Saturday 7 December 2019

Ed Power: Distinctive Irish talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in evidence with Brooks debacle

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

That distinctive Irish talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory was once again in evidence as Aiken Promotions today announced all five Garth Brooks comeback concerts at Croke Park have been canceled.

Peter Aiken had flown to America to try and rescue the gigs after Dublin City Council refused permission for two of the five shows, at which over 400,000 were due to attend at the end of the month. However, his efforts were unsuccessful ( Brooks had earlier insisted he would play all the dates or none at all). Five shows has become zero and the loss to Dublin's economy will exceed €50 million.

While it is important to keep the controversy in perspective – we are agonizing about some rock concerts, not a banking meltdown or a war – nonetheless the damage to our international reputation cannot be ignored. Brooks wasn't merely stopping off at Dublin en route to the UK or the Continent. He had chosen Ireland for his grand comeback – a considerable gesture of faith on behalf of one of one of the world's biggest selling country stars. He could have picked Madison Square Garden in New York, Wembley in London… anywhere. As he surveys the shambles from across the Atlantic he probably wishes he had.

Setting aside arguments about the appropriateness of Croke Park as a venue, the fall-out for international music coming to Ireland is incalculable . As matters stand it is no easy feat to persuade acts to tour this country. Coldplay passed over Ireland on their last global jaunt; Metallica, a group that spends most of the year on the road, haven't been here in nearly half a decade. We're difficult to get to, overheads are high, the market can be hard to predict (musicians who effortlessly fill venues in the UK for instance are sometimes a surprise flop here)

On top of all this, artists – or, more specifically, the managers whose job it is to protect their clients' financial well-being – have now been alerted to Ireland's archaic and arcane concert licensing laws: a black hole of red tape, obfuscation and nimby-pandering. The upshot is that it is within the gift of local authorities across the country to say 'yea' or 'nay' to large-scale outdoor gigs at just a few weeks' notice (in fact the time limit is usually shorter with licenses often granted days before a gig ), resulting in a legalistic morass entirely incompatible with the realities of the international touring industry.

You have to wonder – would Bruce Springsteen have agreed to tour Ireland, which he did at the behest of Aiken last year, had he known any or all of his shows might have been called off long after the tickets had been sold? When management working with Prince, Coldplay and other artists at their level are drawing up their touring itineraries how eager will they be to take a punt on an Irish date, knowing they might end up having their concert cancelled? Who could blame them if they drew a red line through Ireland and booked another night in Manchester, London, Paris instead? These artists don't need Ireland. We may be about to discover if we can get by without them. ends

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