Friday 24 May 2019

10 Garth Brooks: Poor lonesome cowboy

Garth Brooks lost some fans in Ireland after a long-drawn-out, will-he-won't-he play at Croke Park debacle
Garth Brooks lost some fans in Ireland after a long-drawn-out, will-he-won't-he play at Croke Park debacle

We Irish have a fondness for hysterical convulsions over things which don't matter all that much - the Saipan affair is probably the exemplar of this. In 2014, Garthgate stepped into the breach, giving us something to get worked up about during the dog days of summer.

The news, earlier in the year, that country superstar Garth Brooks would be playing five gigs at Croke Park was sensational enough. Originally slated for two, they just kept adding more dates, as ticket demand passed from high to frenzied to certifiably insane. There were stories of people queueing overnight for tickets, trips from abroad planned, memories of his 1990s gigs disinterred and gazed upon fondly.

A few days before the first concert in July, things took a turn straight out of the country song playbook: heaven turned to hell, love turned to hate. So much loss and disappointment you could have filled a 10-gallon Stetson.

The hate came mostly from various Croke Park residents' associations, who felt the GAA and Aiken Promotions had overstepped the mark by organising five nights. And hell, for Garth fans, was delivered by Dublin City Council boss Owen Keegan, who refused planning permission for all five.

Cue the usual hand-wringing, blaming and general caterwauling that accompanies such moments. Our licensing system was decried for allowing events to be advertised before permission was granted. The Dublin business community bewailed the loss of an estimated €50million. Residents engaged in increasingly heated disputation with those who wanted the concerts to happen.

Garth was begged to scale it back to one, two, three shows. The Taoiseach was even implored to step in and ensure the gigs went ahead. All the while, fans cried into their sour-mash whiskey and wondered if they'd be able to sell that hillbilly straw-hat on eBay.

Ultimately, after a hilariously emotive press conference, Garth declared he couldn't compromise his artistic integrity and the whole thing was a bust. Ireland's "reputation abroad", we were gravely assured, was "damaged". Although not as damaged as the Garth song-title, If Tomorrow Never Comes, used to exhaustion in press headlines.

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