After news emerged this morning that Garth Brooks might finally be making his way to our shores for some concerts next summer (since denied by Aiken, by the way), we thought we'd look back at the timeline of events from when the country music superstar's Croke Park concerts were announced earlier this year, to the protestations of the local community to the eventual and inevitable cancellation of the gigs. The spectre of Garthgate still looms large, it seems.
But how exactly did the cancellations go down? And exactly how big a clusterf**k was the entire thing? See below.
This is where it all started. Barely three weeks into the New Year Garth Brooks makes international headlines by announcing that he is coming back to Ireland to make his return to the live arena. Great news! Sure, what could go wrong?
The massive Irish appetite for Garth Brooks first becomes apparent after nearly a quarter of a million tickets to see him sell out in barely an hour and a half. Peter Aiken comments, saying that this is the fastest-selling concert he's ever been involved with in over five decades in the concert promotion business.
Massive public demand leads Brooks to schedule further dates in Croke Park, leading to a total of 400,000 tickets being sold for the concert series. That's a public spend of more than €26 million, with more tickets being sold than the entire population of Malta.
The first signs of dissent begin to emerge in the shadows the famous stadium, as local residents cite an agreement with Croke Park which states that no more than three concerts would be held there each year. The Croke Park response from stadium director Peter McKenna ignites the furore further when he attempts to brush the matter under the rug by insisting that "times move on."
February 18th - Croke Park officials meet local residents to discuss concerns
Croke Park attempts to raise its white flag by meeting with representatives of the local residents but both sides seem very far from coming to terms. Croke Park residents emphasised their position by agreeing to speak to officials from the stadium via legal representatives only. Things look like they're going to get worse before they get better.
After months of back and forth speculation, the Croke Park community turns the heat up even further after their solicitor alleges that that Aiken Promotions "engaged in unlawful activity in organising and promoting a concert without a licence", alleging in a press release that Dublin City Council is attempting to "gag" the local Croke Park community.
July 3rd (morning) - Permission granted for just three of five Garth Brooks concerts
The first signs emerge that the voices of the local community have been heard after licences were awarded for just three of the five planned concerts. Still though, this was just the first of several more twists and turns in this seemingly never-ending saga.
July 3rd (afternoon) - Speculation mounts that ALL FIVE Garth Brooks concerts will be cancelled
Hello shit, meet fan. Word leaks from sources close to Brooks which claim the singer will adopt and "all or none" philosophy, meaning that either all five planned gigs get the go-ahead or he'll pull out of the lot of them. Line-dancing classes across the land become sombre affairs.
In a situation which was fast dissolving into a media feeding frenzy, Brooks' fans were given a glimmer of hope when other venues in Ireland put themselves forward as possible hosts for the cancelled concerts. Practically, though, this wasn't a realistic solution as licensing laws (and several other administrative reasons) would prove too difficult to wrap up in time for the original dates.
Garth Brooks breaks his silence on the Croke Park concert crisis on a note on his official website. In it he says that he hasn't given up hope that the concerts may still take place, saying that his technical staff and roadies were on their way to Ireland as he typed. Despite these words of hope, with each passing hour the possibility of the concerts go ahead was looking like more and more of an impossibility.
A press conference streamed on Garth Brooks' website gave a closer glimpse at exactly how frustrated the singer was at the legal quagmire his proposed concerts had fallen into. Referencing the Dublin City Council, the concert promoters and the licensing system in Ireland Brooks said that he would even get on his hands and knees and beg Enda Kenny to allow the gigs to go ahead as planned.
With his ears obviously perking up when Garth Brooks mentioned his name earlier that afternoon, Enda Kenny indicated that, yes, the will they/won't they concerts have impacted the highest levels of the Irish government. Gadzooks.
Hundreds of Irish country music enthusiasts mobilsed themselves and took to Dublin's streets in an effort to have their voices heard and reverse what is looking like the inevitable cancellation of the concerts.
The final nail into the ill-fated concerts was hammered by Brooks himself when he confirmed via a statement that the concerts were officially not going to happen, thanking the Irish authorities, Peter Aiken and, most of all, the Irish fans for their attempts to make the concerts happen. "I encourage any and all [Irish fans] that come to see the show at some point around the world to bring their Irish flags and wave them proudly at concerts", he wrote. "I will be looking for you."
Well, in our humble opinion:
What one can discern from this mess is that, while one can't attribute blame at any one party, the system in place is very much broken. Whether the application for concert licences needs regulation (it does), the relationship between Croke Park and the local residents needs to be addressed and repaired (it does) or the decision making process in Dublin City Council needs far more flexibility and visibility (it does), it is disappointing to everyone involved that we had to learn these lessons in tune with the disappointed grumbles of 400,000 music fans.