***UPDATE (7-14-14 4:45 PM CDT): It’s officially official. The Garth Brooks Ireland shows will not happen. In a statement released on Monday, Garth said “crushed is an understatement” to describe how he feels about the cancellations.
“All I see is my mother’s face and I hear her voice,” the statement said. “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.”
Also the opening city for Garth’s World Tour has been announced as Chicago. The date will be released on Tuesday (7-15).
***UPDATE (7-8-14 11:30 AM CDT): According to organizers, all five of Garth Brooks’ Ireland shows have been canceled. In a statement by local promoter Aiken Entertainment, they say, “It is with great regret that Aiken Promotions today announce that the five concert Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event at Croke Park has been cancelled. No concerts will take place. The ticket return process will be outlined tomorrow. Aiken Promotions have exhausted all avenues regarding the staging of this event. We are very disappointed for the 400,000 fans who purchased tickets for the Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event.”
Garth Brooks is a man of purpose, and a man of plans. If he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it big. And the end of his retirement has been no exception.
Today, 7/7, was supposed to be the day that “the 7’s aligned” and Garth officially announced his upcoming world tour after a nearly 15-year retirement. But the 7’s did not align. Garth’s master plan originally hatched in 2013 and assembled around his favorite number of ‘7’ was foiled, or for the least, delayed until Thursday, thanks to turmoil over upcoming concert dates by the country music entertainer in Ireland. As you can imagine, Garth is not happy.
As we speak, traversing the busy shipping lanes of the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and the United Kingdom, is a cargo ship carrying no less than 18 semi-trailers worth of gear belonging to the 3rd best-selling artist in the history of American popular music. Within those trailers are the vast stage works and accompanying multimedia accoutrements that have been painstakingly planned, designed, engineered, and choreographed by Garth Brooks himself and an army of experts and assistants who hope to assemble the most intricate and spectacular stage show ever experienced by man.
But those 18 semi-trailers may be sailing towards a false purpose, if they are still indeed sailing in the direction of Europe at all. The fate of that ship may be the only sign in the tea leaves that fans will get ahead of the recently-rescheduled press conference on whether the Garth Brooks extravaganza will make landfall in Europe at all, if news doesn’t come before then that a resolution to the impasse can’t be found.
The details of why Garth’s stadium shows at Ireland’s Croke Park could all be canceled are achingly complex, and deal with local politics, cranky neighbors, and ensnaring legalese. Despite the overall will of the people of Ireland and even the local population seeming to be for the five concerts to move forward if only for the millions of dollars it would pump into the local economy, noise and traffic concerns are why the local city council stemmed Garth’s five night concert to three. And now Garth has laid down the ultimatum that it will be five concerts, or none, leaving the entire enterprise in jeopardy.
Meanwhile said cargo ship with the 18 semi trailers is stuck in logistical limbo. The ship left the United States on July 1st, headed for Dublin Port on the isle’s east coast, mere blocks from Croke Park, where it was planned to arrive on July 12th and crews would begin unloading the cargo and erecting the massive stage structure ahead of the concerts starting on July 25th. It was supposed to be the culmination of many months of planning, and millions of dollars in preparations. Now it might be a multi-million dollar wash.
We’re not just talking about an average series of concerts here. What those 18 semi trucks are carrying includes stage, lighting, sound, and other audio/visual equipment that is meant to create the perfect concert experience in Croke Park specifically. Garth played Croke in 1997 for three consecutive sellout shows, and the presentation was elaborate then, including two helicopters incorporated into the presentation. According to Garth, going back and watching footage of those shows and specifically the reaction of the crowd is what made him decide Dublin was the best place to restart his career.
Garth Brooks traveled to Ireland on January 20th to tour Croke Park and talk with local organizers about the idea for a series of shows. “Garth Brooks chatted through lots of ideas he had regarding staging and how the show should look,” the local promoters Aiken Entertainment explain. “He then went to the various levels of Croke Park and took photos of where the stage would be plotted.”
So envision Garth Brooks, a little bit chubbier these days with his greying goatee and cowboy hat, walking to various locations in the nosebleeds of Croke Park with a camera in hand, worrying about what exactly each patron at the concerts would see. “The team then generated several 3D images of how the show would look from each of the different locations,” Aiken Entertainment says.
Then Garth returned to the States, and members of Aiken Entertainment traveled from Ireland to Nashville to continue to hash out plans. “Further/final meetings were held in Croke Park with the crew and show designers, and in the following weeks show plans were finalized,” Aiken says. The cargo on those 18 semi trucks is not just a generic setup for the entire world tour. “You’ve got to remember that this show is specifically what he wanted to put in, specifically designed for Croke Park,” including a multimedia presentation as part of the concert that has been specifically programed for that audience, at that venue.
In December of 2013, Garth spoke specifically about how he wanted people to take the experience of his comeback, and how the sound and the presentation would be like nothing concert goers had ever experienced before. ““Our job is to make sure that these people that came in the 90”²s come back and go, ‘Gah dang it, I didn’t know it could get any better,’ he told Electric Barnyard. “We’re on the blueprints right now. We’re going to build a stage and a lighting rig that will hopefully blow people away. And we’ve actually got a sound system that has never been used before that’s coming, a new technology. So everyone in the room can feel the thump. We’re going to bring it in, we’re going to be proud of it, and it’s going to be loud.”
Though we don’t know how much money Garth Brooks has sunk into the Croke Park presentation, estimates have the singer being out seven figures if cancellations occur. With all the preparations being custom made for a Croke Park presentation, it seems silly that Garth would scrap all five shows when three have already been approved. But this type of strong-arm approach is one Garth has used before.
In 1993 Garth Brooks was scheduled to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Minutes before Garth was set to perform, he decided to pull a last-minute stunt that twisted the arm of the event’s organizers. Garth refused to sing unless NBC broadcasted a video for his song “We Shall Be Free” to the massive television audience. NBC had baulked at the idea previously because it depicted scenes deemed not suitable for the Super Bowl’s family audience, including drug use, gang fights, torture, the KKK, and other unsavory content. Eventually the NFL and NBC had no choice but to bow to Garth’s demands, pushing back the kickoff of the event to show Garth’s video.
Though Garth is demanding five shows or none, the original Croke Park plan was only for three. When the shows sold out so quickly, two more were added. Now there may be none.
This leaves the fate of the cargo ship with the 18 semi-trailers is up in the air. Though Saving Country Music made every attempt to determine which way the ship’s nose is pointed, either toward the US or the UK, that seems to be a well-guarded secret at the moment, with Garth and the show’s organizers probably not wanting to show their hands, hoping for a reversal on the cancellations by the locals in Ireland.
Either way, this is not how Garth wanted to start this new phase in his already hall of fame career. And how Croke Park plays out might dictate the amount of momentum, or lack thereof, his comeback will have.