Belfast Telegraph

TV View: Garth Brooks's posse give free rein to their obsession

By Joe Nawaz

The late Ian Paisley was right about one thing. Line dancing is an abomination. His Save Ulster From Scissor Steps campaign may have, as per usual, tugged at the wrong end of the stick by describing formation boot-slapping to Billy Ray Cyrus as "as sinful as any other type of dancing, with its sexual gestures and touching".

But the principle was sound. Line dancing is horrific, in a manner that would have had Danté contemplating an eighth level of Hell. At least, it is to a soft townie like me. But it's also more popular in our rural expanses than stone eagles, stone lions, gravel and Tarmac drives combined.

And the man most responsible for provoking seemingly normal folk into synchronised spasming in a country and western style is more popular still.

Think Hugo Duncan travelling from town to town in a Popemobile dispensing £50 notes and curing varicose veins, and you still won't have an inkling of how massive Garth (pronounced Gar-ith in Dungannon) Brooks is outside of Belfast. So, of course, when he/Dublin Council/Docal residents/the Devil (delete according to your level of paranoia) caused his mooted five concerts in Croke Park to be cancelled, it was accorded only slightly less media coverage than the Good Friday Agreement.

Or as somebody rather passionately stated in For The Love Of Garth (BBC1) the other night (obviously leaving aside our attitude to immigrants, women and the like for one moment), it was "the shame of Ireland".

Garth Brooks may be an overpaid, overweight (but not over here) millionaire Okie chancer with all the melodic and lyrical grace of a slow puncture on a Massy Ferguson to my untutored ears.

But this rather daft, if affectionate, half-hour following his devastated fans around as they came to terms with his cancellation and showed that, for many, he was the Bob Dylan of the square dance.

It also demonstrated that he's critic-proof, and his detractors are as pygmies when compared to the great man, at least in the minds of Sean and Cathleen ("the twins") from Cookstown, Edel from Dungannon, and no-nonsense Roisin from, um, somewhere else.

So impatient was Edel to see him when he was last here in 1997 that she checked herself out of hospital early – burst appendix be damned – to see the stetson-sporting messiah. And Roisin – the original ex-tractor fan (she rebuilds vintage tractors for a living) – explained she was getting Garth's massive face tattooed across her back. "I'll have his date of birth on one side," she proudly explained. "And a wee blank space on the other side, for the date if he ever dies." The "if" in this case was no casual slip of the tongue. The whole thing had a whiff of an agricultural Alan Partridge about it.

The programme tracked these superfans as they came to terms with the fact he wasn't playing the island where 1/15th of the population had bought a ticket. Nevertheless, they made the trip to Croke Park anyway. Just in case, like ...

Garth wasn't there, unsurprisingly. Instead, as a kind of balm, the twins, Edel, Roisin and Gareth the Garth Brooks impersonator got to meet like-minded souls who'd similarly made the desperate pilgrimage to the empty streets around Croke Park.

And as I watched, I felt slightly ashamed myself. Mainly because I knew more Garth Brooks songs than I realised. And what of the resilient popularity of Mr Brook's middle-of-the -road country stylings?

Trying to find an answer to that my friends is akin to Ropin' The Wind.

Switch on...

Peaky Blinders (BBC2): Have I mentioned how bloody amazing Doctor Who is these days? OK then, sit down with a nice "kipper tie", and brace yourself for the forthcoming second installment of Brummie period gangster epic Peaky Blinders. Minus one mangled Ulster accent courtesy of Sam Neill, but with added Tom Hardy.

Switch off...

Posh Pawn (Channel 4): I watched 10 minutes of Posh Pawn on Channel 4 the other night. Mainly because the narrator made it sound like “posh porn”. Instead, it's a baffling combination of “stupid rich people” doc and desperation telly. And it's really, really boring.

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