Country music fans in Ireland are reeling. Yes, there are lots of Irish fans of American country music.
And they were looking forward to five concerts in Dublin later this month by the king of country music, Garth Brooks.
The concerts were supposed to be the kick-off to the singer's much anticipated worldwide comeback tour. But then the Dublin City Council said no to five consecutive days of concerts. It only approved three. Brooks and his entourage responded by pulling the plug on all the Dublin gigs.
The cancellation is all the buzz on the airwaves, in the newspapers and on social media.
"Garth Brooks is like God, I mean, American country music is huge here," says Alana Fearon, a reporter with the Irish Daily Mirror. "When the Garth Brooks comeback gigs were initially announced, there were to be two in Croke Park (Dublin's professional soccer stadium). The demand was such that the promoters increased it to three, then four, then ultimately to five shows. So there were 400,000 people waiting to get to these concerts later this month."
But hearts were soon broken when an impasse arose between the Dublin City Council and the concert promoters, the result being all the concerts were cancelled.
Aiken Promotions issued this announcement on their website:
"It is with great regret that Aiken Promotions announce that the five concert Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event at Croke Park has been cancelled. No concerts will take place. Aiken Promotions have exhausted all avenues regarding the staging of this event. We are very disappointed for the 400,000 fans who purchased tickets for The Garth Brooks Comeback Special Event."
Garth Brooks then reportedly reached out directly to the Irish premier Enda Kenny.
"It did look like there was absolutely no hope and that the gigs were cancelled until Garth appealed directly to the government here to intervene,” says Fearon. “Now there are crunch talks going on in Dublin in a desperate bid to thrash out some sort of happy medium which will allow Garth to come here and play those concerts and please those crowds that are so looking forward to seeing him."
The latest offer from Dublin took the form of a proposal to rescue five concerts. The Dublin City Council said it would let the singer squeeze in two additional matinee performances, that's if the promoters can persuade him to do it.
But in his own press conference streamed from Nashville, Tennessee, the country singer offered to travel to Ireland for a meeting with the Irish premier Enda Kenny if it will help get his cancelled comeback extravaganza back on.
"I will do whatever it takes except cancelling on people," Brooks said. "If the prime minister himself wants me to, I will crawl, swim of fly over this weekend and sit on my knees and beg."
These extraordinary efforts to find a compromise are going on behind the scenes because so much is at stake.
"This is really serious," Alana Fearon says. "I mean this is worth a staggering 50 million euros ($68 million). Just the buzz that it would bring back to the streets of Dublin would be phenomenal over five nights. It's the king of country as he would be known here coming back to the stadium where he last performed in '97."
There's been a carnival like atmosphere in Dublin ever since tickets went on sale in January, says Fearon. "Garth tee-shirts as well as Stetson hats and cowboys boots are flying off store shelves. I have friends who bought tickets to go three nights back to back. People were so excited to see him back in Ireland, and now it’s descended into this mess."
So what explains the huge appeal of country music, and Garth Brooks in Ireland? "For a lot of Irish people here, it’s the fun, getting up and dancing and singing along, you really sense with Garth, uniquely that he really feels an affinity with Ireland and it’s very obvious when he's here how much love he has for the country and it’s completely mutual," Fearon says.
Here's another way to think about how much Irish love their country music: 400,000 Garth Brooks fans represent about 10 percent of the population of Ireland.
Fearon says that crowd includes people who are going to the concert for their honeymoons, and brides who considered cancelling their weddings to be able to go to the concerts. And Fearon says they all are hoping the "peace talks" will get the concerts back on track