Has Garth Brooks Lost the Plot?

Is this the real Garth Brooks?
Is this the real Garth Brooks?

First of all … I nearly always had a soft spot for Garth Brooks. Easy listening, sort of thing, nice melodies, the occasional “deep” thought, the occasional humour. Country without weeping orphans and dead dogs. Not as obnoxious as Miley’s dad in trying to be different. Not bad, all in all. Today, I have come severely off Brooks. Not because he did anything musically. But because he seems to have lost the plot with the Dublin concerts.

And not the Brookster alone …

Here is the background story – about half a year ago it was announced that Garth Brooks would be returning to Dublin, to Croke Park. He has been here and there before. Massive success. So two dates were announced, a weekend, and tickets went on sale. Selling like the proverbial hot cakes. And with the usual booking fee and the small print. Which would include “Subject to License.”

Seeing that the cash cow could be milked, Aiken Promotions almost immediately added a third date, a Friday. Tickets sold out. In Limerick the Guards had to be called in. Dedicated fans having started to compete rodeo-style for a place in the queue.

Check pulse, check udder … cash cow still up to it? Hell, yeah … so a bit later a fourth date was added, Monday. As Jim Aiken told the Irish Independent at the time:

It is hard to believe that an artist could play 4 nights in a row at Croke Park, but thanks to the cooperation of Croke Park and the huge support of the fans we are delighted to be announcing today this fourth date for The Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event.

Fast forward a few days and Jim Aiken must have thought his wildest dreams came true … hard to believe in four concerts? Well, than let’s make it five, add the Tuesday as well. And there it was … five nights of Garth Brooks at Croke Park, July 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th. Non-stop. And 400,000 tickets sold at quite a price, about 70,000 “overseas”. All, I hasten to add “Subject to License.”

But what could go wrong? These licenses are almost automatically given, aren’t they, for the greater good? And isn’t Garth Brooks a nice guy? It’s not as if there was a Death Metal meeting taking place, we’re all jis’ good ol’ boys ‘n’ gals, yee-haw. Or something like that. Even Dunnes Stores in Cavan already stock souvenir t-shirts (having just the dates, a black Stetson, cowboy boots and thus not being official merchandise, but a rather dis-ingenious attempt at cashing in), plus cheap black “novelty” Stetson-type paper hats made somewhere very east of Texas.

Now here’s the thing … a license for an event can only be applied for ten weeks in advance. So the “subject to license” is a very real consumer warning of sorts. Basically it means that 400,000 people had already paid for tickets that, without making too fine a point, were just a statement of intention and not a binding contract. Because the real contract (you pay, Garth plays) only comes into force for real when the authorities grant a license.

Enter stage left the Croke Park residents. Who had the gall to point out that five nights of Garth Brooks would slightly cramp their style. Especially when they just had three nights of One Direction (yes, there are worse things than five nights of Garth Brooks) and the usual GAA stuff going on.

How dare they? Don’t they see the greater good? Are they just NIMBYs?

Actually, the residents do have a point – anybody who has ever attended a major event at Croke Park will have witnessed the lock-down around the massive stadium, bringing everything to a halt for hours on end. Let alone the fringe stuff, like hundreds of cars circling residential streets in search of a free space. People urinating in doorways. Trash. Flying bottles. Shouting. The occasional scuffle. As a resident, you might be tempted to book into a hotel in Fallujah for the duration …

So, this week … Dublin’s authorities went for an almost Solomonic decision – three concerts, those on Monday and Tuesday got no license. Meat Loaf once said that “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, so Garth Brooks and Jim Aiken might consider themselves lucky with three out of five.

Still 50% more than originally planned. Or was the secret plan always … no, that would be cynical. And hadn’t Garth Brooks himself told the media that “he had originally no plans to play in Dublin on Monday, July 28th, as it was his youngest daughter’s 18th birthday”? So Daddy Brooks would even get the day off to celebrate with his youngest daughter. Win-win.

*POOF* went the magic. And Garth Brooks is being obstinate. And is putting the thumbscrews on the Dublin authorities. The Irish Times today relates the man’s official statement, what I call losing the plot:

For us, it is five shows or none at all. To choose which shows to do and which shows not to do, would be like asking to choose one child over another. [I have] faith that Dublin City Council will make the best decision for the people of Ireland.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Like a petulant child in the playground. And playing all the cards at once. Garth Brooks goes va banque “for the people of Ireland”. While threatening those fans who signed up for the two (2!) originally planned concerts and the original one extra (!) concert with huge disappointment if the authorities do not cave in. And see reason. His reason.

That is bad form, Garth … not a gracious loser, are you?

Aiken Promotions and/or Brooks could already play around with the money 400,000 people paid for a while, now 240,000 fans find themselves taken hostage in a battle of wills.

And even the Dublin Chamber of Commerce weighs in mightily, as the Irish Independent reports:

The possible cancellation of some or all of the scheduled Garth Brooks concerts this month is having a negative impact for us internationally, according to a spokesperson for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Patrick King, Policy and Communications manager with Dublin Chamber of Commerce said it would “really disappointing” if Ireland couldn’t facilitate the country superstar, despite having two international stadiums.

Notice the “us”? Undoubtedly a matter of national importance. And notice that Ireland (not Dublin … even though the set-up of the Brooks touring machine apparently allows no quick change of venue) cannot facilitate Brooks if three instead of two originally planned concerts are allowed to go ahead. My head reels, I must have forgotten to take my logic pills.

And on it goes … from the hoteliers:

Earlier, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has released a statement this afternoon stating that the cancellation of two of the Garth Brooks concerts later this month would have an “extremely negative impact” on Ireland’s image abroad as a tourist destination.

Obviously Ireland’s image as a tourist destination now depends on a 52-year-old from Tulsa, Oklahoma … take that Glendalough, Tara, Cliffs of Moher and Newgrange.

Mind you, according to the 2013 tourism statistics just released, Garth Brooks would rank just behind Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and in front of Blarney Castle as a “tourist attraction”. Well, if they can add the National Aquatic Centre, they can also add Garth Brooks, can’t they? It’s the numbers that count, the cash generated.

Yes, it is … what is at stake here is cash, moolah, lolly, shekels and wampum. Follow the money and you’ll see where all the upheaval is coming from. Just imagine how many overpriced hotel rooms that were booked with a late cancelling option will now, suddenly, become un-booked. Just imagine how many beefburgers and chips will now go uneaten. Just imagine those poor people who were planning on flogging off cheap crap as “souvenirs” to the passing crowds. Just imagine the outrage Joe faces … or don’t, he has a podcast up on RTÉ already.

Just imagine how many residents in the Croke Park area will now actually be suffering only three instead of five days of lock-down. Selfish bastards!

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