Five big concerts for Garth Brooks in Ireland, a country that has held particular meaning for the singer, are not happening.
Aiken Promotions announced Tuesday that all five shows slated for Croke Park in Dublin at the end of July with more than 400,000 people attending were canceled due to a dispute apparently between the promoter and the Dublin City Council.
Something is wrong somewhere here, and just who is at fault is not totally clear.
The one innocent victim presumably is Brooks. He has long held an affinity for Ireland and made that clear in a release he sent out. "To choose which shows to do and which shows not to do, would be like asking to choose one child over another," he said. "However this plays out, Ireland has my heart and always will."
Brooks' connection goes way back. When he first announced the shows on Jan. 20 for "The Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event," it was going to be two shows. In '97, we were lucky enough to play Croke Park, the stadium was under construction. 130,000+ of some of the greatest fans in the world. I was quoted then as saying 'When this stadium is finished, I would love to come back and try to fill it again...this time to the brink...and we're back to do just that."
The promoter, whose company has been around for more than five decades, needed permits for the 5 shows, slated for July 25-29. The Dublin City Council refused to give licenses for two of the five concerts. As an aside, British pop band One Direction is going to play three shows at the venue later this year.
Just why the council decided to give partial approval was not so obvious in reading online stories from the likes of the BBC and Irish publications. What was clear was that neighbors of the stadium were unhappy about the concerts since February. One person from a local association told the BBC that the concerts resulted in noise pollution, traffic congestion, litter, public drunkenness and anti-social behavior.
Promoters were apparently in touch with city officials during the process and said they were never led to believe that major issues existed. Tickets were sold anyway despite not having a license in place.
Were the promoters figuring this was a no brainer and that approval would be forthcoming? Did city officials underestimate the neighbors' feelings? Did Brooks not realize what sort of landmine he was stepping on? Did the city council not care about perceptions at all?
One suspects that there must be grew some gray here with the main culprits being city officials and the promoter. How can you sell tickets without proper approvals and how could city officials not warn the promoters that serious issues could derail the shows? Or maybe they were warned.
Aiken reportedly flew to the U.S. on Tuesday to resuscitate the concerts, but Brooks had said he would do five shows or none at all. He likened it to a parent asking which was her favorite child.
And now Ireland has a black eye on its face. Tickets were sold for shows that don't exist and never did legally. Fans, of course, will get their money back, for tickets (although those who paid to fly there are probably out of luck), but there's a real disappointment among them. The fiasco makes Ireland look bad as well as a tourist destination and to the arts community.
Ireland had a real coup in landing Garth Brooks. Now, country and fans alike are disappointed. One suspects that about the only people happy about the cancellation are neighbors.
Too bad the various sides couldn't work out the issues because these would have been special shows, especially after Brooks has pretty much limited himself to shows in Las Vegas.
"The Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event" apparently now will have to go elsewhere.