Thunder rolls in Dublin as Garth Brooks comeback gigs cancelled

Conor Barrins
AFP
Singer Garth Brooks onstage during the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 7, 2013
Singer Garth Brooks onstage during the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 7, 2013 (AFP Photo/Ethan Miller)

Dublin (AFP) - A hotly anticipated comeback by country music star Garth Brooks in Dublin later this month suffered a serious setback on Thursday when the local authorities refused a licence for two of his five sold-out shows.

Some 400,000 tickets for the Croke Park stadium gigs, billed as a "Comeback Special Event" before a promised world tour by the US singer later this year, had sold out in record time as Brooks-mania swept Ireland.

But residents living near the stadium complained that the size of the crowd -- about one tenth of the Irish population -- would effectively make them prisoners in their own homes.

Dublin City Council has now granted permission for the first three concerts on July 25, 26 and 27, but not those planned for July 28 and 29 -- leaving 160,000 ticket holders without a show to go to.

"The scale, magnitude and number of the concerts with an expected attendance of in excess of 80,000 people per night over five consecutive nights -- three of them week nights -- is unprecedented," the council said in a statement.

Croke Park already hosted boyband One Direction for three sold-out concerts in May on top of regular sporting events.

But the council said that holding all five Brooks concerts would lead to an "unacceptable level of disruption" to local residents and businesses due to noise, traffic disruption and potential antisocial behaviour.

A spokesperson for the stadium owners, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), told AFP that "as things stand" permission had been granted for the first three gigs and they would issue a statement later.

Last week a mediation process aimed at resolving the dispute recommended that in future Croke Park should not host concerts for four or five consecutive nights.

The report also recommended the GAA pay a one-off grant of 500,000 euros ($680,000) to the local community for a "Garth Brooks legacy fund" -- intended to compensate them for the disruption.

But some local residents rejected the proposals and said they had not ruled out legal action if a licence was granted for all five nights.

Independent Dublin councillor Cieran Perry said the council's decision was "a reasonable compromise in the circumstances".

The concerts are expected to provide a boost to Irish tourism, as 70,000 tickets were sold to fans outside Ireland.

Brooks, who played two sell-out shows in Croke Park in 1997, is one of the biggest stars in country music and one of the top selling artists of all time.

He has only played occasional shows since announcing his retirement in 2001 to raise his children, but has promised to return to touring later this year.