Leonard Cohen and Lissadell House, surely a match made in heaven was the thoughts that crossed my mind many times over the last few months, as I waited for what could be the most magical concert I’d ever be lucky enough to attend. Leonard having been a lifelong fan of the work of W.B Yeats relished the thoughts of performing there as much as we the fans relished the thoughts of seeing our Poet in possibly the most amazing location possible.
Having seen Leonard live last year and that gig being absolutely amazing, I have never before felt so much excitement and impatience in the build up to a gig. Could the tantalising mixture of Leonard and Lissadell really be a recipe for a night we would never forget? The answer to that is a resounding yes! From start to finish this was the most amazing concert I’ve ever attended. Having possibly the greatest poet of our times performing in the place that inspired his hero added a certain magic that I don’t believe I’ll ever witness again in my lifetime.
Playing for an impressive 3 hour 45 minutes with only a 20 minute interval Leonard and his fantastic band delivered to the highest possible standard playing the songs we so love to hear, and adding in couple of new songs to whet our appetites for the promised new album due in the spring of next year. Dance me to The End of Love was the opening song of this wonderful night followed by The Future and Ain’t no cure for Love, in what was a serenely mellow first half. I find it impossible to pick a musical highlight for this half since every song is a highlight in itself. The mix of Leonard’s sultry tones and the fabulous musicianship of his incredible band was musical poetry to me ears. However as wonderful as all the familiar tunes were I was delighted to hear the first of 3 new songs, Born in Chains. This new song showcases that even in his mid seventies Leonard can still write great melodies and fantastic lyrics. What I especially loved was that Leonard shared the singing of this song with the sublime Webb Sisters and his extremely talented co-writer Sharon Robinson.
My highlight of the first half wasn’t even the music but was when Leonard said he was delighted to be playing at Lissadell and quoting Yeats “The light of evening, Lissadell, great windows open to the south, two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle” before quoting what is possibly his own greatest lyric “Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in”. He then preformed Anthem from which that song lyric came from to take us to the interval.
Like the 1st time I saw Leonard live the 2nd half proved to be my preference even though nearing the end Mother Nature treated us to misty rain! My favourite of Leonard’s songs Hallelujah and So Long Marianne were preformed in this half. Hallelujah is in my humble opinion the greatest song ever written and it has to be my ultimate concert highlight hearing it sung live by its creator. Leonard starts and ends this song on his knees and delivered an outstanding performance that even though familiar to my ears gave me Goosebumps and had tears streaming down my face. Even now as I’m transported back to that moment I find my eyes filling up.
Hallelujah aside, like the 1st half it is extremely difficult to pick individual highlights because everything was sublime. I am probably starting to sound like a cliché but I’m overwhelmed by the intensity of this amazing experience and feel so lucky to have witnessed this magical encounter. It must be noted how brilliant Leonard’s band is. During various moments during the night we were treated to solos form most of the band including Dino Soldo and Javier Mas. As mentioned before as always Leonard’s backing singers, The Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson were outstanding. The mutual respect between both Leonard and his band is plain for all to see and adds to what is already an excellent ambiance.
Even after the incredible 3 hours and 45 minutes Leonard who will be 76 later this year was still in top form but there had to be an end and it was a touching end when he performed Lover, Lover, Lover which wasn’t even on the setlist. Other songs of note during the night included Famous Blue Rain Coat, Suzanne, In My Secret Life, First we Take Manhattan and I’m Your Man. It was a special moment for me when my friend who accompanied me to the concert started cheering after this song even though she isn’t a massive fan.
I know I could have easily listened for even longer to the concert but respect to Leonard that at his age he puts younger artists to shame and maybe they should take note on how to deliver a night of perfection where it is impossible to find fault in anyway. The interaction between us and Leonard, and also among the fans helped make this a night never to be forgotten. There was a big contingent of the “Leonard Cohen Forum” at the concert with over 90 of us having specially made name tags in honour of the special occasion. This interaction with people who are strangers showcased the magic and lure Leonard has among his faithful followers.
As I walked out of the Lissadell estate I had feelings of utter happiness and sadness mingled in. Happiness that not only did the gig live up to expectation but managed to surpass it in every possible way but sadness that what will possibly have been the best concert I will ever attend was over. I thank Leonard Leonard for the music, the lyrics and for being such an amazing human being and sharing himself with us and I also thank the Cassidy family for allowing this fantastic concert to take place in their front garden. I and all the other fans will be forever indebted to their generosity.