- 22 Nov 21
At a special press conference in Croke Park today, the king of country, Garth Brooks, discussed his love of Ireland, the scrapping of his Dublin shows in 2014 that felt like a “death in the family” – and whether or not a miraculous 'drive for five' may be on the cards.
Garth Brooks is back! Deep in the belly of Croke Park, a lonesome cowboy strolls into a hive of journalists-come-superfans. A wide-brimmed hat enters first, followed by the double denim-clad country boy who once threatened to take over Dublin but was thwarted. Now — almost a decade later — Garth Brooks may very well be set to conquer the capital of the Emerald Isle. Or at least it’s cultural cathedral — Croke Park.
Months of speculation and rumours prefaced the announcement that Garth Brooks would be performing in Ireland for the first time in 25 years. Now, in the throes of a pandemic, the musician has answered the prayers of country music fans across Ireland by confirming two shows at Croke Park on September 9 and 10, 2022. But Aiken Promotions have secured a license for Garth to play the venue on the September 11, 16 and 17. Tickets go on sale this Thursday at 8am via Ticketmaster.
Emerging Irish talent to Support Garth
It’s a fantastic time for music generally – and indeed for country music – in Ireland. Seated at the top of the room, Garth was asked if he would handpick some of Ireland’s emerging talents to support him on the big shows?
“You have to — that’s the fun part of it,” he said.
“Please don’t think I’m twisted or sick; but I love to put a new artist in front of 70,000 people. Just pat ‘em on the butt ‘go get ‘em!’ And watch what happens."
It is a process that offers no guarantees whatsoever...
“Some of them totally fall apart,” he added. “You know what you do with them? You take them to the next city and you do it again. Because they’re going to get better. Some go out there – and immediately it’s like a duck to water. You know what you do with them? Never work with them again (laughs).
“The great thing is watching your (support) artist learn. Watching them while they’re in the fire. You get to watch them, and be a part of them growing up. That’s cool.”
Garth's Grá for Ireland
Garth isn’t just looking forward to some of Ireland's finest talent coming of age on the biggest of stages — he can’t wait to return to the country he refers to as “home.”
“It’s always been home for us,” Garth insisted. “If you get the chance to play Ireland, you’re the lucky son of a bitch.”
Brooks talked about the “sincerity” of his Irish audience who have given him an incredibly warm reception over the years – notably at his landmark gigs in ‘97.
“There is something that goes on here that I can't explain and that I’m not deserving of – but damn, give me a fork in each hand, ‘cause it’s wonderful.”
He used a closed fist as a metaphor for the world — to symbolise the increasing insularity of nations that grow apart, whether out of mutual fear or differences that are hyped as being fundamental. Garth opened his hand to free his digits as a symbol of the open arms with which Ireland has welcomed him.
“When we were here before," he recalled, "they would be hanging out of their windows on the second story, ‘Welcome to Ireland!’ And you think: ‘This has got to be a put on — right? Nobody does this’. It’s so sweet.”
It was this grá for Ireland that made Brooks jump at the opportunity to play next year. When Garth got the call asking if he was interested in playing Ireland again he replied: “If I could reach through this phone I’d grab you right now! It was great.”
The 2014 Fiasco
The opportunity to play Croke Park was made all the sweeter by the prospect of righting the wrongs of 2014. As just about the whole of Ireland will recall, Brooks was scheduled to play 5 shows in Croke Park and sold over 400,000 tickets – but due to objections by Croke Park residents, the plug was pulled on the gigs.
It was an arrow to the heart of the country star: it’s a wound that still pains him. “It was like a death in the family to us. And it hurt, hurt, hurt. My thing is just try not to get emotional. It’s still very fresh for me — it’s like something I’ve never experienced.
“It’s one of those things where you go, ‘surely this isn’t going to end this way'. It was a little hard to understand.”
Brooks could have done three out of five nights, but it didn’t sit right with him. He felt it was an all or nothing situation. The musician couldn’t choose which lot of fans would have their tickets rendered invalid, thereby breaking their hearts. “We either all win together or we all lose together,” he said.
The Drive for Five
Garth — who is the best selling solo artist of all time in the US — is used to routinely selling out stadiums, but he doesn’t expect to do the same record breaking numbers as had signed up in 2014. Brooks referred to the five nights as a “miracle,” and not one that he believes will be repeated.
The singer quipped that he'd “love” to do five shows but joked that he would also “love to be 6 foot 5 and have abs.”
“What happened in 2014 was a frickin’ miracle,” Brooks added. “I mean — who does numbers like that? There’s no way we’re going to do that number again. I can’t see us doing five. Would I like it? Yes. I would love it. Is it going to happen? I think it would be impossible.”
Brooks may be modest about his chances of staging five shows – but the buzz created by his return suggests he could repeat the feat. The licence to play five shows at Croke Park underlines the plans are indeed already in the pipeline for the Brooks contingent to set up camp in Croker next September.
We'll have to wait and see. One thing's for sure: stranger things have happened than this potential five-in-a-row!.