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Garth Brooks' concert in Central Park: Catch the fever

August 6, 1997
Web posted at: 6:44 p.m. EDT (2244 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Country music superstar Garth Brooks is explaining the logistics of preparing for a concert the size of which he has never seen before.

"We rehearse indoors at a place here in New York. Then we rehearse with no sound for the camera guys, so they will hopefully be in the vicinity of what's going on," he said.

"And then the rest of it's really, man, just fly by the seat of your pants. You know, once the show starts, all the rules are out the window."

In his case, all the rules were nearly out the window as soon as the show was announced. The venue is Central Park; the predicted audience 350,000 to 1 million. And the cost? Free. The Thursday night performance will be broadcast live on HBO, which is sponsoring the event.

Central Park concerts have been granted to only a few performers: Diana Ross, Simon & Garfunkel, Placido Domingo. All have drawn huge crowds.

Although the notion of playing to such a large audience might intimidate some artists, Brooks is trying to keep things in perspective -- just in case the crowd is smaller than predicted.

"I just try and get it out of my head, and realize that you just do the show. If it's one person or if it's a million people, you do the same show you would have." But it's hard not to think about it, he says. In his view, dealing with an audience of 1 million is not a problem; dealing with an empty house is. But that's not a likely scenario in New York.

The show is Brooks' only scheduled New York City performance during his three-year world tour, which has been breaking sales records since it kicked off last year.

He has sold more than 62 million albums in the United States. He has been honored with many awards, including a Grammy, 11 American Music Awards and 14 Academy of Country Music Awards. And on Tuesday, he was nominated for the seventh year in a row for Entertainer of the Year.

Brooks had planned to release a new album in conjunction with the concert, but the plans were canceled because Brooks, who now wields considerable clout in the music business, ran into a dispute with his recording label.

However, that will have no effect on the show. Brooks says he wasn't planning on performing any of his new material anyway. When he goes to concerts himself, he says he wants to hear the performer's hits so he can sing along. It's the same attitude he applies to planning his own song lists.

Some surprise guests may be stopping by to join Brooks on stage. Billy Joel could be one of them. Brooks wouldn't confirm or deny the rumor.

"I hear he's in New York that night, I don't know, uh, if he's stopping by or what. So that's the best lie I've got," he said, laughing.

Whether Joel makes it to Central Park or not, Brooks is sure to get a warm reception. New York City doesn't even have a country music station, but Brooks observes, "New York's always taken care of Garth."

Correspondent Bill Tush contributed to this report.

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