Brooks rejects five-gig compromise

Garth Brooks at his press conference earlier today

Garth Brooks has rejected a compromise over scuppered plans for his five-night comeback extravaganza in Croke Park.

The US musician effectively sounded the death knell on his return to the stage for a one-off series of shows in Dublin’s Croke Park stadium after he was given the offer of playing three night-time and two matinees, instead of a run of all evening performances blocked by a planning and licensing row.

Within three hours of saying he would do whatever it takes to put on the performances, Brooks said the proposal to play to 400,000 people over three days “cannot possibly compare” to five separate night concerts.

His publicist Nancy Seltzer said: “To treat 160,000 people differently than all the rest who will be seeing the show the way it was meant and created is wrong.”

“He does not understand why it is once again put upon him to treat people less than they deserve to be treated and he still returns to why did they allow five shows to be sold and all these people to be disappointed.

“It is not his decision; it is, with the greatest of respect, the city council’s.”

Following tense behind-the-scenes talks between promoters Aiken and Dublin city planners a compromise deal was on the table to resolve what has become a major dent in the singer’s comeback plans.

Council chief executive Owen Keegan put forward the idea for five concerts in three days after Brooks threw down an all or nothing ultimatum over the refusal to grant all the concert licences for Croke Park stadium.

He had been due for a run of five nights from Friday, July 25, to Tuesday, July 29, after the promoters saw near unprecedented for tickets.

The plug was only pulled on the massive stadium run in the last 10 days.

The country music superstar, with more than 130 million album sales in the US, had earlier tried to influence city council chiefs by saying he would swim, fly or crawl to Ireland to beg Taoiseach Enda Kenny to get his cancelled comeback back on.

Announcing his return to the stage and studio from Nashville, Tennessee, the singer lashed out at the concert planning and licensing system in Ireland after his controversial five-night run in Dublin was pulled two weeks from showtime.

City bosses only gave the green light for three nights over the last weekend in July leaving 160,000 fans at home and abroad with no show.

“If the prime minister (taoiseach) himself wants to talk to me, I will crawl, swim or fly over there this weekend and sit in front of him,” the star pleaded.

“I will drop to my knees and beg for those 400,000 people to just have fun.”

The top selling US singer, who turned his back on touring to raise his family in Oklahoma 13 years ago, said he did not have a clue what went wrong with the Dublin comeback.

Fielding questions on his comeback and the scuppered plans for Ireland in a streamed press conference earlier today, the singer suggested the daytime shows would not be as good a performance as anything at night.

These were his initial thoughts about playing twice in the one day when it was broached in Nashville.

“Matinees, I don’t have a problem with matinees. I’m going to tell you though, sticking 160,000 people out in the middle of the day, I don’t know if I’m worried about them or me more, to tell you the truth, because I’m getting older,” he said.

“I don’t want to give them a half ass show. I want to give them everything that Garth Brooks has.

“If we get to shows four and five and they go ’well it sucked’ as long as they say ’the guy gave everything he had left’ that’s all I can ask for.”

But on a more positive note he added: “I personally will do whatever it takes except cancelling on people.”

The shipping operation to bring the unique stage and set for the Croke Park events to Ireland was not pulled despite all suggestions from the Brooks camp that he would not go-ahead with shows unless it was all five night-time shows. It is understood to still be en route to Ireland.

The singer said for Dublin he had planned to bring “Superman to the show”.

He described the set up as a one-off and monstrous, including a video screen 255 feet wide and 20 feet tall, and needing 12 days pre-loading and five days heavy loading.

Aiken Promotions issued a brief statement stating that the option of matinees on Saturday and Sunday was not feasible.

The crux of the licensing issue involved the deal to allow the redevelopment of Croke Park in the 1990s which limited the number of concerts at the venue to three a year, a figure already reached when One Direction wowed tens of thousands of fans earlier in the summer.

Clearly frustrated by the saga as he announced details of new studio recordings and plans for a world tour, Brooks branded the Irish concert licensing system flawed and called for it to be shelved as a one-off for him and his fans.

While he later tempered his remarks he remained convinced his run of shows should be treated as the exception and someone in a position of power should overrule the city’s planning chiefs.

“The system is flawed,” the singer said.

“It’s not my country to say that so let me take that back. It’s my opinion that the Irish system got some weight on it and buckled.”

The only other time concert promoters in Ireland can recall a licence for a major entertainment event being refused was 11 years ago when the renewed Lisdoonvarna Festival was blocked by the county council.

All other major ticketing events are sold subject to licence with local planners ruling on the final green light close to the date.

Brooks and the promoters sold 400,000 tickets at about €65 - €26m.

He said he had been looking for a simple fix to the issues raised.

He said at all stages in the planning, including monthly meetings since the comeback was announced in January, no issues were thrown up by the council and the all-clear was given on safety, rigging, staff.

“The reason why it’s a dark cloud, and I can tell you this honestly, anyone in Ireland, anyone on the planet is sad about this you are not one billionth as sad as I am,” he said.

“I’m the real loser in this one. I’m the guy out the greatest experience of his life.”

Aiken and the GAA were due to give explanations at a parliamentary watchdog over the fiasco but that was cancelled after the matinee offer.

It is estimated to loss of the two nights will cost the country’s recovering economy more than €50m – not to mind the reputational damage that music figures, promoters, tourist bosses and politicians have pointed to.

Amidst all the furore, Brooks had previously issued an an all-or-nothing ultimatum when the shock licence refusal was announced.

The star said to choose one show over another “would be like asking to choose one child over another”.

Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke had attempted to intervene with Mr Keegan and Mr Aiken.

Any change would have required a new planning application by Aiken and would have been seen as a U-turn on a planning decision that city chiefs originally insisted could not be appealed or reviewed but might have been challenged in the courts.

Residents around the stadium in north inner city Dublin remain concerned about road closures, anti-social behaviour and the general disruption that large numbers of music fans brings.

One group threatened legal action over the five-night run although the licence was rejected before any papers were lodged in the courts.

An injunction sought from the High Court to try to block the concerts was struck out after the cancellation was announced and arrangements made to refund ticket holders.

Other residents groups said they were in favour.

At one stage in what has become an increasingly bizarre debate over concert planning, the Lord Mayor suggested local residents around Croke Park who are in favour of the shows were seeking an approach to US president Barack Obama to try to break the impasse.

The White House dismissed any suggestion of such high level intervention and the US Embassy in Dublin politely batted it away.

“No residents in the Croke Park area contacted us regarding the Garth Brooks concerts. If they did, we would say that it’s a matter for local authorities and the private parties involved,” a spokeswoman said.

Amid the long stand-off between city planners, Brooks’ promoters and residents, the Mexican ambassador also got involved by telling the Lord Mayor when he met him at the Mansion House yesterday that he would offer his diplomatic skills if needed.

When the issue was raised in the Dáil for a second day running the chair, Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, tried to restore some dignity to affairs adding: “Please refrain from making a joke of the whole thing.”

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