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.

 

 

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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.