Ireland - I don't know you at all. I thought I did. I thought after 20+ years of living here I knew you. Yet this morning, the past week really, I've realized that I didn't really know you at all.
Of course I knew about this weakness, this...I don't want to call it a character flaw...but this...character blemish, we'll call it.
It's very difficult to understand, really. People here are generally sensible. They have a have great sense of humor and they have a tremendous love of music. They produce so much good music, which is really where this problem lies: how do I explain this Garth Brooks thing?
Don't get me wrong. Garth seems like a perfectly pleasant guy. And his songs are not offensive nor are they necessarily unpleasant to listen to. I'm sure a person could enjoy himself or herself if they ended up in a crowd of 10,000 people for a Garth Brooks show. Probably.
Okay, so I understand how a body might not mind ending up seeing Garth in concert.
HOWEVER, what's happened here, in the 'land of saints and scholars', the past week or two is inexplicable.
It's hard to believe all this has happened in such a short space of time, but just two weeks ago, on January 20, Garth Brooks turned up in Dublin's Croke Park to announce he was coming out of retirement to play two dates this coming summer.
Now bear in mind that Brooks has been 'retired' for more than a decade and that he hasn't been to Ireland since 1997. I thought two dates was a bit ambitious, but my wife assured me that he would sell out Croke Park, that the approximately 150,000 tickets would go. She confidently said that he could sell a few more shows too.
'We'll see,' I thought to myself. 'That's just hyperbole. He can't still have that many devoted fans.
I got my answer pretty quickly. Days before tickets for the two shows went on sale there were news reports of people sleeping out in order to buy tickets. All across the country people were sleeping outside – in January, in Ireland – to get Garth Brooks tickets. This, despite the fact tickets were going to be available online!
I felt uneasy then and even more uneasy when the first two shows sold out in about an hour and then a third show was added and that too sold out. 225,000 tickets at around $90 a piece gone in a couple of hours - Egads!
At that point I started to wonder about me: 'How could I have been so wrong?' That all changed.
A few days ago a fourth Garth Brooks show was announced. Tickets went on sale Thursday morning. They sold out in an hour or two and then a FIFTH show was added. That too sold out within two hours or so. Let me say that again: an unannounced, fifth show of 75,000 tickets (approximately – could be more!) sold out in about two hours. Garth Brooks has now sold around 375,000 tickets for his shows in Ireland this summer.
375,000! That's over 5% of the population of the island of Ireland.
I am no longer questioning myself, believe me. I'm really starting to worry about the Irish people. Oh and it's a "fully inclusive" phenomenon too. North, south, east, west, Protestant, Catholic, urban, rural – none of that seems to matter. Everyone in Ireland just loves Garth Brooks.
I just wish for the life of me I understood why. Ireland remains a mystery to me.
Here’s his most popular tune on YouTube, “The Dance”: