intimate, and make it feel like everyone in attendance has a front-row seat. 

"Getting to where every seat is perfect, that's the goal," he said. 

Dressed casually in an Owasso Baseball hoodie, black Nike track pants, loose-laced yellow Nike sneakers and a black baseball cap emblazoned with Brooks' lowercase G logo, Brooks spoke with the press inside a small room within the bowels of the stadium. 

He was finishing up his lunch and had just come from meeting with a group of local children, along with Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, as part of Brooks' charity foundation Teammates for Kids.

The 58-year-old joked about his weight, saying he's "wasting away" to about 260 pounds.

On the field, soundchecks were occurring on the large stage that was assembled earlier this week. "It's a pretty massive stage," Brooks said. "Fatboy Slim’s gonna have some ground to cover tomorrow night."

Saturday's concert will mark Brooks' first time performing on the 130-foot-wide, 100-foot-deep stage, which is situated in-the-round in the center of the stadium, and he hopes to work out any kinks that may arise in-the-moment.

He'll be leaning on his bandmates, longtime players that have been with him for years, and says he's ready to "yank the setlist" at any given moment if things aren't working out. 

He compared playing stadiums and feeding off the energy of the crowd to "eating two bowls of ice cream instead of one," but says he waited until this long into his career to play stadiums because he felt he had to earn it. 

"I come from the school that stadiums are for the Rolling Stones," he said. After touring arenas during his 2010s comeback — Brooks played six concerts at Joe Louis Arena in 2015 — he says he now feels he's ready to play football stadiums. 

He's itching to take the Detroit crowd on his journey with him, and in a town where he has a long history — dating back to his appearance at the Downtown Hoedown in 1989 — Brooks says that won't be a problem. 

He made a return appearance to the Hoedown last summer, marking the 30th anniversary of that debut performance. "If I have as much fun tomorrow night as I did then," he said, "I'm going to be a real happy camper." 

And if he blows it, he expects to hear about it. Detroit is "one of those towns you don't want to suck in," he said. "They're gonna let you know." 

He dismissed any notions that Detroit is not a country music city. 

"Being this far north, Detroit sometimes gets a bad rap of, 'well, they don't know country music up there,'" he said. "This place has always been a safe haven for us, and I don't know why either, because I don't blend. But everybody treats us so sweet, so we're really looking forward to this." 

He spoke of an early Detroit concert where he was walloped with a Detroit Red Wings jersey thrown at him from the crowd mid-performance.

"When you get people that involved in your show, you don’t have to do anything," he said. "I don’t want to jinx myself, but with a Detroit crowd, usually what you do is you start a song and they take it. When they’re done, you start the next one. It’s the easiest job in the world."

He joked he hasn't sang "Friends in Low Places" in 25 years. "I start it, then I watch it," he said. "I don't even have to be in the building."  

Brooks, who was recently announced as the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, says he has a lot of gas left in his tank and is nowhere near calling it quits or going out on a farewell tour. 

"I don't want to announce a farewell tour, are you kidding me?" he said. "Hell, I was gone for 15, 16 years, they're going to have to kick me out now. I'm having so much fun."