Again I was a good bit back so not brilliant photos. Brilliant memories though 🙂
© Gwen Langford
Again I was a good bit back so not brilliant photos. Brilliant memories though 🙂
© Gwen Langford
I was miles back at this concert so the photos aren’t great.
© Gwen Langford
As a teenager Leonard Cohen practised hypnotism, and I sometimes wonder is that what he does to us at his concerts, as no matter how many times I’ve seen him live I always feel compelled to go again. I’m happy to be under this spell though as it meant I have had the best experiences of my life. Having this year alone previously seen Leonard in concert here in Ireland and also in Poland I decided I just had to attend the final two shows of the tour, so it was off to Las Vegas for only my second ever time out of Ireland. Poland had being the first, such is the impact Leonard has had on my life. Since the concerts at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace Las Vegas were the final two shows of a mammoth three year tour I just knew I had to be there no matter what the sacrifices I’d have to make.
The first of the two shows took place on Friday December 10th with the final show taking place the following night. Both nights saw almost identical set lists with the only exception being the addition of Born in Chains on the final night. However no two Leonard concerts are the same, regardless of set list and while always brilliant, each night had its own special moments and memories.
On the Friday night on entering The Colosseum, for the first time, I was very taken with the design and how compact it looked. It seemed incredibly small for a venue which can hold up to 5000 patrons. I was almost at the rear of the venue for the Friday show but I felt like I was close to the stage!
Leonard and his wonderful band entered the stage shortly after 8pm to a wondrous applause from a delighted audience, where there were many who like myself had travelled thousands of miles to be able to witness the magic at the end of the tour. Hearing the familiar sounds of the now traditional opening song at a Cohen concert, Dance me to the end of Love I sat back relaxed and was all ready to enjoy what I knew would be over three hours of entertainment to come.
As always Leonard and his fantastic band performed to the highest level. It is a testament to Leonard of how well he is respected in the industry that he can attract great musicians in their own right to go on tour with him for three years. The mutual love and respect they all have for each other is there to see and really adds to what is already a perfect formula. During all of the many solo parts for each musician Leonard stands there, hat removed head bowed listening intently, appreciating every word and every note. Even though this is a familiar sight to my eyes it never fails to move me or to impress me. In all the concerts I attend I’ve never seen this high level of mutual respect before, except in an actual band situation. Lead singers may command respect but I’ve never seen it returned in the same way as Leonard returns it.
I find it hard to pick individual musical highlights as I love all the songs, and when each is performed to perfection it is almost impossible to choose individual favourites. However as always for me Hallelujah was a standout moment, bittersweet that while I knew I’d hear Leonard perform it again the following night, the end was nigh. Other standout songs for me from the first night include My Gypsy Wife, a spoken rendition of A Thousand Kisses Deep, which was unfortunately nearly ruined for me when a woman nearby started moaning really loudly. While initially funny it did become an irritant after a while. To my ears and those beside me it sounded like moans of pleasure, however while talking to a friend after the concert he told me a woman fitting the description I described was being taken off on a stretcher!
Another song which was extra special was the solo performance of Boogie Street by Sharon Robinson, who had being absent for some European dates due to illness including the concert I attended in Katowice. I was very happy to see her return and as always her vocals were impeccable. Sharon has co-written many of Leonard’s recent songs where of course he has supplied the lyrics and she the music. Along with the aforementioned Boogie Street two of these songs include Waiting for the Miracle and In My Secret Life. I absolutely love the melodies of both these songs so Sharon will always be held in high respect, and I was delighted to see her back and looking and sounding fantastic.
Non-musical highlights included when Leonard described Las Vegas as an unmagical place, and a curious place. It does seem a strange place for Leonard to perform as everything is very over the top and extravagant, which are descriptions which one could never use when describing Leonard . Usually he introduces Anthem with saying how lucky we are to gather in this privileged place while so much of the world in plunged in chaos which he did indeed return to for the final show, but we appreciated the change for one night only! It made his line in Anthem “There is a crack in everything” seem more poignant than at any of the previous concerts I’d attended.
At the end of this song as it is always the end of the first half Leonard introduces us to his wonderful band. Always eloquent in his introductions it is a part of the show I love and each band member in turn is described in a wonderful way like when he introduces his musical director Roscoe Beck as the pilgrim of perfection. However in recent shows he has taken to giving drummer Raphael Bernardo Gayol an extended introduction. While I had heard about it I hadn’t seen it before the Friday night show. My favourite quote from this new extended introduction was when Cohen called him the drummer in the quietest rock and roll band around!
Another personal highlight from the Friday show was during Leonard’s thanks at the end of the show. While thanking the fans he acknowledged that many of us had travelled long distances to be there and he couldn’t describe us as fans, that it was more than that. This touched my heart and it most certainly true that I don’t just love Leonard for his wonderful songs, it is indeed more than that!
While I thoroughly enjoyed the Friday concert the Saturday one simply blew me away. I don’t think Lissadell will ever be topped for me but this has come very, very close. Right from the start there was a raw energy to everything and the atmosphere was electric. We knew we were in for a very special night but we also knew this would be the final concert for the foreseeable future which meant emotions were heightened right from the off. This could be seen on stage too where everyone seemed to be pushing that little bit extra. It brings new meaning to the phrase 110% as that is what it felt like they were giving.
Nearly every song ended with a standing ovation at the Saturday show from most of the audience. The first song of the Friday show to achieve this was Hallelujah which is performed in the second half of the show to put this in perspective.
There was a very special moment when during the last few minutes of the interval a section of the fans started singing Passing Through and when Leonard came out on stage after hearing the fans he sang a line from it for us. For the final show it had being arranged via email to get as many women as possible to wear something with polka dots for the final show in tribute to the lyrics of Closing Time. While I did indeed have a headband on I was too far back to be seen from the stage but it was great to see people waving these items over their heads during the song with some people throwing them on stage!
As mentioned earlier in this report Leonard performed Born in Chains on the Saturday night. Having not been performed the previous night I was very pleased to hear it. There are solos from Sharon Robinson and individual solos from Hattie and Charley Webb. Mixing these beautiful singers with Leonard’s gorgeous voice makes for the most wonderful harmonies and adds such magic to each song. I do love the solos in this song and also when The Webb Sisters sing If it be Your Will as well as the aforementioned Boogie Street by Robinson. All of the band members play an important roll with many solos throughout. I especially love Javier Mas introduction to Who By Fire, Dino Soldo’s solo during Bird on the Wire and a personal favourite has to be Neil Larson’s piano solo during my beloved Hallelujah. I also appreciate the important roles of bassist Roscoe Beck, lead guitarist Bob Metzger and of course the master timekeeper Rafael Bernardo Gayol.
Like the Friday night it is is extremely difficult to pick individual highlights apart from of course my precious Hallelujah where on the Saturday night I felt my heart was breaking as I knew it will be long time before I get to hear it performed live again. So Long Marianne is also a personal favourite to hear live and it comes very close to Hallelujah both in my affections and as a personal highlight at each concert. I was very happy when Leonard again recited A Thousand Kisses Deep this time with no interruption. While I love Leonard for his singing of his songs first and foremost, this is an absolute gem when it is recited. Leonard who was first a poet is an expert at recitation.
While the end was nigh we really couldn’t ask for more as we were treated to almost four hours of magic with only a twenty minute interval. I really felt for Leonard and his band, for as heartbroken as we were that the tour was over they have spent three years on the road together and the bond between them all is plain to see. There were tears in my eyes as Leonard said his final thanks to everyone involved over the last three years.
Now the tour is finally over Leonard is heading into studio to record his twelfth album and first since 2004. If the three songs premiered on this tour, Born in Chains, The Darkness and Feels so Good are anything to go by this record will be amongst the best work he has ever released. Rarely is an artist still at the top of his game in his mid seventies but then Leonard Cohen is an unique entity.
After the show on the Saturday night I was lucky enough to meet both Dino Soldo and The Webb Sisters. It was great being able to personally thank them for their contribution to the tour and each show. However nothing will ever beat the moment when on the Sunday morning I actually met Leonard and was personally able to thank him for the effect he has had on my life and for his amazing concerts and that I really do hope he tours again. I also conveyed this wish to his manager Robert Kory who promised he would do his best to make this wish happen.
I say thank you to Leonard Cohen,his wonderful band and crew and will be forever grateful to have being there to witness the magic. For now, I say until we meet again, So Long Leonard Cohen it has being a pleasure to attend these concerts.
© Gwen Langford
A question I asked myself as I headed to see Leonard Cohen in concert in Katowice, Poland was can perfection be beaten? Having witnessed the most amazing concert of my life when he played Lissadell House in Sligo earlier this year I did wonder how or if this concert could compare. While I don’t think the Lissadell House gig will ever be topped this concert came very close for a number of special reasons.
I only decided to go to this concert after that amazing night in Sligo so when I went to purchase my ticket my choices were limited. I had the option of a cheap downstairs ticket at the rear of the venue of the top level price in the front row of the balcony. I decided to buy the balcony ticket as at least I’d have a clear view of the stage. However fate was looking down on me as I’d only just taken my seat when some fellow fans that I had met before the concert presented me with a spare ticket for the forth row from the front!Such was my excitement for this concert for once I didn’t notice the starting times or finishing times of either half though I do know that Cohen and his fantastic band delivered to us over 3.5 hours of excellence as is per usual. Having being at Lissadell House and having watched numerous videos of this tour on You Tube I was aware of most of the songs to expect and when we would be treated to them. While in some intances this can be an irritant in this case it only heightened my excitement as I listened to each fantastic song after another knowing that more favourites awaited me.
Cohen and his band started with Dance me to the end of Love with other early songs including The Future and a wonderful performance of one of my favourites Bird on the Wire. The arrangement on this song is so different to the original but is beautiful and so relaxing to listen to.
Also performed in this first half were two of the new song The Darkness and Born in Chains. Although both of these are excellent songs the later would be my preference. This song only premiered on the tour in July but it is fast becoming a fan favourite.
Every song sounded amazing and the solos provided by various band members were sublime and we wanted each song to go on and on. At many moments during the concert I felt my eyes well up at the beauty of it all. It should be noted while us avid fans did miss Sharon Robinson who is absent while she recovers from being ill, The Webb Sisters did an excellent job in her absence where their vocals were impeccable.
In what felt like no time at all Cohen was introducing the band and we were at the intermission. While we moved to the front to chat and relax I had the pleasure of shaking hands with The Webb Sisters father Graham Webb.
It was then time for the second half of the concert. I absolutely love the second half of Cohen concerts as my two favourite songs Hallelujah and So Long Marianne are performed during this half. Hallelujah will always be my concert highlight but it had stiff competition for what was to come in this second half.
Opening the second half with the excellent Tower of Song Cohen looked very relaxed and happy to be performing for us. This was followed by the imensely popular Suzanne which up until recently was the most covered of all Cohen songs. It has being well overtaken in recent years by Hallelujah where most of these covers in my opinon should be consigned to the garbage bin as these people are not fit to sing what is in my opinion the greatest song ever written.
When Cohen left the stage at the end of Take this Waltz while the band finished the music to the song a group of us fans moved to the gangway leading to the stage. After the concert at Lissadell I felt compelled to thank Cohen in some way. I decided to get a huge Ireland flag and on it I wrote the message “Thank you Leonard and co for the magic and memories of Lissadell” in big black writing. At this moment I held up the flag for the band to see. It gave me a warm feeling to see them notice it and smile and point it out to each other. Once the music stopped we raced to the stage for So Long Marianne as this song is traditionally the most upbeat song at a Cohen concert. I draped my flag across the barrier in front of where Cohen would be and when he came back on stage he read it and a smile lit up his face. That moment will live in my heart forever and it made any anxieties I had about travelling alone to a foreign land to see him completely worth it.
It was an amazing feeling listening to So Long Marianne after this. Normally at Cohen concerts everyone sings along to this but the crowd here were somewhat reserved! I personally did sing along though and a few songs later I was singing along to Closing Time where Cohen noticed and smiled.
Personal satisfaction aside there were many highlights for everyone at this concert. I noticed many happy faces when Cohen performed Avalanche as he doesn’t perform this live very often. Other highlights included a stunning performance of Feels so Good the third of the new songs performed and possibly the best rendition I’ve seen of this song sofar. The ever brilliant Famous Blue Raincoat also must be mentioned along with the final song of the night Hey That’s no way to say Goodbye. Typical Cohen to end on an ironic song like this. I was very happy though as it is amongst my favourites and he doesn’t always perform it.
One of the many aspects that makes a Cohen concert so special is the wonderful band he has with him. We were treated to spectacular solos throughout including wind instruments from the super talented Dino Soldo and string solos from the legendary Javier Mas. In the words of Cohen himself The Webb Sisters are “angels fallen from heaven” and his musical director Roscoe Beck is the”pilgrim of perfection. Neil Larsen always brings tears to my eyes during his piano solo during Hallelujah. For Cohen to have long time friend Bob Metzger perform with himand with “master timekeeper” Raphael Bernardo Gayol keeping the beat it makes for a perfect combination and the respect between everyone on stage makes for a very special atmosphere which in all the concerts I attend I’ve never seen anywhere else.
Unfortunately for the fans this tour ends in December but Cohen himself promised a fan that he will be back. We live in hope that this does come to pass. He is due to head into studio to record his next studio album and if the songs premiered on this tour are an indicator of what is to come it is safe to say that over 40 years since his first album Cohen is still on top of his game when it comes to writing great music.
© Gwen Langford
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.
My So Long Marianne photo made up with all the other photos I took at the concert.
© Gwen Langford
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.