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Monday 22 September 2014

It's off, it's on, it's off again as Garth rejects new deal

Joyce Fegan, Louise Hogan and Niall O'Connor

Published 11/07/2014 | 02:30

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COUNTRY singing legend Garth Brooks turned down a radical offer of weekend matinee gigs to help break the standoff over the cancelled concerts.

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The singer had told how he was willing to fly to Ireland, drop to his knees and "beg" Taoiseach Enda Kenny to break the stalemate for his 400,000 fans who purchased tickets for the five-in-a-row.

As the rapidly unfolding tale took another twist, the singer refused two weekend matinee shows, which were to be staged on the same days as his energetic night-time shows.

Brooks said an offer for three night-time concerts and two matinees "cannot possibly compare" to a five-night straight run.

And speaking directly to the Irish Independent, he again outlined his disappointment and frustration at his inability to secure five separate nights for the landmark comeback.

"If the prime minister himself wants to talk to me I will crawl, swim, I will fly over there this weekend, sit in front of him, I will drop on my knees and beg for those 400,000 people," he said.

Tens of thousands of fans were given brief cause for optimism as news emerged of the bid to break the deadlock yesterday evening.

But Brooks' management told Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke that the new offer was unworkable in an hour-long phone call, facilitated by the Irish Independent, in the immediate aftermath of a Nashville press conference.

Speaking this morning, Mr Burke said that he expected Brooks' manager Bob Doyle to contact the Taoiseach at some point today.

He also said he believes the gigs will take place - pointing out that the ship containing the stage is understood to be still travelling to Ireland.

The latest scramble over the gigs came after hours of crisis talks between promoter Peter Aiken, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan and the country's most senior civil servant, Martin Fraser.

The city officials agreed to consider an updated licence plan for two matinee concerts on the Saturday and Sunday following the first evening concert on Friday, July 25.

But this would mean a gruelling schedule for Brooks (52), who is known for his high-octane shows.

"I don't know if I'm worried about them or me, as I'm getting older, I don't want to give a half-assed show," he said.

It would also have meant a huge logistical challenge, with 160,000 concertgoers descending on Croke Park each day over the weekend.

There would have been two separate audiences of 80,000 trying to get in and out of the Drumcondra stadium on both the Saturday and Sunday.

Aiken Promotions last night confirmed that it would "not be feasible", a view backed by Brooks and his management.

Sources close to promoter Mr Aiken said: "This was nothing short of a flyer, a possibility. And it is quite clear it ain't going to run. Garth's gigs are designed to take place in darkness, under lights. To stage two concerts in the afternoon would be a logistical nightmare."

Another source close to the parties described yesterday's proposals as "preposterous and stupid".

"Whoever thought that you can have 160,000 people on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon does not understand public safety," he said.

The clock is ticking down, and it is understood that any solution must be found by Monday.

The council said it would be a matter for Aiken Promotions and Brooks to "decide if they wish to pursue this suggestion".

High-octane

Despite the involvement of senior civil servant Mr Fraser in the latest crisis talks, the Taoiseach last night moved to rule out any political interference in the matter.

"It is not a case of 'Mr Politician' moving in on the law and saying you can and can't do this. We have legal processes and legal systems in the country here," said Mr Kenny, as he described Brooks as a "superstar" in country music.

However, Mr Kenny refused to say whether he would hold direct talks with Brooks.

Meanwhile, Brooks himself offered a stark criticism of Ireland's "flawed" planning laws, in a press conference that was aired to millions of people live on the internet. He also told the broadcast – originally planned to announce a new album and tour – that it was not possible to talk about future concerts in Ireland until there was a "system that works".

"The system is flawed, I'm sorry it is not my country to say this, I'm going to take that back. It is my opinion that the Irish system got some weight on it and it buckled in," he said.

"I don't have a clue how we got here... It is a simple 'yes' (if they) open it up for five nights."

Brooks said his team do not deliver "golden tickets" and believed all his fans should be treated "equally".

The singer initially said he did not have a problem with matinees, as he pledged to do everything possible to avoid cancelling the concerts.

"I want to give them everything that Garth Brooks has and if we get to shows four and five, as long as they say the guy gave us everything I had left that is all I could ask for," he said.

"I think we sold 160,000 people (tickets) who are coming to see the full show and that full show is only full at night."

Brooks said he was bewildered how everything had descended into difficulty, adding: "I wish I could tell you that I saw it coming, I never did."

Irish Independent

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