Garth Brooks fans abound in Ireland, and now 400,000 of them won't get to the chance to see him perform. Brooks has cancelled five concerts after the Dublin City Council refused to grant him more than three. Melissa Block speaks to Rachel Flaherty of The Irish Times about the controversy.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Another country music controversy is brewing far from Nashville.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES")
GARTH BROOKS: (Singing) 'Cause I got friends in low places where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away.
RACHEL FLAHERTY: Country megastar Garth Brooks has canceled five sold-out concerts in Dublin, Ireland. The shows at the end of this month were to be the kickoff to an expected world tour - his first in many years. But now the Ireland shows are off after residents complained to the city council about potential noise, traffic and antisocial behavior. And 400,000 ticket holders are scrambling for refunds.
BLOCK: Rachel Flaherty with The Irish Times in Dublin told us the problems began with the concert venue itself.
FLAHERTY: The park had permission to play three concerts. It's actually a sports bar called Croke Park. And what happened was One Direction - I'm sure you've heard of them, they are in America as well - they had played three shows last month and they had used up the limits that they could have. So they had to apply to Dublin City Council to get the license for five more shows.
BLOCK: So in the end, 400,000 tickets were sold. Those now will be refunded. That's a really great turnout for Garth Brooks shows in Ireland. That's amazing.
FLAHERTY: Well, the excitement around him coming was so big. Dublin City Council did end up granting permission for three shows. But Garth said it was five or none at all.
BLOCK: Yeah, he made a statement saying it was five shows or nothing. He said to choose which shows to do and which shows not to do would be like asking to choose one child over another. And he did go on to say however this plays out, Ireland has my heart and always will. Rachel, what are you hearing from Garth Brooks fans about this?
FLAHERTY: Well, initially people were understanding of Garth, you know. But after Garth's first statement, there was some negative commentary. A lot of people have been in limbo, you know, they've booked hotels. They've booked days off work. Everyone was excited to go. And the Dublin mayor here said it was in Garth's court, so to say. So everyone was waiting on Garth's decision and then a couple of days ago, Garth said he wouldn't play any.
BLOCK: You know, it does seem that the folks at the highest levels of the government there in Ireland have weighed in on this. The arts minister has called it an embarrassment for the country. What are the estimates on what the cost will be to have these shows canceled?
FLAHERTY: There's huge estimates going around at the moment. Our Taoiseach, which is the prime minister, he estimated 50 million. And he said that was just the start. He described it as a bitter economic lesson. And then there was an attempt in our government yesterday to protrude an emergency bill as well.
BLOCK: Really? A bill specifically for Garth Brooks concerts?
FLAHERTY: But that was impossible to happen because it has to be a public consultation with any bill, so that didn't work either.
BLOCK: Rachel, there is a Garth Brooks song - a song he co-wrote called "Ireland." Do you hear that song played over there?
FLAHERTY: No, not so much.
BLOCK: Have you ever heard it before?
FLAHERTY: No, I haven't.
BLOCK: Would you like to?
FLAHERTY: Go on.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IRELAND")
BROOKS: (Singing) Ireland, I am coming home. I can see your rolling hills of green and fences made of stone. I am reaching out. Won't you take my hand? I'm coming home, Ireland.
BLOCK: Well Rachel, what do you think? Maybe he is coming home. I don't know.
FLAHERTY: Oh, well, I think Ireland definitely wants him to. Whether or not he'll actually make it here, we'll have to wait and see.
BLOCK: Well Rachel Flaherty, thanks so much for talking with us.
FLAHERTY: Thank you, Melissa.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IRELAND")
BROOKS: (Singing) And there are no words to be spoken.
BLOCK: Rachel Flaherty with The Irish Times in Dublin.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.