Cohenising Dublin Beaches

“It’s just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea” LC

On Friday 12th of July I spent the day on two of the beaches in Dublin, Killiney and Dollymount and couldn’t resist drawing Unified Hearts into the sand at the sea edge and was inspired to do so by the above lyrics from Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

Killiney Beach 1

Killiney Beach  2

Seeing as this one stony beach and I'd problems finding a sandy patch to draw the heart, I decided to decorate the heart with stones.

Seeing as this one stony beach and I’d problems finding a sandy patch to draw the heart, I decided to decorate the heart with stones.

Killiney Beach 4

Killiney Beach  5

Dollymount Beach 1

Dollymount Beach

 

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Túr Na nAmhrán: The Cohen Project

When it was announced that there would be a Leonard Cohen tribute with the songs being sung in Irish I was instantly intrigued and immediately booked a ticket. I’m not normally a fan of other people singing Cohen’s song, however I liked the originality of this and went with an open mind to watch and listen to what would unfold on stage. I was also interested to hear Liam Ó Maonlaí singing Cohen’s songs as he has a beautiful haunting voice.

Also on stage with Ó Maonlaí was Hilary Bow and The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra. There was a big screen at the back of the stage where the lyrics and images were projected to help us follow the songs in Irish. The images included photos of Cohen from his entire career and also artist impressions of the lyrics by Margaret Lonergan. The songs had been translated from English to Irish by Liam Ó Muirthile and Gabriel Rosenstock.

Opening with Suzanne and Ó Maonlaí singing I was immediately impressed by everyone on stage. There was a great camaraderie between all the musicians and singers and they were all very accomplished at what they were doing. The singing of the songs was shared between Ó Maonlaí, Bow and the members of the Blake family from The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra. James Blake was standout for me with an excellent rendition of So Long Marianne. Diane Daly on violin was also very impressive and I loved her playing on Bird On The Wire and Famous Blue Raincoat. Hallelujah was the 3rd song of the night with Hilary Bow singing lead vocals. It is well-known in my circle of Cohen friends that as a rule I do not like anyone other than Cohen and Jeff Buckley singing this song. Personally I saw Bow’s performance as blending in with all the other covers, although in the better half of these covers as she does have an incredible voice and did the song justice in not going over the top with her rendition. It was interesting hearing my favourite song sung in Irish!

Other songs performed in the first half included Bird on the Wire, Democracy and Diamonds In The Mine. I was especially impressed with the later which was like So Long Marianne performed by James Blake. During Everybody Knows one of the images used included a photo of the Costa Concordia and a photo of its captain which accompanied the line “Everybody knows the captain lied”. While some in the audience found this funny I personally thought it was in very bad taste and not a good idea in my opinion that it was included. I was also disappointed with Ó Maonlaí’s version of Darkness. He seemed to overdo it and I felt it didn’t fit in with how the song should be interpreted.

I had mixed feelings at the interval having not liked the joke and also the version of Darkness so I was apprehensive when the second half begun. However it was to prove unfounded as I enjoyed all the songs in the second half and there was no more jokes! I was initially surprised when Ó Maonlaí had only performed a couple of songs in the first half. However such was the talent of everyone on stage I was happy that there was balance between the singers and it made for many interesting styles of singing throughout.

My favourite moment of the night came during The Future when my rose photo I took of Cohen in Katowice was used as one of the images during that song. It was a great honour to see the photo on the screen for everyone to see and I made sure to tell the staff afterwards in the hope that Margaret Lonergan would hear that one of the photos she choose was taken by an audience member.

Musically I loved hearing The Partisan in Irish given it is already sung in English and French by Cohen. While I of course know all the words to Cohen’s songs, it wasn’t as easy as I thought to follow them in Irish so I was grateful for the lyrics on-screen to help me translate in my mind. The Tower of Song was one of the highlights with everyone of stage looking happy and even had the organiser of the show dancing in the aisles!

After taking a bow the band returned to position for one final song and indeed one of my favourites, Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. This sounded great in Irish and I loved it as a final song.

Leaving aside the couple of niggles in the first half I have to say overall it was a very enjoyable night and I loved hearing Cohen’s songs performed in Irish. Everyone on stage did a great job of honoring his songs and the backdrop where there was often images of Cohen on-screen paid him a great honour. As my Irish is almost non-existent I can’t comment to how accurate the translations were. While leaving the venue I was impressed to hear numerous conversations about the night spoken in Irish and this was from many different groups of people! Heading back to my hotel I hope that this concert won’t be a once off and that Túr Na nAmhrán: The Cohen Project returns to stage in the future.

Setlist:

Suzanne
So Long Marianne
Hallelujah
Bird On The Wire
Democracy
Darkness
Diamonds In The Mine
Everybody Knows
Dance Me To The End Of Love

Anthem
First We Take Manhattan
The Future
Banjo
The Partisan
Famous Blue Raincoat
Tower Of Song

Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

Leonard Cohen Kilmainham Concerts Review

When it was announced that the legendary Leonard Cohen would be gracing the stage in Kilmainham once again I was very excited as I had missed his first series of concerts in the venue in 2008. It was those concerts which had convinced Leonard that there was still an audience for his songs, so for him to be returning there was something I was going to cherish, and it was an easy quick decision to go to all four concerts. I’d made a personal vow after having to miss the 2nd concert in Lissadell in 2010 that I would never miss a concert by Leonard in Ireland again.

I am often asked how can I go to multiple concerts of the same artist but for me each of Leonard’s concerts are unique and every Leonard concert is special so I just knew I’d enjoy each and every minute of these four concerts. A lot has happened on my Cohen journey since that night in Lissadell including meeting him in Las Vegas and Ghent, so to witness the magic in my own country again was something I really relished.

Heading into the first concert on Tuesday night I was very impressed with the organisers for having a an archway for us to walk through with the words “Everybody Knows That The Dice Are Loaded” written on it with Leonard’s name and unified hearts at either end. Only in Ireland would we get a welcome like that! In fact I was impressed with the layout of the venue with nice placements of coloured flags and two huge hangings either side of the stage welcoming Leonard, one with the immortal line from Anthem “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” and the other a line from the Book of Longing, ” You go your way, I’ll go your way too”.

Every night has its own individual highlights and for me it kept getting better and better as the week went on. Tuesday was special for being the first night.  I don’t think any song would ever surpass Hallelujah as a personal favourite moment at a Leonard concert and I’ll never tire of watching Leonard sing this song live and every night last week it was as sublime as ever. On the first night my other personal highlights included Light As The Breeze which we also heard the following night. So Long Marianne is always a highlight as I love the sing-a-long and adoration from the audience for Leonard. It is plain to see everyone on the stage also enjoys this song live. Famous Blue Raincoat and Bird On The Wire are also personal favourites as in the afore-mentioned Anthem where Leonard introduces each band member in turn. It is something I never tire of hearing and I got amused looks from my neighbours on the final night when I was mouthing the words as Leonard spoke them.

A slight irritant during the first night was the constant flow of people walking up to the stage to try to take photos and while I do try to let nothing distract me from the magic on stage it was hard to block this out because my seat was beside the aisle, and it was blocking my line of vision. However I did find it funny when during Take This Waltz the stewards were trying to remove people and the then started waltzing with the stewards!

Night two had a different feel for me and my seats were now for the remaining concerts in the centre block so no flow of people constantly blocking the view! I was also further back the second night but this allowed me to witness a gorgeous sunset, and also see the stars while I listened to the magic on stage. The set list remained almost the same with the exception of the inclusion of The Webb Sisters singing If It Be Your Will and exclusion of I Can’t Forget. However as I stated no two Leonard concerts are ever the same for me, and he could sing the same songs every night and I’d still be happy. Of course it is great to hear different songs performed and I do have favourites I’ve never heard him sing, however when every song every night is performed to perfection I find that I am never in a position to complain about what songs are performed!

Before the concert at sound check I and some friends spoke with Leonard before he went in to do the sound check so I was feeling a lot more emotional on this night than I was on the first. Sisters of Mercy was the first song to bring the tears as I love the line “If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn, they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.” Leonard sang this song every night in Dublin which pleased me as it isn’t one he always sings. It was a beautiful moment for me when during Night Comes On there were stars above us. This is another of my favourites and I am pleased to see that it is becoming a regular at the concerts now as it was only performed once on the previous tour.

While I mention many times how brilliant Leonard is I must state that compliment is extended to everyone on stage. I am loving the addition of Alexandru Bublitchi to the band. The violin is an instrument that really compliments Leonard’s songs. Mitch Watkins as lead guitarist is excellent and Javier Mas is always sublime on his solos on Who By Fire and the Gypsy’s Wife. I adore The Webb Sisters singing If It Be Your Will and it almost always has me in floods of tears and I am really enjoying hearing them perform Coming Back To You on this tour. It is a lovely touch having the bass player Roscoe Beck stand behind them with the upright bass for this song. As the musical director for Leonard’s concert he is normally positioned to the right of Leonard where Leonard will notify him of any song changes and he then spreads the word. Neil Larsen as always was amazing on his solos during Hallelujah and I love that on this tour Leonard brings the entire band to the centre of the stage for The Partisan and we see Neil playing the accordion.

As usual for the encores we all raced to the stage but we couldn’t enter the front row, because in attendance was our President Michael D Higgins. I’ve always being a huge admirer and had met him on the campaign trail for the presidency. I have to say I did find it amusing thinking of him watching and listening to Leonard perform Democracy and I’m Your Man in the main part of the show. For the encores I was initially standing at the end of that section of the front row but an over enthusiastic woman beside me was banging me against the side of the chair so I asked the person at the end of the second row if he wouldn’t mind could I stand in front of him and seeing my discomfort he kindly allowed me to do so. This made for a very memorable moment for me when after First We Take Manhattan those sitting stood and the President sat first and looked along the row of seats and on seeing me started waving and smiling. I was in complete shock that he actually remembered me from a previous brief meeting at a debate during the presidential campaign. I certainly wasn’t expecting that! At the end of the concert I went and shook his hand. This made for a very special ending to the second concert for me and I spent all of Famous Blue Raincoat and If It Be Your Will in tears!

After speaking with Leonard before the second sound check and wanting other people be able to have the precious memories of a moment with him I just shook his hand on Friday and then went to find a good spot to see and hear the sound check. While a friend and I were watching through a hole in the fence the wind came along and blew the fence on top of us. We found it highly amusing that the wind gave us a lovely clear view but alas the fence was soon repaired. Having missed the sound check through losing track of time the first day and having heard Leonard had sung The Guests I was delighted when he sang it again. This song has yet to be sung on the tour or indeed any concert I’ve attended. We also heard some tour favourites but special for me was hearing Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. The last time I had heard Leonard sing this song was at the concert in Katowice in 2010. I was very happy when the song was then sung during the last two Kilmainham concerts! Also sung in the sound check on Friday was Anyhow, an interesting different version we’d never heard before.

The concert on Friday provided me with a great view of the stage in the 5th row so no more distractions from those who were there to wander around and I could concentrate fully on Leonard and the band. It was a happy occasion with many smiles coming from the stage and as always many wonderful performances. Sharon Robinson was sublime on Alexandra Leaving. The more I hear her singing this song the more I enjoy it. As Leonard always states in his band introductions Sharon has co-wrote many of his great songs including this one. She is an expert at crafting wonderful tunes to match the words of Leonard and I’ve always valued her contribution to his work. Different Sides made its first Kilmainham concert appearance as did Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye which pleased me no end. I was also pleased to hear the only performance of the week of I Tried To Leave You as in the song every band member has their own solo during this song and I love when Rafael Gayol throws his drumstick in the air before catching it. I have yet to see him drop it! He is often hidden from view from the audience behind his drums but his contribution is immense as it takes a special talent to be a drummer in a Leonard Cohen concert and I love Leonard’s description of him as the master of precision in the band introductions. We all loved when before Take This Waltz Leonard quoted something which included the line “Let my people dance” This was obviously a comment to the stewards to allow us dance in the aisles during this song as we made our way to the stage for the encores.  I’ve since discovered the origins of these words are from the song Go Down Moses which Leonard edited to suit the occasion changing the words “Let My People Go” to “Let My People Dance” It was a touching moment from Leonard to all of us which he repeated the following night.

All too soon it was the final day of Leonard’s Dublin concerts. Even though I consider every Leonard concert perfection last week each night got better and better and for me the final concert was the best but that is partly due to personal reasons. I had decided the day before I would present Leonard with two red roses before the sound check from me and my friend who was always with me when I met him but as she lives in Scotland she had to miss the final two concerts. After Leonard had spent time with other people I gave them to him thanking him for the memories of a wonderful week. During the sound check while taking photos over the fence I noticed them on the stage. I was so touched by this and was completely amazed on entering the venue that night that they were still there along with a gift of a statue of Cúchulainn from another fan. After taking a photo of it on entering the venue I went for a walk in a daze only to meet Charlie Bird, Ireland’s best known news reporter and one I’ve always had a huge respect for. I told him this mentioning documentaries he had made and he kindly posed for a photo. Other well known people in attendance during the week included Glen Hansard and Niall Stokes.

For the concert my seat was in the centre which was perfect as it allowed me get a lot of photos of Leonard performing my favourite songs with my roses in the background of them. It is hard for me to convey in words how special to me this is. My own personal delight aside this concert was amazing and for me it is a very close second favourite to that wonderful night in Lissadell. The crowd seemed a lot more respectful or maybe it was just my position but I noticed very little movement from the audience. The setlist was very similar to the previous night but given Leonard’s act of kindness I was an emotional wreck and spent most of the first half in tears. Songs like Who By Fire which I normally never shed tears for had them streaming down my face. Leonard and his band were in as usual top form and like he promises at the start of every concert he gave it everything he had.

After Leonard performs I’m Your Man he normally sings Hallelujah but on Saturday night he had a treat for us between these songs and we heard a wonderful playful version of Anyhow (different from the version sung in sound check the previous day). This was the tour premiere of this song and indeed first ever performance in concert as it is from his latest album Old Ideas. On the album one would never associate it as a song to be laughed at, but between the twinkle in Leonard’s eyes and the way he sang it we had to laugh. It made for a wonderful memory for the final concert in Ireland this year. Before singing Anyhow Leonard thanked those of us who had attended all four concerts, those who travelled long distances and the people of Dublin for their hospitality. Even though he is a world famous singer/songwriter and poet Leonard remains humble and always appreciates the applause and respect he receives.

Hallelujah following this was amazing as always and I savoured every second of hearing my favourite song live for the last time for a while. As I was in the middle of my row I had asked everyone beside me to allow me move out at the start of Take This Waltz so I could make my way to the front for the encores while we stood waiting we were told we could only stand if we were actually waltzing by one of the stewards to our amusement and of course we obliged. We then took the coveted barrier positions for the encores and for what was my favourite So Long Marianne of the week. Everyone on stage was smiling as we all were backing singers to Leonard. The final song on the night and of our magical four nights in Kilmainham was Closing Time and how special this was when Leonard invited members of his crew to join him and the band on stage at the end of the song. It was a wonderful gesture which to my knowledge hasn’t happened since the final concerts of the previous tour in Las Vegas.

And there the journey ends for now. As I reflect on what was a wonderful week I continue to remind myself how grateful I am to be on this planet at the same time as Leonard Cohen.

Review: Leonard Cohen, Katowice Poland 04/10/10

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.