Thursday 12 December 2019

Much-admired Aiken is the consummate professional

Peter Aiken
Peter Aiken
John Meagher

John Meagher

YOU don't need to have an intimate knowledge of the workings of the music business to realise that the cancellation of 400,000 tickets is very bad news for promoter Peter Aiken.

What should have been his most spectacular achievement, putting on five consecutive sold-out shows at Croke Park, has become a nightmare with ramifications that could have enormous consequences for his business.

While the simplistic social media narrative talks of a greedy and naive promoter, the truth is Aiken is a consummate professional who's much admired in the music world and nobody who has had any dealings with him would question his integrity.

Like his late father Jim, who helped change the course of entertainment forever in this country, Peter Aiken is a no-nonsense straight-talker with no shortage of ambition. His long-standing relationships with the giants of song – Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Dolly Parton (the list goes on and is a long one) – attest to the hard-won reputation he has earned over the years. He may have stepped into his father's shoes but had he not been up to the job, he wouldn't have lasted long.

It is worth repeating that Aiken was working within the constraints of notoriously poor Irish licensing laws. It has long been common practice to announce a show and sell the tickets and then get approval. The small print always reads "subject to licence".

Ask any Irish music industry professional when a licence was last rejected after the tickets were sold and you can be prepared for a long wait. The last one I can think of is the refusal of Clare County Council to allow the renewed Lisdoonvarna Festival to go ahead: it was subsequently moved to Dublin's RDS. That was 11 years ago.

Aiken has had a long-running relationship with Garth Brooks and he knew he was onto a sure thing when he announced two comeback shows this year.

Nobody, least of all Peter Aiken, could have imagined that the demand to see the country singer would be quite so high. A small part of him must have wondered if the inevitable unrest about five consecutive nights at Croke Park would result in Dublin City Council rejecting any or all of the shows. But he was hardly to know that it would be Brooks himself who would deliver the hammer-blow and refuse to play the three remaining concerts.

July 25 will be a tough day for Peter Aiken as he contemplates what should have been the first of an unprecedented five-night stand.

But those who love music will be rooting for him to pull through. To give a sense of his contribution to the scene, think of the 23 shows he is putting on in the Marquee, Cork, right now, or the fact that one of the most captivating live bands in the US, The National, will play Dublin's Iveagh Gardens next week.

Or simply think of the shows you have seen at Vicar Street over the years: devised with developer Harry Crosbie, it helped change the game for live music in the capital when it opened in 1998. Sixteen years on and its place is secure in the hearts of countless fans.

One would hope that even the most disgruntled Brooks fan would take a step back and direct their ire elsewhere. Peter Aiken is not to blame for this debacle.

Irish Independent

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