Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Garth Brooks: Surreal meeting with the Elvis of our generation

Garth Brooks

Last Tuesday morning I arrived into work a little jaded. "Please God no more Garth Brooks' stories, surely it has to be over," I say to myself.

However, by 3pm, not only is this story not over, it has only just begun and now it's official – all five of his shows have been scrapped and Ticketmaster will start refunding the fans.

A mild sense of relief sets in amidst panicked news meetings and calls to sources – at least this will be all over now after today, I think. But by 10pm that night, with copy filed, I find myself in an entirely different position – I am booked on a flight to Nashville, Tennessee – it leaves tomorrow.

The week had started with a high tempo Dublin City Council meeting on Monday evening and by Wednesday morning I'm clearing emigration.

Surreal does not even scratch the surface of the situation I find myself in.

Arriving into Nashville I have one thing on my mind – I am not even going to get next to near this guy after been sent all the way out here by work.

It's Thursday morning and no one really knows are the gigs on or off. At this stage I wonder does Garth himself even know.

I hear wind that there is some resolution on the horizon at home. I send Christy Burke a text, mindful that he's up to his eyes mediating with Injunction Man, Owen Keegan, the pro residents, the no residents, and Enda Kenny is even involved.

Typical Christy style, he replies. "No deal," it says.

A few phone calls later to the office and the news editors give direction on what we want put to Garth depending on whether the gigs are on or off.

As I sit in the Press conference a man of tall stature approaches, "I'm Bob Doyle, are you here from Ireland, the Press?" he asks. "Indeed I am," I respond as it dawns on me I am now having a one-on-one with the Major – Garth Brooks's manager.

We wait for Garth and then he's on stage and all of a sudden I'm up at the mic. It's me and Garth and we talk. It's not just one question, it's four as a man from Sony keeps edging towards me to get me to wrap up, but luckily for me, Garth is playing ball.

After the Press conference we all hang around. I chat to Bob and Garth. I text Christy, I call a few others and I try and do my best to salvage these five concerts. Then the offer of two matinees come in and for Garth's people that still, unfortunately, is not a runner.

I feel now, that I need to explain to his people that Ireland is unlikely to change its legislation for him and I also feel I need to explain to some of the heads back home that this guy is not being petulant or arrogant.

But I will leave that explanation to Marvin Baker, chairman radio station Cafe Nashville.

"He once stayed up for 23 hours straight and shook everyone's hand – he really cares about his fans. Garth is our Elvis. He is the Elvis of our generation. What other artist would stay up 23 hours and shake everyone's hand? It has never been about the money. It never has been."

I send Bob a quick text, "any update, are the gigs going to go ahead?" At this point he is none the wiser.

I am told that it may take until Monday until another resolution has been found. So as it stands I am still in Nashville, here for work to tell the story and here for Ireland to tell the sides of both stories. And the ship with the stage is still en route.

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