Thursday 23 July 2009 had finally arrived. I had waited with much impatience and anticipation for Leonard Cohen’s concert at the O2 Dublin. I wasn’t to be disappointed. At exactly 8pm Leonard and his band including The Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson came out on stage to cheers from a delighted audience. They immediately burst into song even though there was still a lot of people waiting to take their seats. The stewards rightly made them wait a while so that those of us who had arrived on time could enjoy the start of the show.
The first part of the show lasted until 9.10pm and included a guitar solo from Javier Mas and some excellent saxophone playing from Dino Soldo. I wasn’t really familiar with most of the songs from this half except for Bird on the Wire, Dance Me to the End of Love and Anthem. I didn’t mind not knowing some of the songs because the lyrics of Leonard’s song are sublime so even songs heard for a first time sound great.
After a 20 minute interval the second half started at 9.30pm and this for me was just an absolutely brilliant set. Songs such as Suzanne followed by Sisters of Mercy were performed. A couple of songs later the now infamous Hallelujah saw Leonard really putting the passion into his singing. Of all the covers of this song and there are some good ones, notably the late Jeff Buckley, nothing compares to hearing Leonard sing this live, because it is my favourite song of all time. During this song we were treated to a piano solo from Neil Larsen and Leonard on his knees as the song ended.
A couple of songs later was So Long, Marianne, one of my personal favourites and Hallelujah aside possibly my concert highlight. Watching Leonard sing this amazing song live in 2009 that he wrote in 1967 with a passion so raw we could almost feel it was one of those moments in life that I will never forget.
Also included in the second half was another spell bindingly passionate performance of First We Take Manhattan and the equally memorable Famous Blue Raincoat where the stage developed a blue haze.
Sharon Robinson treated us to a breath taking version of Boogie Street. Leonard was quick to remind us of her greatness and of the fact that she co-wrote a number of his songs including the aforementioned song that she performed. Leonard introduced The Webb Sisters rendition of If It Be Your Will by quoting the first few lines of the fabulous song before the two ladies delighted us by singing it. They also spontaneously treated us to cart wheels earlier in the night during The Future.
Other songs that we were treated to throughout the night included I’m Your Man, The Partisan, Ain’t No Cure For Love, Take This Waltz, Closing Time and a wonderful recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep.
Leaving the music aside there was so much more that made this night so memorable. Seeing a legend and one of the best lyricists ever for me was something special. I always knew that I would enjoy this concert but the magnitude of how amazing it was came as a very pleasant surprise. What struck me from the moment he walked on stage is how humble Leonard Cohen is and of the deep respect that he gives his band, entourage and fans alike. At two stages during the concert he introduced us to each band member in turn and removed his hat and bowed to them. Also during any song where a band member played a solo he stood beside them, hat removed. I was very moved by this and other artists should follow his example of respect. At the end of the concert he thanked everyone involved including stage managers and even the person who looks after the hats!!!
The concert finished up just after 11PM and as we left to head for home I had a warm feeling inside that can only come on the rarest of occasions after a live concert. As someone who lives for live music it is the highest compliment I can give and I thank Leonard for a very moving evening and one that will give me lasting good memories for a long time to come.