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"There should be no worship of the instruments. I mean Edge only takes his guitar out on formal occasions. He hardly sleeps with it, or polishes it."

-- Bono

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Column: off the record..., vol. 14-627

@U2, July 13, 2014
By: Arlan Hess


off the record, from @U2

Oh, what a mess the Garth Brooks debacle is. 

A quick summary for those who haven’t followed the story: In April, Brooks sold out three shows at Croke Park as part of his comeback world tour. Because of a ticketing glitch in Limerick, the promoter, Peter Aiken, agreed to add two more shows to accommodate disappointed fans. Great guy! If I were a fan of Mr. Brooks (like I am of, say, U2), I’d have been thrilled. However, while Irish fans were celebrating a total of five concerts, and Dublin merchants were seeing euro signs, stadium-area residents protested the policy violations involved in licensing the productions.

As it turns out, when Croke Park was renovated in the 1990s, the Dublin planning authority agreed that only three “special events” or concerts would be held per year (above and beyond regular GAA sporting events) to protect residents and businesses from extraordinary disturbances. It is standard operating procedure in Ireland and Northern Ireland that large concerts are advertised and ticketed before licenses are granted, so three Garth Brooks concerts shouldn’t have been a problem, right?

Not so fast. One Direction played three concerts at Croke Park in May, so how did Aiken get away with booking the American country star in the first place? Did he have reason to believe that the council would have allowed three concerts (already in violation of the law) but not five? If the council had broken faith with the Croke Park residents for three concerts (which they hav now said that Brooks can play), what is stopping them from allowing five shows in total? Something smells fishy to me. Either Aiken is in over his head or the Dublin council is playing politics way out of its league. Or both.

Then, of course, Brooks got personally involved -- as he should. These are his fans people are arguing about. U2 fans would expect Bono to say something, wouldn’t we? On Thursday, Brooks instigated a stand-off with the Dublin councilors: He will play all five shows or none at all. Not what I would want to hear if I were a ticket holder. Desperate for a compromise, the board countered with the suggestion that he play matinees on Saturday and Sunday. The singer rejected their bid. Although behind-the-scenes talks are underway at the hightest levels of government, the situation appears to be a big lose-lose for everyone except Brooks. The law states that a resolution must be reached by Monday for the July 25-29 concerts to go ahead.

In light of the recent report that U2 may play Croke Park in 2016, we should all pay close attention to how this plays out.

While I’m on the subject of large-scale stadium concerts, I’d like to take a paragraph to acknowledge the 29th anniversary of Live Aid. On July 13, 1985, my family and I were vacationing at my grandparents’ home in Bermuda after my recent high school graduation. I include my location information only to highlight that, because Bermuda is an English crown colony, the local networks broadcast both the U.K. and American coverage. Unlike my friends at home, who saw only a portion of the event live, I was able to spend all day in my pajamas rolling around on the floor like an idiot driving my family absolutely crazy. I was a real brat that day, but I cannot say that I regret it. The biggest highlight for me wasn’t seeing U2 or Bono’s now-infamous leap from the stage; I had seen them in concert for the first time only three months before. I was overjoyed seeing The Style Council and Ultravox do their sets. Still wish I had seen them on stage in person.

For the record, Bermuda donated the highest amount of money per capita during the concert and several weeks later, Bob Geldof (with Simon LeBon) flew to the island to receive a ceremonial check. My father was still on the island then and crashed the ceremony to get my sister and me a photograph of himself shaking hands with Geldof. Wish I knew where that picture was.

Finally, on Wednesday, the reported that the Music Vault archive recently uploaded to YouTube several vintage clips of U2 playing in San Francisco on May 5, 1981, on the fourth leg of the Boy tour. The concert at California Hall is available in clips or as a whole, running 69 minutes. A set list accompanies the article. 

(c) @U2, 2014.

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