Garth Brooks has said he will “crawl, swim, fly” to Ireland, “drop on [his] knees and beg” Enda Kenny to re-instate his five canceled Dublin concerts if there’s a chance it might change anything.
Brooks spoke today at a massive press conference in Nashville announcing his comeback. He retired from recording and major touring engagements in 2000 to take care of his children. Now that the youngest of his three daughters has graduated from high school, Brooks has signed with RCA Sony, is recording a new album, and has announced a world tour.
However, a significant amount of the press conference was devoted to the country legend’s canceled five-concert “Comeback Special” at Dublin’s Croke Park, which has left 400,000 ticket holders devastated, prompted a veritable media frenzy, and brought Ireland some rather awkward international attention in recent days.
Brooks said they are no closer to reaching a deal on the concerts and had some pretty heavy words for the “Irish system,” which he said should be taking a good look at itself.
"You have a gentleman over there standing by his decision," he said referring to Dublin's city manager Owen Keegan. "There should be somebody above that gentleman who can say we're going to have five shows."
“Create your laws, create your guidelines, but don’t sell a show to people and get their hopes up and then just cancel on them and [think] that’s OK,” he said.
“It’s not ok for me, I don’t agree with that’s the way to treat people. And if the Prime Minister himself wants to talk to me, I will crawl, swim, I will fly over there this weekend. I will sit in front of him, I will drop on my knees and beg for those 400,000 people to just have fun.”
He still has plenty of love for the Irish people, saying “Ireland should never be embarrassed, it’s people should never be embarrassed. They are the most loving people."
The “If Tomorrow Never Comes” singer broached the subject of the Irish concerts himself before the conference opened up to questions from the media.
“Ireland… I don’t have a clue,” he said, expressing his bafflement at the entire situation.
“I went over in January for press and I was treated like a king. I have never been treated like anything less than a king by Ireland or its people.”
Brooks said he was overjoyed to see all three of his initially planned concerts sell out, and awed when promoter Peter Aiken told him he had “160,000 people still looking for tickets.”
Because of the great demand, and because of a glitch in the ticketing system in Limerick, which saw hundreds of fans Brooks said had been “camping for days” to purchase tickets left in a lurch, they decided to add two concerts.
“Everything was rockin’,” he said. “Up to 10 days ago, two weeks ago, it was nothing but love.
“And then came ‘Hey Garth, we’re OK-ing three of them, but you’re going to have to figure out what to do with the other two,’” he said, referring to the Dublin City Council’s decision to only grant licenses for three of the concerts, due to an annual limit on the number of shows that can be held at Croke Park for the sake of area residents, which Brooks said he was never previously made aware of.
“I wish I knew where that came from, I wish I could tell you I saw that coming. Never did.”
Brooks explained that with every concert he plays, the policy is that every ticket, whether it’s front row or way up in the bleachers, is priced equally. “We don’t treat people different,” he said.
“And the statement [from the City Council] was ‘Garth, with a simple yes you can make 240,000 people happy.’ And my statement back is ‘With a simple yes, you can make 400,000 people happy.’ He has repeatedly stated that he will play all five shows or none at all, beliving that any other solution would be unfair to his fans.
“I don’t have a clue how we got here. All I know is that the powers who can fix it are not here,” he said, directing the focus back to Ireland. “It’s a simple yes. Open it up for five nights, let everyone have fun. Then go to work on never letting it happen again.”
When the floor opened for questions, the first ask went to RTE’s Catriona Perry, but Brooks had a question for her first, wanting to know how people in Ireland were feeling.
“I know that everyone in Ireland is distraught about this, it’s occupying all of our front page news, and people want to find a solution,” she said, adding that there was a certain degree of embarrassment that Ireland was receiving international attention for this.
“Ireland should never be embarrassed, it’s people should never be embarrassed,” Brooks replied. They are the most loving people. Go over to Ireland and they’ll eat you right up.”
When asked if this experience would make him think twice about booking concerts in Ireland in the future, he remarked “I don’t think you can talk about a future with [playing] Ireland until Ireland has a planning system that works,” a statement he later stepped back on, saying “it’s not my country.”
Brooks was emphatic in his love for Ireland, saying he and his team had been planning a concert experience that would “match the quality and the integrity of the Irish people.”
Inspired by the Comeback Special of Elvis (who, along with the Beatles, is one of only two recording artists ahead of Brooks for all-time record-breaking album sales in the US) the Croke Park concerts were going to be a massive, one-time-only spectacle. "It's 255-feet wide, 20 feet tall, that's just the video screen," Brooks said.
“75% of people who brought tickets were 25-years-old or younger, so the reason they’re coming is what their mom and dad told them. I don’t want to disappoint them.
“I’m the real loser in this one, out the greatest experience of my life,” he said.
“Anyone in Ireland, anyone on the planet who is sad about this, you’re not one-billionth as sad about this as I am.
"The Irish have my love forever. Whether I play there again or not.”