Garth Brooks to Ireland: Let concerts go on, then fix the system

Garth Brooks asks Irish officials to allow all five of his concerts to take place as originally planned

Garth Brooks offered up what he called a simple solution to the controversy in Ireland over his five canceled concerts: “Open it up for five nights, let everybody have fun, then go to work on never letting it happen again.”

Meanwhile, the BBC and Irish Independent news sites have reported renewed efforts to move ahead with the full slate of shows. The Irish Parliament issued a statement saying a meeting between Dublin city officials and the concert promoter has been set for Friday, and that "the committee is hopeful that efforts today to reinstate the five concerts will prove successful," the BBC reported.

At a news conference in Nashville, the country superstar underscored his position of playing all five concerts -- or none -- after the Dublin City Council last week denied permits for two of the shows. Fans bought 400,000 tickets to the shows that had been slated for July 25-29 at the 83,000-capacity Croke Park Stadium in Dublin.

“It keeps getting put on my side,” Brooks, 52, said of blame for the cancellation of all five shows, emphasizing it’s always been his practice to treat fans equally. “The statement was ‘Garth, with a simple yes you can make 240,000 people happy.’ My answer was, ‘With a simple yes you can make 400,000 people happy.”

Government officials meanwhile declined a motion for emergency legislation that would allow for an appeal of the Dublin council’s denial of the concert permits. That led promoter Peter Aiken of Aiken Productions to declare, “It’s game over for the Garth Brooks concerts.”

The cancellations will cost Dublin an estimated $68 million in lost revenue from those who would have attended the five concerts, Irish Sen. Averil Power told the Fox network’s country channel, Fox411.

“If the prime minister himself wants to talk to me,” Brooks said, “I will, crawl, swim or fly over there, I will sit in front of him, I will drop on my knees and beg him to let me play.”

He referred to the situation as “a dark cloud” hanging over the news conference that was intended to celebrate his new association with Sony Music and his coming world tour, details of which were still offered only in broad general terms.

Brooks said he was working on a new album that would be released later this year, probably around Black Friday in November. He also announced that his music, long withheld from iTunes and other digital retailers, will soon become available to download for the first time, exclusively through his official website.

As for the world tour, Brooks said he’ll identify the opening city on Monday by way of a phone call he promised to a young fan, who asked about it during Brooks' run of shows in Las Vegas. Then he’ll reveal the information to the rest of the world.

Brooks announced last year that in 2014 he would end his long hiatus from touring, which he took to focus on being a full-time father to his three daughters.

"That's the greatest gift you could have possibly given me," he said Thursday.

Shortly thereafter he announced the Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event at Croke Park Stadium, a venue built for Gaelic football matches, occasional concerts and other special events.

On Thursday he said he had envisioned those performances being his opportunity to create something akin to the Elvis Presley Comeback Special in 1968.

Brooks had played Croke Park in 1997 while it was still under construction, and he said at the time, "When this stadium is finished, I would love to come back and try to fill it again ... this time to the brink.”

Announcing his first large-scale concerts in January, Brooks cited that promise and said, “We're back to do just that.”

Tickets for three shows went on sale in January and sold out within minutes. Demand was such that that two more shows were added, both of which also sold out.

Promoter Aiken told The Times recently that Brooks “definitely” could have sold out more concerts, adding, “I don’t know where it could have stopped.”

In all, nearly 400,000 tickets were sold for the July 25-29 concerts, representing almost 10% of the Republic of Ireland’s population of 4.6 million (though the concert organizers noted that 70,000 tickets were sold to fans who would be traveling from other countries).

Last week the Dublin City Council denied permits for two of the five shows. Some residents near Croke Park objected to the influx of concertgoers into their neighborhoods and cited an agreement between the Gaelic Athletic Assn. and the city limiting special events such as concerts to three per year.

Aiken said he’d been in close contact with city officials throughout the planning process and had been given no indication there was any issue with the five shows taking place. Brooks also said Thursday that before last week, "At no time did anybody ever say 'Whoa! Whoa!' "

After the council’s permit denial, Brooks said he preferred to play “all five shows, or none at all,” and when the council refused to grant the additional permits, Aiken Promotions announced that all five shows were being canceled.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Aiken, Brooks said, “I hope you understand that to play for 400,000 people would be a dream, but to tell 160,000 of those people that they are not welcome would be a nightmare.”

Brooks’ letter also advised Aiken that “I will go to the last second” to salvage the five Dublin shows if “the powers that be” in Ireland could clear the way.

He told Aiken, “Our guys are still en route and if there is any chance that the five planned concerts can be salvaged and nobody is being let down then we can proceed as planned until the refunds begin.

“If you tell me, ‘Garth, thanks but it is over,’ I will cease my efforts and bring our people and gear back to the States.”

In his letter, Brooks also told Aiken, “I cannot begin to tell you how badly my heart is breaking right now.”

When Brooks stepped away from the limelight in 2001, he was one of the biggest stars in all of pop music. He placed eight albums at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, his 1991 “Ropin’ the Wind” collection holding the top spot for 18 weeks.

His 1998 “Double Live” album spent five weeks at No. 1 and has been certified by the Recording Industry Assn. of America for North American sales of more than 21 million copies, making it one of the Top 10 selling albums of all time, according to the RIAA.

Seven of his albums have each been certified for sales of more than 10 million copies, and with total sales of 134 million albums, he trails only the Beatles and Presley on the RIAA’s ranking of the top-selling album artists of all time.

Sony Music Entertainment Chairman Doug Morris, preceding Brooks at the press event, said, “When you have the chance to add one of the bestselling artists of all time to your roster, you jump at it.”

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