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Image / Living / Culture

Garth Brooks: No, we are not doing this again


by Sarah Finnan
16th Sep 2021

Garth Brooks / Instagram

Garth Brooks: No, we are not doing this again

Seven years have passed, but once again, we find ourselves debating whether Garth Brooks should or shouldn’t be allowed to play multiple sell-out concerts in Croke Park.

2014 was a year characterised by many things, but none greater than Garth-gate. A musical fiasco of epic proportions, it dominated both local and international media for quite some time after… though we hardly thought we’d still be talking about it seven years on. 

Ask me how I know

Announcing his first Irish comeback since 1997, Garth Brooks revealed plans for two outdoor gigs at Croke Park. Tickets sold out so quickly that two shows became three… which soon became five. 

Endeavouring to fill the GAA headquarters (which holds 82,000 seated spectators) five times over, it was a highly ambitious undertaking, but Garth’s faith in the Irish public was clearly well-founded and Brooks mania spread like wildfire throughout the country. Fans practically fell over themselves to secure a seat at one of his highly-anticipated shows and a cumulative €28 million was spent on acquiring tickets. Safe to say, country fever had well and truly set in. 

As we all know, there was a little more to the story though and the initial excitement at the country singer’s imminent return was quickly clouded in controversy. Croke Park only had planning permission to hold three special events (i.e. non-sporting events) at the venue each year – one of which had already been used for a One Direction concert. Unaware of the specifics regarding shows at Croke Park, Garth had overpromised what he could realistically provide. Essentially it was a case of ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’; sell the tickets, worry about the intricacies of pulling it off after the fact. 

Noise, traffic and litter concerns were raised by locals, most of whom were not in favour of the additional concerts. Everyone from then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the Mexican Ambassador to Ireland had an opinion on the matter and in March, head of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey was brought in to mediate discussions between residents and the GAA. 

That summer

Aiken Promotions (who were in charge of the shows), only filed a formal application for additional planning in April – less than three months before the first show was to go ahead. 

At this point, over 400,000 people had bought tickets to his shows though. Anticipating that there would be a huge demand for accommodation along with an added strain on public transport, many of that number had also made other arrangements ahead of time too – including putting hefty (non-refundable) deposits down on rooms, booking flights over specifically for the occasion and putting in requests to take the time off work. 

Locals would only agree to three concerts, while Garth maintained his final offer of “five or nothing”… he even claimed he would “crawl, swim or fly” over to meet with the Taoiseach in order to make it happen. No happy medium was reached though, and all of Brooks’ upcoming shows were ultimately cancelled. People were refunded their tickets and the singer hasn’t returned to Ireland since. 

Friends in low places? 

But, that might all change next year as rumour has it he has his sights set on Croke Park once more. According to reports, the country star wants to make it happen for reals this time and has hinted that he’s considering coming back to Ireland for five shows in September 2022. This time aware of the three-event limit, it’s believed that Brooks’ team are planning on applying for additional licences to enable him to finally deliver on his previous “five or nothing” promise. 

The chairperson of the Croke Park Residents Association, Patrick Gates, claims that nothing has been communicated to the surrounding community as of yet. Speaking on RTÉ’s Today With Claire Byrne, he said that there needs to be proper consultation with local residents ahead of a decision on the running of any series of concerts at the stadium… and that there would be problems if any more than the accepted three concerts were proposed. “We don’t have a problem with who it is, if it’s Garth Brooks or others, but we do have a problem if it’s more than three concerts,” he stated.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on the other hand is very much in favour of the whole thing. “I can’t confirm them or not, whether Garth Brooks is coming to Ireland next year, but they were the concerts that never happened,” he commented. “I think it really would be great if they did go ahead. Obviously, we will have to talk to promoters about it and Croke Park, listen to residents in the area too. I think it’d be great if we could see those events go ahead.”

When you come back to me again

Baby, I swear it’s déjà vu. Between Bennifer rekindling their former flame, a return to the noughties trends of yore and now this, it really feels like we’re moving back in time. Perhaps this is a little ignorant on my part, but I must admit I’m surprised by how big a pull the country singer has in Ireland. Being able to sell out five arena gigs is pretty impressive. Who knew he had that many die-hard fans here? Certainly not me. 

Whether he actually intends on attempting another slew of Croke Park shows or not, remains to be seen, but let’s hope the whole thing is handled better this time around if he does. We couldn’t handle the second-hand embarrassment another time even if tomorrow never comes.

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