Remembering the Hallelujah, Toronto Concerts in 2012

So this time last year I had this image ready to post on the first anniversary of what I call my Hallelujah concerts but internet issues meant I couldn’t post then. So roll on this year and the 2nd anniversary. Great memories of a wonderful time. I guess I should have posted this yesterday but as Leonard would say “There is a crack in everything”.

Hallelujah

 

Photos by Gwen Langford.

10 Years Ago Today…….

Hallelujah

 

It is ten years ago today since this journey I am on began. Yes my friends, August 23rd 2004 is the day I discovered the music of Leonard Cohen and it is something I will be eternally grateful for. Discovering Leonard and his music has been life changing for me. I have Leonard to thank for my first ever trip out of Ireland in 2010, when I went to see him perform in Katowice and readers of this blog will know I’ve had many more adventures since then. Most recently I have Leonard to thank for having my first ever photography exhibition which can be seen in the most recent post below this one. Ok Leonard had nothing personally to do with that but it was through my love for him that the opportunity presented itself. These are just two examples of the many ways Leonard and his work have enriched my life.

This wonderful day 10 years ago has been covered before on my blog at this post: https://myleonardcohenjourney.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/hallelujah-video-and-my-hallelujah-story/

Specifically from the paragraph starting: “So why Hallelujah? Well I will now attempt to answer that question. The first time I heard Hallelujah and indeed any of Leonard’s songs was the Jeff Buckley version of the song. It was August 23rd 2004 and almost midnight.”

When I think back to that night in 2004 and hearing Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah I only wish I can remember the actual date of when I first heard Leonard sing the song. However a line of Leonard’s fits here too, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” from Anthem. This is a very good life lesson that I learned from Leonard. Not everything has to be perfect, sometimes cracks are ok. Thank you Leonard, and here is to the next 10 years and beyond.

P.S My 10 year anniversary means it is 20 years since the release of Jeff Buckley’s album Grace. Jeff may have departed our world since then but this album remains a classic and one that stands the test of time.

 

Leonard Cohen Event Dublin 2014 Review

When it was announced that the biennial Leonard Cohen Event was to be held in Dublin for the first time in 2014 I was ecstatic and relished the chance to welcome our friends to Dublin knowing that the people on the organising committee would do a fine job.

I do confess to making an error with not having taken notes over the weekend thinking I would remember enough to fill reports for each individual day. However such was the packed programme and little sleep means some of the details have slipped my mind. I hope therefore to give one report in which I hope those who were there will appreciate it and those who weren’t can be given a flavour of what our weekend entailed. Following this report I will make posts of the photo highlights of the weekend.

Last December I received an email from Paula McCann, chairperson of the organising committee, asking me would I like to have photos exhibited at the Event along with Tony Crosbie, a fellow Irish citizen and fellow lover of photography. I replied it would be an honour and a first for me because I’d never exhibited my work before.

This exhibition allowed me and Tony to attend a special reception at the Canadian Embassy for Canadians attending the Event, Forum Moderators and performers at the Event. I was  delighted to attend this reception by the Canadian Ambassador Loyola Hearn. We were well looked after, with some delicious fancy food canapés  and wine to wash it down! Paula introduced the Ambassador and he spoke for a few minutes and I was very impressed with his speech. He spoke completely without notes about the links between Ireland and Canada and had some advice for visiting Canadians to look after their passports or they would be finding themselves back in the Embassy quicker than they could imagine!

After a lovely couple of hours chatting to old and new found friends we made our way to the Lansdowne Hotel for the official launch of the Event by Loyola Hearn, who made another off the cuff amazing speech! We were treated to a BBQ, an excellent layout of straw bales and little turf burners which created the most wonderful atmosphere. Music was supplied for the first couple of hours by The Irish House Party, who performed traditional Irish music, which was great for our visiting friends. Albert Noonan had created a DVD of his wonderful videos of Leonard’s concerts to supply the music for the rest of the night.

Already on the Thursday night I had a feeling that this weekend was going to be really special and one what will live in our memories for a long time to come. When we arrived at the hotel we registered and received our registration bags which contained a t-shirt, programme, pin from Leonard and a wristband to wear for the gatherings in Liberty Hall for quick identification purposes. There was a real piece of treasure awaiting us in the programme. Leonard being the class act he is, choose the programme of our Event to announce the name of his next album, Popular Problems, and that it will be released at the end of next month shortly after his 80th birthday. I can’t think of one other artist who treats his fans as well as Leonard does. Also in our programme was note from him saying he was happy we were gathering in this great country which has been so kind to him over the years and thanking us for our long journey.

Day 2 began with coffee in the Mansion House at 11am and a welcome by, Christy Burke  the Lord Mayor of Dublin. While he was there, his second in command, the Deputy Lord Mayor, Larry O’Toole made the speech and it was followed by him and Paula singing a couple of verses of The Dublin Saunter. After a few minutes of chatting to friends Paula approached me and told me we were all going to sing So Long Marianne to the Lord Mayor. This song always gets a wonderful reception everywhere Leonard performs it but it is extra special here in Ireland so it brought back great memories when we all sang this in the Mansion House.

After some down time with friends after the Mansion House I made my way down to Liberty Hall and helped Albert Noonan with hanging our photos for the exhibition. I was very emotional seeing my work on display like this for the very first time. It really warmed my heart when I saw strangers come up and admire the photos. Support from friends is always brilliant but seeing people who don’t know me and think I have a talent is very special to me.

It was really exciting when I saw a reporter and crew from RTE arrive to interview participants and fans. RTE is our national broadcaster and it shows the high regard that Leonard is held in here that they would want to feature our Event on the main evening news. I enjoyed watching them interviewing Dermot Bolger in front of my photos and then while I was on duty checking wrist bands at the entrance to the theatre I was able to witness them at work interviewing people as they made their way into the venue.

Soon it was time for our four Event organisers, Paula McCann, Marie Nolan, Albert Noonan and Sheila O’Mahony to officially start proceedings. The first on the amazing list of talent was a five minute audio visual of Leonard at Lissadell by Yvonne  Acheson. This was very enjoyable and brought back wonderful memories of the concert I still consider to be my favourite of all time. There was then a poetry reading and talk with Gerard Smyth  and an interview of John MacKenna by Dermot Bolger. I do confess with between checking the door and the excitement of seeing my photos on display means I am drawing a blank while I try to remember what was being discussed here but I do remember enjoying it at the time. It was one of the reasons I held back writing this review until now in the hope the the fog would clear from my brain!

After a short interval we were treated to some really funny poetry by The Poetry Divas. One of their poems, called Flaming for Leonard, borrowed some of Leonard’s song titles and lyrics and had us all in stitches laughing. The final part of the Spoken Word was an interview with Lief Bodnarchuk by Tony Clayton-Lea. I was really looking forward to this because Lief worked with Leonard on all the tours from 2008-2013 as a guitar technician for Mitch Watkins and Javier Mas. Having read Lief’s book No Ideas I didn’t really hear anything I didn’t already know but I never tire of hearing about life on the road with Leonard and it was good hearing Lief explain how he got the gig with Leonard through having worked with the band Ash. Tony Clayton-Lea was a great interviewer and credit to him for trying his best to try and get some gossip on Leonard. It wasn’t forthcoming though. One thing in common with the people close to Leonard is their loyalty and it is a trait that I greatly admire.

After a very successful opening afternoon and break for dinner it was time for the first of the three concerts of singers and musicians from Ireland and abroad. Opening musical proceedings was a  Meath man Gerry Tully. I must admit I was very apprehensive about how I would take the live music. Those who know me know I am not generally a fan of other people performing Leonard’s songs with few exceptions including Judy Collins and those who have collaborated with Leonard or indeed performed with him. However I have to say that attitude has being changed after what can only be described as an amazing weekend of outstanding performances starting with Gerry!

His opening song was Who By Fire and I was immediately impressed. His set also included Suzanne, I’m Your Man, Tower of Song and Hallelujah. The first of many Hallelujah’s we were to hear over the weekend but he did the song, and indeed all the songs justice. I have to say though it was his powerful rendition of Raglan Road that was my favourite of his performances. It gave me goosebumps and got a great cheer from the entire audience after. This song has special significance because our Event Chairperson Paula is the niece of the late, great Luke Kelly. The story of how Gerry came to be performing is actually very funny. Paula accompanied a friend to what she thought was going to be TR Dallas gig and was wondering was it him for the first few songs until he did a Leonard Cohen cover. After the gig she went up to him and said “You are not TR Dallas, so who are you?” And went on to explain about the Event and asked would he like to be one of the performers!

Our second performance on this night was by a Canadian woman, Patricia O’Callaghan and her band. I am not sure I can find a good enough adjective to describe how incredible this performance was. I think my thought I had after sums it up. If Leonard Cohen songs are going to be covered this is how it should be done. Patricia is a classically trained singer and it showed in her outstanding performances of songs such as The Window, Alexandra Leaving and what was my absolute favourite rendition of Hallelujah all weekend. I loved when she sang Dance Me To The End of Love interspersing English and Spanish and the English and French for Suzanne.

After the music ended and we were all having the post concert craic I had the pleasure of speaking with both Gerry and Patricia and thanking them for their amazing sets. Our first full day had been a resounding success and after the wonderful previous day this weekend was shaping up to be one of the most memorable of my entire life. The excitement of this day was not yet over though. RTE had initially being making their news report for their Six One News but due to other breaking news they had to move it to the Nine News instead. I was misinformed that the Event wasn’t shown and then told it was, so confused when we got back to our accommodation I checked it on my laptop and discovered not only was it shown but my photos were used as the main backdrop while the newscaster introduced the story and were shown a few times during the actual report too. Not only that but Mandy my friend and travelling companion to many of my Leonard adventures was interviewed and got a moment on air. It made for a lovely Closing Time for Day 2 of our Event.

Day 3 began with a Hidden Secrets History walking tour of Dublin with  Tina Robinson. First on the agenda was a tram journey to the first point  of interest St. Michan’s Church which dates back to 1095 and has crypts with containing mummified remains. It was interesting hearing the history of the families of those in the crypts and the tour guide at the church was an impressionable fellow with his hand signals for what happened people who were too long or had got on the wrong side of the law! While most of the approximately 70 strong group took up the option of seeing the crypts, I preferred to stay where it was bright and the ground was even. I may visit again when there are less people around. Unfortunately due to time restraints I had to leave the tour at this point so to have time for lunch before heading back down to Liberty Hall for the afternoon events where I was again on the door checking wrist bands. I explained this to Tina and thanked her for what I had already seen.

The afternoon session this day was the Open Mic with fans performing Leonard’s songs and hosted by Darby, one of the Forum moderators. Proceedings were opened with a comedy sketch by Michael Wolkind. He was hilarious and part of his sketch was to give away some Leonard Cohen t-shirts to some lucky people in the audience. The first singer to perform was Don Cummer, partner to Paula, and his first song was his own version of Memories with added lyrics and story of how he first met Paula, four years previously at the Event when it was held in Krakow in 2010. I had heard this before but it was great to hear it again. He also performed a great version of  Sisters of Mercy.

There were lots of other great performers including a stunning performance from Claudia of Take This Waltz and I especially enjoyed Henning, another of our Forum moderators putting to music to some of Leonard’s poetry rather than just singing covers. At this stage the lack of sleep was starting to make me dizzy so I had to go get fresh air and coffee so had to miss the last couple of performers of the Open Mic. It was another successful afternoon.

For our concert on the Saturday we had one band, Jack Healy and The Van Diemens. Up to this point the music had being mellow and gentle. This was about to change with a full on rock performance. This was welcome to my weary body and it energised me! This concert was covers of what Jack called the holy trinity of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. I confess to knowing little of Caves music and less of Waits. However I really enjoyed Jack and The Van Diemens interpretations of all the songs. Highlights of Leonard’s songs for me included Tower of Song and a wonderful solo version of Anthem. Someone commented after, that this is what Leonard’s songs would sound like if they were covered by Nick Cave! I thought that a very good description.  I also really enjoyed his Cave covers, Are You the One that I’ve Been Waiting For and Mercy Seat.  Jack Healy is an excellent front man so I was amazed when talking to him after he says he usually is the bass player in any his bands. He told us a great story during the concert about how Mary Coughlan, a well-known Irish singer attended a Leonard Cohen concert with her daughter. After the concert she asked her daughter what she thought. Her daughters reply was it was like going to mass and having the mass said by Jesus!

Day 4 began with a viewing of Leonard’s last concert of the 2013 tour in Auckland. To have the chance to witness this concert was so special to me. The viewing was in Screen Cinema so we had a nice big screen and surround sound for the music. Leonard’s production manager, Ed Sanders, put this DVD together for us and it must be stated the fine job that he did. Such was the quality we found ourselves forgetting it was in a cinema we were watching this and every now and then there was spontaneous clapping at the end of songs. What I especially enjoyed was seeing close ups of the band and moments I normally don’t see at the concerts when more often than not my eyes are on Leonard unless it is during an actual solo! During Alexandra Leaving the DVD stopped. It turned out that while we were engrossed in the concert, outside a thunderstorm raged and played havoc with the cinema systems for a couple of minutes. I explained to Jarkko after that the DVD player just couldn’t handle the beauty of Sharon’s voice and sure there is a crack in everything.

It was all too soon time for our final concert of the weekend in Liberty Hall. On this night we had Tír Na nÓg,  and closing out the Event Ali & the Thieves. However before the music we listened to the organisers of the two Events for 2016 speak of what we can expect in their cities. First we heard from Dr. Kim Solez and Mallory Chipman who spoke about Edmonton in Canada and then from Wybe and Willy Lageveen speaking about Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Tír Na nÓg are an Irish duo, Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell who have been performing together since the late 1960’s. This should suggest I would be familiar with them but no, I wasn’t. In a break with tradition over the weekend they did their own music with only one Cohen cover, True Love Leaves No Traces. I absolutely love this song but hate what Phil Spector did to Leonard’s beautiful lyrics with his so called Wall of Sound. So hearing a stripped back version by accomplished singers was great. I also enjoyed hearing their own songs and I must say I will be paying them more attention in the future!

After a short interval our final performance  began with Ali and her band playing what she calls Leonard Cohen Koans. I am not experienced enough to explain that properly so I am borrowing the description from our programme: “Leonard Cohen Koans is a meditation on the man behind the myth through his poetry, prose and song.” It incorporated Ali telling interesting stories and then her and the band performing their own versions of Leonard’s songs.  I already knew the amazing voice Ali had having seen her perform at our fan dinner in New York last year. This was even better though. I especially loved the introduction to Avalanche. She spoke of  how a man sees a tiger and starts running and the tiger follows. The man grabs a root vine and flings himself over the edge of a crevice. The tiger is still above him and when he looks down he sees another tiger. Then two mice, one black, one white start gnaw at the top of the vine. From the corner of his eye he saw a luscious wild strawberry and holding the vine with one hand  he reached out with the other hand. Ali then started singing the song. Other highlights were If It Be Your Will and Lady Midnight which was our last song of the night and indeed the whole weekend!

To end proceedings Jarkko Arjatsalo and Michael Wolkind went on stage to thank our wonderful organisers, presenting Paula with flowers and giving them all a voucher for a meal in a restaurant to convey our thanks for the amazing weekend we just had. I always knew this would be a special weekend and it proved to be even better than I could have imagined. I enjoyed a couple of drinks in the company of everyone at the post craic in the bar of the Liberty Hall Theatre and saying goodbye to old and new friends was hard but we know we will all meet again. It is so long for now but not forever. Thank you so much to all the people who made this weekend possible.

Gwen Langford 2014

 

Concert Review: Dublin O2 September 11th and 12th 2013

When the European tour for this year was initially announced Ireland wasn’t on the list and while I was disappointed I was grateful for all the concerts we’ve had here, and had of course the New York and Brussels concerts to look forward too. To say I was ecstatic when Dublin was then announced is an understatement. To have Leonard returning to the venue where I first saw him in concert was something I really relished and after freezing in Kilmainham last year, and as much as I love outdoor concerts it was a relief to know we’d have no incremental weather to disturb us!

I was very excited and a little sad knowing that concerts were the last I will attending this year. I had gotten used to in the last year of having the knowledge of future concerts to look forward to, such is how spoilt we have been by the tour over the last year.

Like in 2009 the lighting director Ryan Murphy bathed the background of the stage in the colours of the Irish flag for us to see as we were coming into the venue. I’ve no knowledge of seeing this anywhere else. That isn’t to say it doesn’t be done at other venues, just that in all the concerts I’ve attended I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

After taking our seats in the fifth row dead centre we awaiting Leonard and his wonderful band to take the stage and when they did it was a great reception from the delighted Irish, and travelling fans, of whom there were many in attendance, from all over the world.

As always Leonard opened with Dance Me To The End Of Love. The set list for the first half of the concert is mostly the same these days so we always have a fairly good idea what is coming next. This never takes away from the excitement for me as I could witness these songs live a thousand times and never bore of them.

After Dance Me To The End Of Love Leonard thanked us all for coming, thanking those in the high seats for climbing up there and those of us at the front for breaking our household budgets in these tough economic times. While the concert tickets are expensive I personally think Leonard is worth every cent as his concerts are longer than nearly everyone except Bruce Springsteen but Leonard has been know to do even longer concerts than Springsteen on occasion and indeed the second Dublin concert was longer than the one Springsteen concert I was at earlier this year. It must not be forgotten that for a man of his age, Leonard will be 79 next week this is a very impressive statistic. Not only are the concerts long they are performed to perfection, and Leonard always gives us as he promises at the start of his concerts everything that he has got. There are no songs I’d call fillers and Leonard is never going through the motions.

I’ve often stated in the past it is hard to pick favourite moments from Leonard’s concerts because everything is performed very well but thinking back to Wednesday night moments from the first half that stand out include Javier Mas introductions to Who By Fire and The Gypsy’s Wife. He is a musical genius on any of the stringed instruments he plays and it is mesmerising watching him perform and while my tired mind can’t remember which night now on one of the nights I had tears streaming down my face during Who By Fire at the beauty of it.

Before Leonard performed Darkness we heard a what is familiar introduction to us for a different song, Ain’t No Cure For Love, where Leonard speaks about looking in the mirrors in his hotel rooms with the magnifiers and how it is a bad idea to look into these after the age of eleven and that he says to him self “Lighten up Cohen” This is normally expanded to include the line that there ain’t no cure for love before beginning the actual song. On Wednesday night he just said and “Now I am going to sing a song about it”. I can’t say if this was a mistake on Leonard’s part or if Darkness was his original intention as the set list for the last few concerts had Darkness in this position but either way I love that introduction from him so was happy to hear it!

Something while rarely fails to move me to tears is anywhere in the concerts where Hattie and Charley Webb are singing and this week was no exception. Their voices are so angelic and it is no wonder Leonard refers to them as the sublime Webb Sisters and his angels. They perform the opening lines to Come Healing and it is achingly beautiful to hear.  During the encores they perform If It Be Your Will and for me it is impossible not to be in floods of tears during that performance.

Lover, Lover, Lover brought us to the end of the first half. While I do love the song and if I take this version as a stand alone and not compare it with the original version or the one performed on the previous tour it is brilliant but I do confess I do much prefer when this song is performed at a slower pace and find it much more intimate.

The second half was opened with Tower of Song which is a great opener for the second half. Leonard is very playful during this song on which he plays the keyboards. It never fails to amuse me and having a good reaction from the audience means a very happy Leonard and therefore a very happy Gwen!

It is special to hear Suzanne after this. I’ve always love this song but even more so since visiting Montreal and the location of the line “And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour”

After Chelsea Hotel #2 we had the wonderful surprise Night Comes On. This song hasn’t being performed live in a while and it is one of my favourites from one of my favourite albums Various Positions.

Sharon Robinson was exquisite singing Alexandra Leaving. This song doesn’t normally bring tears but on Wednesday night it did. At the end of the song she got a much deserved  standing ovation from many of us in the audience. It can never be stated enough how important she is to Leonard and indeed to all of us as she has co-written so many of the songs he loves to perform for us and we love to hear.

After Hattie Webb’s solo in Take This Waltz I caught her eye and mouthed “Thank you that was beautiful” and she smiled and mouthed back “Thank you”. I was yet again a tearful wreck. I always get emotional at some point at a Leonard concert but for the two Dublin concerts I was more emotional than usual. I think it was a mixture of the fact they were my final two concerts but also the fact that they were absolutely amazing concerts. Leonard and co for me keep getting better and better. I always think the concerts are perfection but having attended a lot of concerts now I have learned there is always room for improvement and that things can be taken to whole new levels, ones which I didn’t even know existed!

From when I bought my tickets I knew that with my brilliant central location I wouldn’t be able to escape for the encores like I usually do so I stayed put and enjoyed it as much as always. Lots of my favourites are performed. I’ve been lucky to see Leonard in many different locations but I have to say for the audience participation especially during So Long Marianne means that my favourite concerts are the Irish ones. I must state though that I’ve loved all the concerts I’ve attended and to be able to witness the magic is so many locations is something I am truly grateful for and I’ve loved all the different places I’ve visited.

The atmosphere for So Long Marianne didn’t disappoint and it was amazing. A couple of times I glanced around the venue and it was electric seeing the whole place up enjoying it. The reaction to First We Take Manhattan was on a par with New York and reminded me of those concerts.

While it looked like Closing Time might have indeed being closing time Leonard delighted us with performing one last song, I Tried To Leave you. I love when this is done as each band member has a solo. One of my favourite parts is Rafael Gayol’s drum solo where he throws his drumstick in the air and tries to catch it. This time he missed but that made us all smile.

 

Heading into The O2 for night two my heart was torn with a mixture of excitement for the night to come but also with an ache knowing this was going to be my  last concert for the foreseeable future. Please readers know I am truly grateful for all the concerts I had but I’ve never become complacent and Leonard’s concerts and the times I’ve spent speaking with him are the best moments of my life.

This was an extremely emotional concert for me and in my opinion very very close to Lissadell as one of the most special concerts I’ve attended. Between a new song, the return of one of my absolute favourites Anthem, actual funny hecklers and Leonard’s closing words it made for what I can only describe as a magical recipe of perfection.

The first song to have me in tears was Bird On The Wire. Again like Who By Fire the previous night I don’t usually cry during this song but it is one of my favourites and in what I call my top five of Hallelujah, So Long Marianne, Anthem and Famous Blue Raincoat. What made this song so special Thursday night was what was an astoundingly amazing performance from Leonard. It is always performed well but I remember thinking at the first night in Montreal Leonard had taken it to a whole new level. Well Thursday night he done it again and so much so my friend and I turned to each other in amazement at the end and said something along the lines “That was out of this world” to each other.

There was no repeat of the “introduction” to Darkness on Thursday but I should make a note of a chant Leonard does to Raphael Gayol during this song. No one has any idea of what this means as I did ask a couple of the crew members who said no one has asked Leonard what it is or what it means!

I was on cloud nine when Leonard performed Anthem at the end of the first half on Thursday. I was heartbroken when I saw it dropped from recent concerts. That song is very significant to me personally and I think it is the perfect song for that part of the concert.

The antics during Tower Of Song were again very amusing with hecklers adding to Leonard. I can’t remember now what was shouted up but at the time found it hilarious. Hopefully a video will appear to remind me!

After Chelsea Hotel #2 on Thursday Leonard had an extra special treat for us, a new song called I’ve Got A Secret. I didn’t recognise the melody but immediately recognised some of the lyrics. While I couldn’t place them at that moment on returning to the hotel I investigated and discovered that they were some of the lyrics from what I call the second version of Feels So Good which we’d heard in Toronto. Speaking with Hattie Webb after I mentioned this and she told me she hadn’t made that connection and was very impressed that I did! On that first listen to the song I immediately loved it. The melody has a lovely jazz feel to it.

As much as I love Leonard singing I also love when he recites A Thousand Kisses Deep. I recorded this on both nights but missed the first few words the first night so had to try again. I’m glad I did though as it was unique the second night when Leonard had a false start due to a lady in the row behind us yelling “Leonard I’m your woman”. Normally someone yelling during this would be on the receiving end of a glare from me but given it was the start it was funny and anything that makes Leonard smile makes me smile.

As it is my all time favourite song from Leonard Hallelujah is always my ultimate highlight at the concerts. He puts passion into every song but seems to do more so in this song and for me I think the Thursday version is my all time favourite rendition. Of course the tears were flowing and more so as it is my last live performance but the tears didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the song.

Like the previous night given my central location I didn’t think I would be able to escape to the front for the encores. However seeing a huge gap directly in front of the seats I asked the person in front would she mind me climbing over the seats to which she kindly allowed and for the first couple of songs of the encores I was in the second row of standing pilgrims but then a gap appeared which allowed me to be at the very front almost centre for the last few songs. This was very special for me as the last time I was that close to Leonard as he performed was during the encores in Katowice 2010. Being that close for especially So Long Marianne and Famous Blue Raincoat is great. It means we can see the glances between Leonard and his band and also experience a up close view of the wonderful musicians.

There was a funny moment for me when having developed a sore throat and lungs from the singing along and the dry ice I was spending ages rooting in my bag for throat sweets. Having eventually found them buried under my jacket I looked up to see a confused look from Charley Webb as to what was I doing. I held them up and touched my neck to demonstrate and she smiled down at me.

It must be noted that the musicians I haven’t mentioned personally throughout this review were just as amazing as they always are. I’m just aware this is a very long review and I hope my readers enjoy it. I think I just want to have a record of as many moments of these two concerts as I can! Just to mention though Alexandru Bublitchi performances on the violin are always breathtaking and I always appreciate the contribution by the musical director and bassist Roscoe Beck.

After having Anthem as a extra song I thought maybe we’d get a shorter encore but no Leonard actually gave us an extra song there too with Save The Last Dance. While I always prefer hearing Cohen’s songs over covers I was very happy to get this as an extra at the end. Also I am rarely a fan of listening to covers preferring the originals,but maybe it my love of Leonard but I actually prefer his version to the original!

Leaving The O2 on Thursday night I couldn’t have wished for more over the two nights. We had a total of 60 songs performed, 31 different ones between the two nights. Leonard and his band never fail to deliver but on these nights he gave us everything he got and more. His closing words after Closing Time on Thursday were very special and we could tell he enjoyed these concerts as much as we do. I never thought I’d witness a concert to be on a par with magical Lissadell but the Thursday concert especially is up there for me.

Thank you to Leonard, your wonderful band and crew for giving us the most memorable nights. If these do turn out to be my final concerts I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. For now I take forth the memories and will be eternally grateful to do so.

 

 

Meeting Leonard in Brussels July 1st 2013

Sometimes when plans change it really does work out for the best! On Monday July 1st, when exiting a metro station in Brussels I spotted a Burger Restaurant and even though we had planned on eating later I suggested we go in. Having got our food and sat down to eat I was looking out the window when I saw a woman and thought to myself she looks very like Leonard’s PA. Next minute I saw Leonard and said to Mandy “Leonard is outside”. She looked at me in disbelief asking was I sure. I said of course I am and she looked out and saw him too. As he was eating we went outside and waited for him to finish and get up as never would we dare to approach in a moment like that. When he did stand up he walked in our direction and was very pleased to see us. He thanked us for coming and we spoke for a few minutes. We didn’t think it was an appropriate place to ask for autographs but did ask for photos. I’d already put my camera on continuous shooting so that one click would take a few images. Leonard was as always very gracious and it was great chatting to him about my favourite moments from the concert the night before. I told him how I especially loved hearing A Thousand Kisses Deep as he normally doesn’t perform that in Non-English speaking countries. Leonard replied that was true but he just felt like doing it the previous night. I also mentioned loving hearing Sisters Of Mercy and Heart With No Companion and of course Hallelujah as always. Mandy also spoke to Leonard of her favourite moments. Never in a million years could we have planned for a moment like this and it made for a wonderful weekend highlight and a perfect birthday weekend.  Here are the photos Mandy kindly took for me and a couple I took myself when we spotted Leonard.

OMG is that who I think it is??

OMG is that who I think it is??

Yes it is!

Yes it is!

Gwen and Leonard 1

Gwen and Leonard 2

Gwen and Leonard 3

Leonard and Gwen 4

 

Review: Leonard Cohen, Brussels, June 30th 2013

Having spent a fortune seeing Leonard Cohen in concert over the last year and funds starting to run low I had to decide on one European mainland location and when Brussels was announced for the day after my birthday it was decision made to go there.

I’ve being dismayed with how since late last year Cohen concerts have been delayed due to  the audience not being in their seats at the scheduled time so it made me determined to arrive extremely early and got there before the doors even opened. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the venue after hearing negative reports but on entering was pleased to see it didn’t look too bad and our seats were in a great location, 3rd row directly in front of  Javier Mas.

After the delay to allow the seats to be sufficiently filled Cohen and his band came on stage to a massive cheer by a delighted audience. After the opening song Dance Me To The End Of Love Cohen thanked us for coming and to those in the high seats for climbing to those high places and for those of us at the front for paying so dearly. As always every song performed was amazing and every song a highlight. In the opening half my favourites included Who By Fire. I don’t know if it was my close proximity to Javier Mas but for me it was my all time personal favourite rendition. Mas is a musical genius and his solo at the start this song gave me goose-bumps. I also loved the extended applause after his solo and when Hattie Webb joined in on the harp and Roscoe Beck on stand up bass. This applause lasted for the entire first verse. I never witnessed this before and on reading the No Ideas blog from technician Leif Bodnarchuk I see he has never witnessed it either.

Hallelujah aside, my other favourite moment was when Cohen recited A Thousand Kisses Deep. I adore this and Cohen doesn’t  normally quote it at non-English speaking countries so I was delighted and moved to tears when he did it, focusing completely and  soaking it in. Other first half highlights included an as always sublime performance of Bird On The Wire and Lover, Lover, Lover. I do confess I prefer the version sung on the previous tour but judging this version on its own merits it is great and I love the new arrangement at the start of the song. We found it amusing when Cohen started chanting nearing the end of Darkness as we have no idea of why he is doing it but it adds an air of mystery and makes for a good discussion after the concert! Maybe someone reading this can explain it to me. We were also discussing the line change in Anthem from “the dove is never free” to “the dove is always free”.

As always Cohen opened the second half with Tower Of Song and like we had witnessed in New York is continuing to joke about his keyboard abilities and running his elbows along the keys. Having looked at the set lists for recent concerts and seeing both Sisters Of Mercy and Heart With No Companion I had prayed they would remain for this concert so was delighted when they did.  As Brussels is a French speaking country La Manic and The Partisan were both performed and received a huge reception from the audience. I love when during The Partisan Neil Larsen comes down from being the organ and keyboards to play the accordion.

Sharon Robinson as always was amazing when singing Alexandra Leaving. Hallelujah as usual for me was my absolute highlight and the final song of the second half Take This Waltz, with an as usual exquisite solo from Hattie Webb and hauntingly beautiful violin playing from Alexandru Bublitchi was great.

As Cohen did his band introductions at the end of Take This Waltz some of us raced to the barriers. The barriers were closer to the stage than in Dublin last year, so I really enjoyed being the closest I have been to Cohen as he performed, since Katowice in 2010 for the encores. While I did of course love the Canadian and New York concerts I do admit I missed being able to stand in front of the stage singing along to So Long Marianne, First We Take Manhattan and Closing Time. These songs all got a great reception with lots of interaction from the crowd which pleased everyone on stage. The crowd reaction after an as always excellent Famous Blue Raincoat was so loud we could barely hear Cohen speak after it!

I understand the times when to be quiet at a  Cohen concert but there was one person who in the tiers didn’t and it didn’t go down well with me or those around me when he started shouting when Cohen was reciting at the start of If It Be Your Will. The Webb Sisters as usual though were outstanding singing this and also as usual for this song I couldn’t stem the flow of tears.

I always love when I Tried To Leave You is in the set list as it includes solo’s from the entire band. My favourite part of this is Rafael Gayol’s solo where he throws his drumstick in the air and catches it. For the encores I enjoyed being able to see Mitch Watkins as he was hidden from my view for most of the concert. However I still appreciated his input and enjoyed hearing his contribution and especially during Bird On The Wire.

The actual songs aside I just loved the entire feel of this concert. Cohen and everyone on stage was in great form with lots of smiles in appreciation to the audience reception. With the exception of the one person shouting I thought the crowd to be excellent and it always makes me feel good when I am a part of such crowds. I felt this was a very special concert where especially with the slower songs in the gentle way they were performed. In trying to put this feeling into words and thinking about it the only description coming to mind is that of sitting near water and the songs being like waves, soft and soothing during the slow songs and then more powerful but still breathtaking during the faster songs. It was simply magical and a night I’ll never forget.

When I thought my weekend in Brussels having my birthday and a concert the following day couldn’t get better on the Monday it did. After going sight-seeing we were exiting a metro station when I spotted a burger restaurant in front of us and even though we had planned to eat later we decided to go in. After getting our food and sitting down I was looking out the window when I spotted a woman and thought to myself she looks very like Leonard’s PA. Then I saw him and couldn’t believe our luck. Mandy thought I was joking when I said “Leonard is outside” and asked me was I sure and then saw him herself. We went outside and stayed a distance away as never would we dare to approach Leonard while he was eating. When he finished he got up and walked in our direction. He was very happy to see us and thanked us for coming.

After getting a few photos we talked about the previous night and the songs we loved hearing. I mentioned A Thousand Kisses Deep and how I wasn’t expecting it as he doesn’t normally do it at non-English speaking countries and he agreed with me and said that on Sunday night he felt like doing it and was happy I enjoyed it. I also told him I was happy to hear Sisters Of Mercy and Heart With No Companion and of course as always Hallelujah. Mandy also mentioned the songs she enjoyed most. After this Leonard told us we are great friends and we said our goodbyes wishing him well on the rest of the tour. It made for a wonderful memory for us to take with us and treasure forever.

Review: Leonard Cohen, New York April 6th and 7th 2013

After fulfilling a dream of seeing Leonard Cohen in his home town of Montreal last year next on the wish list was New York and Manhattan. While New York was on the list of locations last year I was unable to go so it was great when it appeared again this year and it didn’t take very long to decide to go. There are so many New York connections in Cohen’s songs and hearing the likes of First We Take Manhattan and Famous Blue Raincoat being performed in the city they referenced was something I was really looking forward to.

Heading into the Radio City Music Hall last Saturday I was very excited knowing I had two nights of Cohen and company live ahead of me. With the exception of the addition of I Tried To Leave You for the second concert the set lists for the two concerts were identical. However as I have often stated before Cohen could perform the same songs every night and I would still enjoy and relish the experience each and every time. For the Saturday concert while close to the front our seats were out to the side which meant we couldn’t see Mitch Watkins at all and only caught glimpses of Alexandru Bublitchi when he stood for his solos. However for the second concert we were in the centre so I could see all the band members and enjoy all their solos.

From the traditional opener of Dance Me To The End Of Love each night Cohen and company were in top form and it was good to see all the band looking happy and healthy given their recent flu and I was especially delighted to see Roscoe Beck looking well after him having to leave a concert early and miss one due to exhaustion.

Cohen has taken to making interesting introductions to Ain’t No Cure For Love and Anyhow on this tour and I love them both. The intro to Ain’t No Cure For Love is always variations of him looking in the mirror in his hotel room and telling himself to get a grip and when will he ever learn there ain’t no cure for love. His New York description included him describing the mirror as the ones found in hotel bathrooms which enlarge the face and how the one in his hotel there had bright lights and that people over the age of eleven should never look in mirrors. Anyhow is introduced with Cohen speaking about when he is 80 he is going to take up smoking again and he describes how a nurse, will bring out a tray with an open box of cigarettes on it and that the cigarettes will look like gleaming tiny Parthenon’s and he will ask the nurse to tap out the bubbles from the IV. During Sunday’s concert he extended this to include that the nurse could be male or female. I always love seeing Cohen and company smiling and enjoying themselves on stage. Another funny moment in both concerts was his antics during Tower Of Song. Cohen uses a keyboard for this song and soon into the song when the crowd are cheering he stops singing and looks into the crowd asking are we humouring him. He then proceeds to show us what else he can do with the keyboard and includes running his elbow along the keys.

As always I had many musical highlights with Hallelujah my usual favourite moments. I will never get tired watching Cohen perform this song. He sings this song with such an intensity that makes us forget the many covers and claims the song back as his own. First We Take Manhattan got a great reception on both nights with the audience clapping to the beat as soon as the band started playing the intro. It is the most up tempo song on the set list and the atmosphere was electric. I noticed during Democracy on the second night Cohen stood back for some of the choruses and let his backing singers sing while he danced and enjoyed the atmosphere. Having only witnessed Show Me The Place live once last year I was pleased to hear it both times in New York. I also loved hearing So Long Marianne although I have to confess I do prefer it here in Europe where we can stand at the front for the encores.  However I still love hearing the song at every concert. Listening to Famous Blue Raincoat in New York was amazing even though we never actually made it to Clinton Street! The one song I would loved to have heard but didn’t was Chelsea Hotel #2 given we were in New York but Cohen choose not to sing it. However having both First We Take Manhattan and Famous Blue Raincoat in the set list was great.

I felt while the crowd was good both nights that the second night had the edge. Every time a band member had a solo piece the crowd respectively clapped when the solo ended and it always gives me a warm feeling when I am part of a great audience and Cohen and company deserve the best in return for giving us their best each and every night. While all the band did receive a great reception it was Sharon Robinson’s rendition of Alexandra Leaving which got the greatest cheer and indeed a standing ovation. The Webb Sisters also got a load cheer for If It Be Your Will. While I’m prone to tears at any time at a Cohen concert the one song that never fails to have them streaming down my face is If It Be Your Will and New York was no exception here. The more I hear Alexandru Bublitchi on the violin the more I enjoy his contributions to Cohen’s songs. He adds a beauty to the songs and most especially in Dance Me To The End Of Love and Take This Waltz. It must also be noted how beautiful the contribution by Hattie Webb singing duet on Take This Waltz sounds. A real crowd pleaser and something I always look forward to is Javier Mas’ introduction to Who By Fire on the bandurria with Roscoe Beck joining on the stand up bass and Charley Webb on clarinet. I love Mitch Watkins solo on lead guitar on Bird On The Wire, This is one of my favourite Cohen songs and I’ve felt in shows in Canada last year and again in New York that Cohen is singing it with even more intensity than before. I’d always loved the song and always felt it was perfect but Cohen demonstrates that he can always improve on his songs and take them to a new level we didn’t even know existed.

Other highlights included Cohen’s recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep. I adore this poem and it is always a real treat to hear Cohen recite it live. Neil Larsen’s organ playing is always beautiful and especially on the aforementioned Hallelujah and while Rafael Gayol seldom has solos his contribution is immense and I love watching him on the drums being the drummer in the quietest rock and roll band in the world. He did have a solo in I Tried To Leave You and everyone cheered when he threw his drumstick in the air and caught it. This was at the end of the second of two wonderful nights of which Cohen and his band well and truly took Manhattan!

Hallelujah Video and my Hallelujah story

Here is a video I have made of Leonard singing Hallelujah using an audio file from the November 29th 2012 show in Montreal and using photos from only this song that I took at concerts in Ghent, Dublin, Montreal and Toronto in 2012.

When I am asked by people my favourite Leonard Cohen song and I answer with Hallelujah I sometimes get the reaction of raised eyebrows. It is sometimes conceived that answering with a major artists most well-known song as your favourite as a sign that you are not someone who has a great knowledge of the artist in question. I’d like to think while I don’t know everything about Leonard’s music that I do have a good knowledge of most of his work as a singer-songwriter.

So why Hallelujah? Well I will now attempt to answer that question. The first time I heard Hallelujah and indeed any of Leonard’s songs was the Jeff Buckley version of the song. It was August 23rd 2004 and almost midnight. I was listening to the radio, almost asleep when the DJ announced that as it was the 10th anniversary of the release of Jeff’s album Grace he would play his version of the song. I’ll never forget this moment as long as I live. I remember thinking how amazing the song was and it gave me goosebumps. While the DJ had said it was a cover he didn’t mention who the original singer and writer were so as soon as the song finished playing I picked up the phone and rang him and asked him. He said it is Leonard Cohen, adding knowing I was (and still am) a huge fan of soft rock that I would not like Leonard Cohen. I told him well I loved this song! For me at that time while I appreciated good lyrics the music was the most important, I had to enjoy the music before I could appreciate the lyrics. Hallelujah was the start of that scale changing for me and I now find myself drawn more and more to well written lyrics. Of course the music is still very important too.

I then made it my mission to get my hands on a copy of Leonard singing this song on CD. The DJ not a fan of Leonard’s refused to play his version for me. This proved a tricky mission. At the time I used to get most of my albums in either HMV or an on-line music store called CDWOW. CDWOW didn’t stock any Leonard Cohen albums at the time and while HMV did have some of Leonard’s albums it proved tricky getting one with this song on it. After a bit of searching I finally got my hands on a copy of The Essential Leonard Cohen in a HMV store. As soon as I got home I straight away listened to Hallelujah. On the first listen to Leonard singing this song I admit I was very taken aback as it is so different to Jeff’s version. I immediately listened to it again and something inside me clicked and I instantly felt I was listening to what in my opinion was the greatest song ever written and I still feel like this.

Trying to pinpoint exactly why I felt like this and still do is difficult as I’m not sure I even know the answer myself. I just knew that the lyrics and melody to my ears were just magical. I see Hallelujah as a conflict between religious beliefs and human desires. Trying to pick a favourite line from the song is impossible for me but two of my favourites are “Baby I have been here before I know this room, I’ve walked this floor” and “I did my best, it wasn’t much I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch”. I often quote these lines in conversation as well as many other lines from the work of Leonard.

After listening to Hallelujah on repeat a few times I went back to the start of the album and listened start to finish. How wrong that DJ proved to be. I instantly loved everything I was hearing and on that first listen the other song to really hit me was So Long Marianne. This song is very close in my affections to Hallelujah to this day. I couldn’t believe it had taken me around 27 years to discover Leonard Cohen and his music but maybe I wasn’t ready to discover him before this. I have mentioned to people that I discovered Leonard and his songs at a time in my life when I most needed it. I was going through a dark time and slowly listening every night to his songs I felt myself coming out the other side.

A few months after getting The Essential I finally found a copy of Various Positions in HMV and slowly starting adding all his CDs to my collection. When the 2008 world tour was announced the Dublin concerts were already sold out and I hadn’t yet discovered the Leonard Cohen Forum so put not having a ticket down to bad luck. I never have and never will use a ticket tout to get tickets to a concert. I’d signed up for notifications after this so I was finally able to witness the magic in 2009 for the first time. Hearing Hallelujah sang live for the first time was special moment for me. After the Lissadell concert in 2010 I was heart-broken to think I might never see Leonard live again so for the first time in my life I left Ireland and went alone to see him in Katowice, Poland and also to Las Vegas for the final two concerts of the tour. I’d never gone to see the same artist two nights in a row before but then Leonard isn’t like anyone to me.

When I met Leonard in Las Vegas I asked him to sign Hallelujah lyrics for me and on the plane home the following day while writing a review of the concerts I listened to Live in London on my mp3 player. As soon as Hallelujah came on I was in convulsions of tears. This song had literally changed my life forever. It had taken me 32 years to travel outside Ireland and had I never heard that song that day who knows what path my life would be on. Since seeing Leonard in Poland and Las Vegas I’ve also seen him in Belgium and of course the dream trip to Canada. Not only have I witnessed the magic of Leonard many times but have seen some wonderful places completely different to Ireland.  Of course when everyone and anyone started covering the song I would have heard it at a later date anyway but that doesn’t mean I would have been able to hear the magic underneath to same level as I had done with Jeff’s cover which inspired me to find the original and for me the best. That night started me on a wonderful adventure in terms of first and most importantly discovering Leonard and then discovering the Forum and through it and Facebook connecting with many other wonderful people, some now who are my closest friends. I say Hallelujah for the song and Hallelujah for Leonard Cohen.

Review of Montreal and Toronto

Ever since I first discovered Leonard Cohen I’ve had the dream of seeing him perform in his hometown of Montreal so when the concerts were announced earlier this year it was an easy decision to travel across the Atlantic to realise this dream. I had always said if I went to Montreal I would also go to Toronto and from there visit The Niagara Falls. Destiny would have it that the days we would be in Toronto Leonard would also be there so we had the added pleasure of attending the concerts there. In total there were four concerts, two in each city and like all the Leonard concerts each concert was individual with highlights of their own.

The Montreal concerts were held in the Bell Centre which is a hockey arena and is also used for concerts. On entering the venue I was amazed at how big it looked and was very relieved at having seats close to the stage. While of course I’m grateful for any seat at a Leonard concert I do confess I like to be as close to the stage as possible and see his expressions when he sings and when he takes in his surroundings. When Leonard and his talented musicians came on stage at the start of the concert everyone got to their feet and cheered to welcome Leonard back to his hometown for his first concert there in four years. Every Leonard concert is special but seeing him perform in Montreal was very special. As always he opened with Dance Me To The End Of Love and it was good to see that most people in attendance appeared familiar with all the songs though I have to say the Canadian concert goers are a lot more reserved than the Irish! I was very pleased to see there was little movement from the audience during the songs so we had no distractions while we listened and watched some superb performances.

Highlights on the first night for me included what in my opinion was the best performance I have ever seen of Bird On The Wire. Leonard’s singing and body language as he sang this song for me seemed to be on a whole new level and I was pleasantly surprised as I have always felt he performs this song to perfection so for it to be even better than before was amazing. I’m also loving the addition of some Mitch Watkins solos in this song.

Since I last saw Leonard in Dublin the arrangement for Darkness has changed with him now starting the song at a later verse than before. On the first night in Montreal we wondered was it a mistake but when the same happened the following night we knew it was Leonard doing what he often does in changing songs. He used to play guitar on this song but now performs it without the guitar. This allows him to be very expressive and I loved the body language.

It was also great to hear Leonard recite A Thousand Kisses Deep at all the concerts I attended in Canada. The last time I’d witnessed this was in Las Vegas in 2010. While I love Leonard as a singer I also love when he recites poetry as he is an expert and knows exactly how it should be done. We heard some funny intros to Ain’t No Cure For Love with him using these words on the first night in Montreal. “Sometimes, I stumble out of bed, look at myself in the mirror and say to the mirror `Lighten up, Cohen, how long is it going to take you to get used to the news that there ain’t no cure for love’?”

On the first night in Montreal we were treated to the tour premiere of Show Me The Place and indeed the first time this song was sung live as it is from the new album. It sounds great live and it was very much appreciated. Hallelujah as always was my concert highlight and I loved when Leonard sang the line “I didn’t come home to fool you”. Even though as usual come the end of this song I had tears streaming down my face this made me smile and pleased I was to be witnessing him in his hometown.

As always everyone on stage gave a great performance and it was great to see. Both Mitch Watkins and Alexandru Bublitchi appeared to have more solos than when I had seen the tour in Europe. It was also great to see Raphael Gayol had an extra solo in Darkness.

For night two in Montreal we were a little further back but not so far that I needed the screens and I could still see the expressions from everyone on stage. The first set was the same as the first set on the previous night but as I stated in reviews before if Leonard sang the same songs every night I’d never complain as when the performance is to such a high standard I feel there is no room for complaints! Of course there are songs I’ve never heard him sing live that I’d love to hear but I can’t complain about perfection.

At every Leonard concert we are treated to amazing solos and one that always stands out is Javier Mas at the start of Who By Fire. He is a genius on the bandurria and he plays with such an intensity that the whole crowd is instantly silenced and he always receives a resounding applause after his solo. I love when Roscoe Beck joins in on standup bass nearing the end of Mas’ solo. Beck is a fantastic musician and as musical director for the tour his input is immense. The addition of the violin at Leonard’s concerts on this tour is very welcome to my ears and I especially love Alexandru Bublitchi’s contributions to Dance Me To The End Of Love and Suzanne.

While the addition of Show Me The Place was much appreciated the first night Leonard had something extra special for us on the second night. After an introduction in French he sang a song unknown to me but which was very well received by the Canadians in the concert. I since discovered that the song in question was La Manic originally sang by Georges Dor, a song held dear by the people from Quebec. While I didn’t recognise the song I knew from the audience reaction we had just witnessed something very special. I felt this was very appropriate that Leonard should do this in his hometown. Another special song to hear in Montreal was The Partisan. As this song is sung half in English and half in French it was very well received by the home crowd. I love the way Leonard brings all the musicians close together for this song and it especially good to see Neil Larsen down from behind his keyboards playing the accordion.

Also performed on the second night was I Tried To Leave You. I always love when Leonard sings this song live as each band member has a solo in it and I love Rafael Gayol’s solo as he throws his drumstick in the air and then catches it. As he is hidden from view behind his drums we seldom see him but his contribution is huge and he really is the Master of precision as described by Leonard in his band introductions at all the concerts.

Visiting Montreal while first and foremost was the chance to witness Leonard in his hometown it was also the chance to see the place he grew up and places mentioned in his poetry, art and songs. We enjoyed trips to the area he spent his childhood, seeing Our Lady of the Harbour at Bon Secours which is immortalised in Suzanne with the line ”And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour”. We visited McGill University and were disappointed to see no reference to Leonard having studied there but it is a beautiful building well worth seeing. We also visited The Parc Du Portugal and were pleased to witness the first snow of winter there as Leonard has done a painting called “First Snow” at this location. We visited many other places too while in Montreal and it was very enjoyable experience and meeting friends who were kind enough to show us these places made it all the more special.

After almost a week in Montreal we departed to Toronto knowing we’d two more concerts and other special moments to look forward to. The day after arriving we fulfilled the dream of seeing The Niagara Falls which was wonderful and we were blessed with sunshine and warm weather on that day. The following day was a concert day but before the concert we had one last Leonard related place to visit. It was after we had booked our trip that I had the idea to try to get permission to view Leonard’s archives in The University of Toronto and we were delighted to receive that permission and so it was with much excitement we went to the University to view some of the items. There is too much to view on one day but we did spend 3 hours reading unpublished stories and letters. I loved all of it but especially the short stories. I won’t go into details because if Leonard wanted these in the public domain he’d publish them himself but suffice to say all the usual Leonard traits and subjects were covered and should I ever return to Toronto I’d seek permission to view these again and give myself more time!

After this it was time to get ready for the first Toronto concert at The Air Canada Centre. This concert was amazing for me and Leonard really changed the setlist from Montreal. The only one of these changes in the first half was the addition of Different Sides after A Thousand Kisses Deep. I was delighted to hear this song as it is my favourite from Old Ideas and indeed one of all time favourite Cohen songs. Other first half highlights included Leonard dancing during The Future during the line “White men dancing”. I love when Leonard is in a playful humour and he certainly was this night. I was pleased to note many smiles from the stage and seeing Leonard so relaxed.

Before the Toronto concerts I had named them the Hallelujah concerts in honour of my love of this song and the fact that the dates of the concerts were on the 4th and the 5th and fitted in nicely with the 4th line of the lyrics, “It goes like this the fourth the fifth”. I had a smile on my face as Leonard sang this line both nights. Of course this was before the usual tears as even if I don’t mention the song on every night in this review as I want to mention as many songs as possible it always has the same effect on me. This song introduced me to Leonard’s music which changed my life forever so I will always hold it dear.

There was many other highlights in the second half of this concert. This included my first Canadian time to hear I Can’t Forget and Anyhow, which I’d only heard once before in Dublin. If I’m completely honest I did prefer the Dublin rendition as Leonard sang it looking up whereas in Toronto he was looking down and I love when we see Leonard looking up when he is singing and seeing completely the expression on his face! It was great hearing yet another tour premiere on this night which was Feels So Good. This song has never appeared on an album and was premiered on the previous tour in 2009. However the version we heard in Toronto was very much different to the performances on the previous tour so much so that it was almost a completely different song.

Another highlight was during So Long Marianne when Leonard sang the words “God damn mountain side”. The last time I had heard him use those words was in Lissadell so it reminded me of a wonderful memory. There was a funny moment when Leonard thanked those who climbed to the high seats and then those of us who had emptied our pockets in the lower seats.

I haven’t mentioned it before as trying not to repeat myself but it must be noted the sublime performance of The Webb Sisters of If It Be Your Will at every concert and also the performance of Sharon Robinson during Alexandra Leaving. Both these performances every night is amazing and I never tire hearing them. Indeed there are many songs with the three ladies having solos and they always sound wonderful.

All too soon it was our final Canadian concert but the one where we had front row tickets which was a nice way to end our adventure and indeed our final Leonard concert this year.It would prove to be a great concert with some unique memories to take away with us.

During the intro to Ain’t No Cure For Love this time we got an intro with a difference. Leonard spoke about reading reviews of the previous night on the internet and he said he had seen a bad one and he couldn’t understand why he didn’t dislike the son of a bitch (his words!!) more and that he should hate him but then he realised there ain’t no cure for love. As someone who writes reviews I found this highly amusing and wondered who would write a bad review of a Leonard concert. Of course I know that not everyone shares the same opinions but bad Leonard reviews are very rare. It makes me wonder who was the reviewer. I have yet to read the review but I’d hazard a guess this person is not an admirer of Leonard’s. This does annoy me when people who are not admirers do reviews. It was once suggested to me to improve my writing I needed to start reviewing artists I don’t like. I disagreed with this as I feel for someone to write a proper review they need to at least like the genre of music they are reviewing. I can assure you all I have seen concerts of people I love and have been very disappointed and don’t review with rose-tinted glasses!

As with all the other nights there were many highlights and indeed for me every song is a highlight but of course some songs stand out for different reasons on different nights. On this night it was great to hear the tour premiere of Chelsea Hotel # 2. This was a solo with Leonard on his own with just his guitar. I have to say I felt blessed to have heard tour premieres on all four concerts I attended in Canada. Considering there had already been 44 previous concerts on this tour made it even more impressive.

As this was my final concert of the year I savoured every minute of it. It must be noted that songs I haven’t yet mentioned but love hearing every night include Famous Blue Raincoat, Anthem, Closing Time, First We Take Manhattan and Come Healing. I do indeed love all Leonard’s songs but these are extra special with the aforementioned songs for me. Famous Blue Raincoat has always been a favourite and I love the way Cohen now ends it with “Sincerely, a Friend”. Anthem is a song which literally changed my life when I was going through some difficulties. I’d only just discovered the song at the time and slowly the lyrics gave me strength when I needed it most. I always love the upbeat melodies and great lyrics of both Closing Time and First We Take Manhattan and the melody and The Webb Sisters singing Come Healing is beauty personified.

The final song was Leonard’s cover of Save The Last Dance for me. This was our first time hearing it in Canada and it was a nice way to end our adventure. We had a wonderful time in Canada and we met amazing people who are now friends and I hope someday to meet them again if not in Canada then hopefully somewhere else on the road.