Remembering Lissadell 5 Years On

Today is five years since the first of Leonard’s Lissadell concerts. So much has happened in those five years. On the night I thought it was going to be the last time I saw Leonard in concert, but such was the brilliance of that night, I just knew I had to see him again, and there started a wonderful journey, which I am still on! Details of that journey is what this blog is all about!

While this drawing isn’t as good as I’d like, I just couldn’t let today pass without honouring it in some way. The drawing is of a photo I took of Leonard during that concert on July 31st 2010.

Leonard Drawing

 

 

I think I am better at editing photos than actually drawing them. This was a photo I took of the screen and just did a few tweaks on it today.

Leonard Photo

The wonderful memories of that night live on in my heart and the hearts of everyone blessed to have been there on that night, a night I then described as magic and a word that suffices!

As I once said to Leonard, Thank you for the magic and memories of Lissadell.

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.

 

 

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.

5 Images, 5 Magical Nights

July 23rd 2009 The O2 Dublin Ireland

 

31st July 2010 Lissadell House Sligo Ireland

 

October 4th 2010 The Spodek Arena Katowice Poland

 

10th December 2010 The Colosseum Caesars Palace Las Vegas US

 

11th December 2010 The Colosseum Caesars Palace Las Vegas US

All photos:

© Gwen Langford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honouring Leonard at Lissadell, Plaque Presentation at a Canadian Maple: 21/09/10

When the announcement was made that Leonard was to perform it was suggested via the Leonard Cohen Forum that a Canadian Maple be planted in his honour in Sligo town. However this was later decided to be located in the grounds of Lissadell House. Some of us then decided we would lay a plaque at the tree in Lissadell in honour of the concerts. Mick Purcell deserves all the credit for the work involved in this project and I was honored to have my idea of the Unified Heart included. It was decided that we would put the plaque at the tree at midday on Leonard’s 76th birthday. It was my honour to accompany Mick Purcell to Sligo to do this. We went down the previous day to stay over night and stayed in The Pier Head Mullaghmore which was the hotel Leonard and the band had stayed in when they had the concerts in Lissadell. On the morning of 21st of September as the sun was rising I took an early morning walk as I love this time of day and also because I know that Leonard also likes early more walks and it was my homage to him to do the same on his birthday. It was on this walk I took the photo of the birds on the wires 🙂 It was very special for me when we left the plaque at the tree. Some our Forum friends donated money towards the cause so it was a present from many of us and I hope someday Leonard gets to visit the spot and see it for himself.

 

 

All Photos

© Gwen Langford

Photos: Lissadell July 31st

 

 

All Photos

© Gwen Langford

 

Leonard Cohen, Lissadell July 31st Concert Review

Leonard Cohen and Lissadell House, surely a match made in heaven was the thoughts that crossed my mind many times over the last few months, as I waited for what could be the most magical concert I’d ever be lucky enough to attend.  Leonard having been a lifelong fan of the work of W.B Yeats relished the thoughts of performing there as much as we the fans relished the thoughts of seeing our Poet in possibly the most amazing location possible.

Having seen Leonard live last year and that gig being absolutely amazing, I have never before felt so much excitement and impatience in the build up to a gig. Could the tantalising mixture of Leonard and Lissadell really be a recipe for a night we would never forget? The answer to that is a resounding yes! From start to finish this was the most amazing concert I’ve ever attended. Having possibly the greatest poet of our times performing in the place that inspired his hero added a certain magic that I don’t believe I’ll ever witness again in my lifetime.

Playing for an impressive 3 hour 45 minutes with only a 20 minute interval Leonard and his fantastic band delivered to the highest possible standard playing the songs we so love to hear, and adding in couple of new songs to whet our appetites for the promised new album due in the spring of next year. Dance me to The End of Love was the opening song of this wonderful night followed by The Future and Ain’t no cure for Love, in what was a serenely mellow first half. I find it impossible to pick a musical highlight for this half since every song is a highlight in itself. The mix of Leonard’s sultry tones and the fabulous musicianship of his incredible band was musical poetry to me ears. However as wonderful as all the familiar tunes were I was delighted to hear the first of 3 new songs, Born in Chains. This new song showcases that even in his mid seventies Leonard can still write great melodies and fantastic lyrics. What I especially loved was that Leonard shared the singing of this song with the sublime Webb Sisters and his extremely talented co-writer Sharon Robinson.

My highlight of the first half wasn’t even the music but was when Leonard said he was delighted to be playing at Lissadell and quoting Yeats “The light of evening, Lissadell, great windows open to the south, two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle” before quoting what is possibly his own greatest lyric “Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in”. He then preformed Anthem from which that song lyric came from to take us to the interval.

Like the 1st time I saw Leonard live the 2nd half proved to be my preference even though nearing the end Mother Nature treated us to misty rain! My favourite of Leonard’s songs Hallelujah and So Long Marianne were preformed in this half. Hallelujah is in my humble opinion the greatest song ever written and it has to be my ultimate concert highlight hearing it sung live by its creator.  Leonard starts and ends this song on his knees and delivered an outstanding performance that even though familiar to my ears gave me Goosebumps and had tears streaming down my face. Even now as I’m transported back to that moment I find my eyes filling up.

Hallelujah aside, like the 1st half it is extremely difficult to pick individual highlights because everything was sublime.  I am probably starting to sound like a cliché but I’m overwhelmed by the intensity of this amazing experience and feel so lucky to have witnessed this magical encounter. It must be noted how brilliant Leonard’s band is. During various moments during the night we were treated to solos form most of the band including Dino Soldo and Javier Mas. As mentioned before as always Leonard’s backing singers, The Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson were outstanding. The mutual respect between both Leonard and his band is plain for all to see and adds to what is already an excellent ambiance.

Even after the incredible 3 hours and 45 minutes Leonard who will be 76 later this year was still in top form but there had to be an end and it was a touching end when he performed Lover, Lover, Lover which wasn’t even on the setlist. Other songs of note during the night included Famous Blue Rain Coat, Suzanne, In My Secret Life, First we Take Manhattan and I’m Your Man. It was a special moment for me when my friend who accompanied me to the concert started cheering after this song even though she isn’t a massive fan.

I know I could have easily listened for even longer to the concert but respect to Leonard that at his age he puts younger artists to shame and maybe they should take note on how to deliver a night of perfection where it is impossible to find fault in anyway. The interaction between us and Leonard, and also among the fans helped make this a night never to be forgotten. There was a big contingent of the “Leonard Cohen Forum” at the concert with over 90 of us having specially made name tags in honour of the special occasion. This interaction with people who are strangers showcased the magic and lure Leonard has among his faithful followers.

As I walked out of the Lissadell estate I had feelings of utter happiness and sadness mingled in. Happiness that not only did the gig live up to expectation but managed to surpass it in every possible way but sadness that what will possibly have been the best concert I will ever attend was over. I thank Leonard Leonard for the music, the lyrics and for being such an amazing human being and sharing himself with us and I also thank the Cassidy family for allowing this fantastic concert to take place in their front garden. I and all the other fans will be forever indebted to their generosity.