Garth Brooks says when he does a concert, he looks forward to hearing the audience sing to him. The living legend kicks off his nine-concert series at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena tonight (Thursday) with a double bill, and ends the series Dec. 22 with the same. He'll also do two concerts on Dec. 21.

"I say this ... and please don't think I'm being a smart aleck ... but I travel thousands of miles to hear my audience sing," Garth told media at a press conference held Thursday afternoon prior to the first show. "That's the truth. If you've ever seen a Garth show, when the audience starts singing, it makes everything sound better."

In his opening statement at the press conference, Garth recalled a Jeff Bridges movie, 'Starman,' in which Bridges played the part of an alien who visits Earth. As he is being taken into custody at the end of the movie, someone asks Bridges' character what he learned about the people who live on the planet. "His reply is one of my favorite lines ever in a movie," Garth said. "He said, 'When things are at their very worst, you guys are at their very best.' That's a great line about humanity and what people can become. That's what I've seen since I saw you (media) last -- the very best of people. We are doing nine shows and everyone who is associated with these shows is volunteering their time, even after one show turned into nine shows. They are in it for the long haul. I'm very proud to be a part of this."

Garth is doing his regular show, not the stripped-down version that he does in Las Vegas at the Wynn Theatre. The audience will not see him fly across Bridgestone Arena, however, as the singer admits that takes a lot more preparation than they had time for with this series of shows. His full band will join him, as will singer/songwriter and super guitarist Steve Wariner, along with wife Trisha Yearwood and special guest Karyn Rochelle. Garth speculated that he might have to ask the audience to do a lot of singing because, "with nine shows, I think there's a good chance I'll be spent early on. But right now I'm wired up and really excited about getting out there and having a good time."

The singer says it has been very gratifying to hear that people are coming to the show from all over the U.S. and Canada, and that they are showing their support for the people in middle-Tennessee who were victims of the floods that hit the region in May of this year.

"When we held our press conference in October, we told people if ever they were going to see a Garth show, this one would be the one. We put out the call and people answered it. I am very proud that people responded in such a positive manner to the call."

The country superstar says he has a special advantage in that he has been a Nashville resident, and he's been able to look at the city as a non-resident as well. "People who live in the city can be a little prejudiced when they say they have a great city, so you figure you'll hear a little more honest assessment from people who visit here. But you know, you hear the same thing from the people outside Nashville. They said it's the greatest big city/small town combination you can get."

Garth added that in addition to raising money for flood victims, he also wanted to make sure that people knew Nashville was back and open for business. He did the shows during Christmas to emphasize the economic impact that these shows could have on the city. Along with the concert series, Opryland Hotel and Resort has re-opened with a full schedule of Christmas shows including the Rockettes, ICE, SNOW and the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas show. The Country Music Hall of Fame is also open, and most downtown restaurants and clubs have been back in business since a few weeks after the flood waters receded.

Since he has not done an arena show in several years, Garth joked that he'll be pacing back and forth and wondering, "How am I gonna get in those pants?" He went on to say an arena show is his favorite kind of show to do, and he and his band are very excited to be together again. "We look forward to being together again and dong this series of shows. After a show we did for Walmart a few years ago, we came off the stage saying 'Wow, it still sounds the same.' Hopefully we can say that when we come off the stage tonight.

"Everyone, no matter how many emails I sent to them, always responded that they were excited to be a part of this," Garth continued. "Steve Wariner, who is a hero of mine when I was growing up, kept saying thank you for letting me be a part of this experience. I told him I was the one who should be thanking him!

The show is being filmed for a one-hour special for Armed Forces Network. "It is a good way to let these men and women know that we miss them and love them," the singer said.

Garth will fly home after each of the first couple shows, but next week after his girls are out of school he said he and Trisha will probably stay in town. "Our girls have finals tomorrow, but I think Allie may be here for the show tomorrow night. She is the one who wants to sing and I don't think I can keep her away," the proud father relayed. "She would quit school tomorrow if I let her ... well they would all quit school ... but she would quit and be a singer if she thought she could get away with it. The girls are also getting ready to go spend part of their Christmas holiday with Sandy, so I'll not see them for a few days. I have to get in all the hugs and time with them that I can before they leave."

Ticketholders have been asked to bring a toy for a child to be donated to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots drive. New unwrapped toys will be collected and distributed to children throughout Middle Tennessee.