The Times West Virginian

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July 17, 2014

Brooks’ Dublin concerts off; refunds begin

Los Angeles Times — It’s crying time on the Emerald Isle: Country music superstar Garth Brooks issued a statement Monday confirming that his five planned concerts in Dublin next week are scrapped, and that ticket refunds for 400,000 ticket buyers will proceed.

“I just received the news the Dublin City Council cannot change their earlier ruling to not allow the licenses for all five shows,” Brooks said. “To say I am crushed is an understatement.”

Fans continued to hold out hope Monday that the shows might be reinstated after a top Irish government official stepped in over the weekend to try to help broker a deal between Brooks, concert promoter Peter Aiken and Dublin city officials who had recently voted to deny permits for two of the five sold-out concerts in 83,000-capacity Croke Park Stadium.

Officials in the Irish senate and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce have said that cancellation of the shows, for which 70,000 tickets were sold to fans in other countries, would cost the city upward of 50 million Euros, or about $68 million U.S.

Brooks got personal in his message to fans, saying, “All I see is my mother’s face and I hear her voice. She always said things happen for a reason and for the right reason. As hard as I try, I cannot see the light on this one. So it is with a broken heart, I announce the ticket refunds for the event will go as posted by Ticketmaster,” starting Thursday, July 17.

Ticketmaster officials have characterized it as the most massive ticket refund undertaking in history.

Late last year, Brooks announced that he planned to end his self-imposed hiatus from touring, which he entered in 2001 with a commitment to be a full-time father to his three daughters until all were of college age. In January, plans for a “Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event” at Croke Park Stadium were unveiled, and two shows quickly sold out. A third was added and sold out quickly, followed by two more, which also sold out within minutes of going on sale.

Aiken recently told the Los Angeles Times that Brooks “definitely” could have sold out more dates if they had been offered. “I don’t know where it could have stopped.”

But after six months of planning of various aspects of the shows between the promoter and stadium officials, the Dublin City Council two weeks ago voted to approve only three of the five dates, citing an agreement between operators of the stadium and the city limiting non-sporting special events at Croke Park to three per year. (It remains unclear why three Brooks shows were approved following boy band One Direction’s three concerts at Croke Park in May.)

Brooks said he would play all five shows or none, and Aiken Promotions subsequently announced that all five were canceled.

Attempts to reinstate the shows began immediately, but Brooks rejected a compromise suggestion that he shoehorn five shows into three days by adding two matinee performances. Brooks said that would shortchange fans who attended the daytime shows, because the production he had created was designed to be seen at night.

The City Council cited complaints about five consecutive concerts, filed by some 300 residents near the stadium, although a criminal investigation in Ireland has revealed that as many as 40 percent of the signatures submitted with the complaints may have been forged.

After a worldwide furor erupted over announcement of the concerts’ cancellation, various parties attempted to negotiate a deal that would allow the concerts to go on, and over the weekend Ireland’s new Environment Minister and deputy leader of the country’s Labor Party Alan Kelly stepped in to help broker the talks.

Ticketmaster consequently postponed its plan to begin processing refunds on Tuesday, saying in a statement, “We would ask fans to continue to be patient and hold onto their tickets for now.”

Brooks statement closes the door on the concerts, which he said he had hoped to create something akin to Elvis Presley’s widely lauded 1968 NBC-TV comeback special, which returned the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll to a place of respect in pop music after many years making mediocre movies in Hollywood.

Brooks is about to announce details of a full-blown world tour, which he said at a news conference in Nashville on Thursday will be an entirely different show than what he’d cooked up for the Croke Park concerts.

He said he plans to take on today’s top-drawing country acts and try to reclaim his position as king of the hill through his typically energetic live performances.

“Our job is to fly the flag for country music,” he said on Thursday. “I want these people walking out of these arenas to go, ‘That’s the best show I’ve ever seen. That thumped harder than any rap show I’ve been to. It was louder and more chaotic, it was just stupid.’ That’s what I want to hear.”

He said he would call a young fan from Atlanta, Andy Roberts, on July 14 and reveal the first city for the upcoming tour. He said it would be Roberts’ decision what he wanted to do with the information, whether to share it or keep it himself. Brooks said he would let the rest of the world in on the tour details sometime after his phone call to Roberts.

Brooks’ statement on Monday urged those who had bought tickets for the Croke Park shows to make themselves known at other stops on the forthcoming tour.

“I encourage any and all of them that can come see the show, at some point around the world, to bring your Irish flags and wave them proudly at the concerts,” Brooks said. “I will be looking for you.”

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