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Surrendering to Garth and the thin white haze

'SOME day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting." Ominous words, penned by H P Lovecraft, back in the late 1920s. Ominous words that took on a fresh (and terrible) resonance this week.

The "he" Lovecraft was referring to was naughty ol' Cthulhu. A gargantuan, octopus-faced entity who'd been kipping away under the waters of the South Pacific for "vigintillions of years" (that's, like, ages). Biding his time until the moment was ripe to "rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway".

The re-awoken 'entity' that brought Ireland back "beneath his sway" this week, may not have been quite that ancient, malevolent or octopus-faced, but his cultists greeted him with levels of zealous enthusiasm that would have shamed even the most devout of Cthulhu fan-boys. Overcoming the obstacles of a forgotten passport and a cracked airplane windshield, this titan winged his way o'er the Atlantic to reclaim these lands as his domain, his spiritual fiefdom.


Waiting in Croke Park to greet Garth Brooks (for it was, of course, he), were vigintillions of media folk, all champing at the bit to robustly interrogate our man. "Why does Ireland love you?", asked a breathless Henry McKean (as heard on Monday's Moncrieff). "Why do they love you SO MUCH?", he quickly added, just in case Brooks had failed to get the fawning gist. "If Garth Brooks is going... to do a comeback special, this would be the place to do it," replied, er, Garth Brooks. Which a) didn't really answer the question(s) posed, and, b) indicated a worrying fondness for third-person megalomania.

"There was this white kind of thin haze over everything... all three nights," said Brooks of his last Croker trip, begging God to forgive him for describing those shows as "a religious experience".

"I would love," he added, as the whole thing threatened to descend/ascend into a full-blown charismatic revival meeting, "to see that haze again".

Based on the toadying tone of most of the questions, I suspect that this thin white haze hasn't fully dissipated yet. Maybe it follows Brooks around, seeping into the minds of interviewers and crushing their will(s). Maybe he's a witch! Maybe he's just like Cthulhu after all! Except smaller, and more fond of denim.

Tuesday's John Murray Show surrendered itself, entirely, to the Brooks cult (and its thin white haze), devoting a full hour to the man and his legions of fans. "Why are the people of Ireland mad about Garth Brooks?", Murray asked him, keeping the bandwagon of puffery chugging along. Again, we didn't get a straight answer, but the "Garth Line", as Murray dubbed it, was hopping off the hook with Brooks enthusiasts lining up to eulogise their hero, and warble down the phone for free tickets.

Listeners who'd ever doubted that it was possible to sing The Dance while operating a crane at a waste water treatment plant in Swords, were no doubt gobsmacked to hear (listener) Barry do just this. All Brooks does when he sings it is lazily strum an acoustic guitar. Bo-ring.


This "Garth, tell us why you're so amazing" stuff was, of course, supposed to be a two-way street. Interviewers ladled on the praise and Brooks, in return, was supposed to dutifully acknowledge the unique fabulousness of Irish audiences (which he dutifully did). On Tuesday's Ian Dempsey Show, Dempsey dug out the old "greatest audiences in the world" chestnut, and suggested that Brooks had "blessed" Ireland with this comeback precisely because of our totes amazing listening skills. Lucky us.

Like most of the Brooks coverage, it was simultaneously needy and (nauseatingly) self-congratulatory. That curious mix of "Aren't we great?!" and "Please love us, famous person!" that's at the core of Irish exceptionalism. Hell, if you wanted to really listen between the lines you could suggest (as some tweeters did) that all this Brooks-mania might have something to do with an anxious nostalgia for 90s boom times – with the Messianic Garth returning to line-dance us back to happier days, or simpler days, or boomier days, or something.

"All you can think of is the past and the future at the same time," was how Brooks (sort of) summed up his Croker comeback (to John Murray). And with Brooks determined to keep proceedings banal, professional and "on message", that was about as profound as this dreary promotional blitz got.