Meeting Leonard and Co in Ghent

Thank you Leonard and co for the wonderful memories of Ghent 😉 Some of my friends will know why I use these words 🙂

Photo Credits:

Photos 1-15 were taken by my wonderful friend Mandy MacLeod. Thanks so much Mandy, I deeply appreciate you capturing these moments for me.

Photo 16 was taken by J.S Carenza III aka the webmaster of Camp Cohen and Leonard Cohen’s road manager. Thank you Joey.

Photo 17 was taken by Ine Mensink-Jenniskens. Thank you Ine.

Photos: Leonard Cohen, Ghent Night Two

Photos: Leonard Cohen, Ghent Night One

Review: Leonard Cohen Tour Premiere: Ghent, August 12th & 14th 2012

When Leonard Cohen announced in March he was going back on tour I could hardly contain my excitement. After the amazing memories of the previous tour and especially meeting and speaking with him in Las Vegas for another tour to be announced was incredible. After some discussion with my friend as to which European city we would go to we both decided that the idea of having the chance to be at the tour premiere was something neither of us could resist. So it was off to Belgium last Saturday morning for the first two concerts of the tour which were happening on August 12th and 14th. Since the last tour Cohen has released a new album, Old Ideas and also some of the band members have changed so we were very excited to hear the new sound on old favourites and also to hear some of the new songs performed live.

As the concerts were outdoors we were able to take the opportunity to listen to both sound checks and while I am not sure if we heard all of it for the opening concert we certainly did for the second concert. It was an awesome feeling to listen knowing in a few hours we would also witness the magic. Songs we heard on the first sound check included Avalanche (which wasn’t sung live at either concert but both sound checks), The Future, Bird On The Wire and Light As The Breeze.

After sound check my excitement levels were off the scale as we waited the few hours for show time and it was so worth the wait. Cohen and his wonderful band were in fine form and they were as good if not better than in the previous tour. As is traditional with Leonard Cohen in concert he began with Dance Me to the End of Love and the addition of Alexandru Bublitchi on violin really added to the magic on this song and indeed on many songs. After listening to the 1988 tour I was looking forward to the addition of the violin since the announcement was made. I also enjoyed the addition of Mitch Watkins on lead guitar. There was a whole new dimension to the band and while I loved the line-up on the previous tour I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the new sound. After the first song Cohen thanked us for coming and then said “I think that we’re going to, with the help of G-d and two policemen, we’re going to keep on going to the wheelchair’s rust.” This sounded good to us as thankfully Cohen is still at the top of his game!

Trying to pick individual highlights in a Cohen concert for me is extremely hard as he and the band perform everything to perfection and always give 100% to the audience. However stand out moments of the first half of the concert included when Mike Scoble, Cohen’s tour manager played harmonica during Darkness. I joked to my friend that with his hat and glasses he looked like Van Morrison! Bird On The Wire is always a highlight for me as it is one of my favourite Cohen songs. I Can’t Forget was also stand out as I had never heard it live personally before. It was very special the first night wondering what song was going to be next. There will always be a core set of songs Cohen will perform at nearly all, if not all concerts and I was waiting to see if any of my favourites had got removed after the last tour and I was pleased to hear they hadn’t! Of course if they had I would never complain as Cohen gives us so much each night and since both concerts I attended this week were just under the 4 hour mark I don’t think anyone is in a position to complain about song choice. In fact each night there was 33 songs sung which from a man of 77 that is incredible.

Following on from the previous tour we had the traditional ending to the first half where Cohen performed Anthem with those wonderful lines “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” before introducing the band.

After a discussion between friends about what we all thought of the first half where we all agreed it was brilliant it was time to sit back and enjoy the second half of the concert. Also in keeping with tradition Cohen opened the second half with Tower of Song. Featuring Cohen on keyboards it is always such a fun song.

There are many more highlights to take from this; again all songs were performed to perfection. My personal highlight at a Leonard Cohen concert is always going to be Hallelujah. As I have stated many times for me this is the greatest song ever written and I can never get through a Cohen concert without this song reducing me to tears. Sitting watching Cohen sing this live while I watch is something I will never get enough of and I love the added magic by Neil Larson on keyboards. The Partisan was a special moment as Cohen brought the entire band as close as possible to each other and it was good to see Larson down from behind his keyboard with the accordion. Other stand out moments for me included The Webb Sister’s singing If It Be Your Will and Coming Back To You where Roscoe Beck stood behind them with the stand-up bass guitar. The musical director, Roscoe Beck is one of my favourite members of the band. I also loved when during Democracy Cohen played the jew harp which I confess I had never heard of before!

The magical first night was closed with Waiting For The Miracle. It is indeed a miracle that someone of Cohen’s age can deliver such an amazing concert and he puts nearly everyone else on the concert circuit to shame, the only exception I can think of to this rule is Bruce Springsteen who is also legendary at giving long concerts.

After a day of rest it was time for take two and first up was the second sound check. Cohen was on stage for an hour and a half and sang eight songs; going over some a few times making sure they were perfect. The songs included Night Comes On which is one of my favourite Cohen songs but one which he only sang in concert once on the last tour and he didn’t perform it in the concert this time either. He also sang Chelsea Hotel # 2 and Field Commander Cohen during the sound check and at my time of writing he has still to perform these songs in concert. An added dimension to this sound check was that it started raining and the owner of a shop invited us to go to the second floor of his shop where it was dry and more importantly to us we could see the stage from up there. Cohen had left the stage at this point but we were able to witness The “sublime” Webb Sisters singing Coming Back To You and If It Be Your Will. When the offer was made to go upstairs I didn’t even notice what shop we were in until my friend pointed out it was a DVD porn shop. I thought it both genius and hilarious when during the concert she dubbed the shop Tower of Porn after the song by Cohen Tower of Song.

After such a long sound check we were really excited for the concert and what treats awaited us and there were plenty. Once again we were spellbound by a wonderful almost four hours of show time and again nearly every song was a highlight. However Hallelujah aside (of course) I have to say the stand out song was Light As The Breeze. This is a beautiful song from the album The Future and before this tour Cohen has never performed it live so to hear the first ever live in concert version of this song and probably the first ever sound check of it too was amazing. This was sung in the first half and we also heard the only other new song change from the first night, Banjo which Cohen dedicated to the people of New Orleans.

Other first half highlights included and indeed this counts for these songs on the first night too, Javier Mas’ wonderful as always solo on Who By Fire and also hearing Different Sides, my favourite song from the new album Old Ideas. I love the two lines “We come from different sides of a line that nobody drew” and “Frankly I don’t like your tone”. I also loved hearing Bird On The Wire, The Future and Come Healing.

While we didn’t hear any songs not performed the night before in the second half it was still outstanding and when I saw the first concert I wondered how it could possibly improve but it actually did for me. I felt that Sharon Robinson singing Alexandra Leaving was better the second night and I also felt Mitch Watkins was more at ease the second night. This is of course understandable! I was delighted to hear Heart With No Companion sang on both nights and also Crazy To Love You. So Long Marianne is a close second for me to Hallelujah and it is always a highlight at any concert of Cohen’s. Another guaranteed highlight for me is Famous Blue Raincoat. I Tried To Leave You is always special as we get a solo from every musician in this song and Rafael Gayol demonstrates he is an excellent drummer here. Drumming to Cohen’s songs take a special kind of magic as it could easily be overdone but he has it perfected. Cohen rarely sings songs in concert by other artists but a new addition this tour is The Drifters song, Save The Last Dance For Me. This proved to be a popular song to the audience.

I could name every song sung as being brilliant as I love them all and Cohen and his band perform to perfection. It should also be noted the wonderful crew Cohen has as I have never witnessed such perfect lighting and sound as I have at his concerts and I was pleased to see this continued from the previous tour.

Music aside we also have other memorable moments from the first two concerts of the tour. On the first night it was arranged via Facebook that there would be a message for Cohen held up by the front row at the start of the concert and then as many of us as possible would be holding up the Unified Heart symbol in red printed on A4 sheets of paper. The message read “Dear Leonard Thank You For Touching Our Souls With Your Music”. There was another huge sign made by a fan for the encores which we held up when we moved to the barriers that read “Europe Is crazy For You Welcome Back”. Cohen was delighted with this and while thanking us at the end of the night he acknowledged it. On the second night there was much excitement at the front of the audience when just before show time Adam Cohen, Leonard Cohen’s son arrived for the show. Also I loved when during First We Take Manhattan the audience yelled “Then We Take Berlin” for every chorus to the amusement of everyone on stage.

As I reflect back on a wonderful two concerts and write this “War and Peace” report I am so grateful I had the opportunity to attend these concerts. It was a wonderful experience where as usual I went from one emotion to the next in the space of a few seconds. Cohen’s lyric in So Long Marianne is appropriate to me at his concerts “We laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again”, sometimes both at once. Next concerts for me are when the tour comes to Dublin in September and after the magic of Ghent I know we are all in for a memorable time and I await that with much anticipation.

Photos: Las Vegas Night Two, Tour Finale

Again I was a good bit back so not brilliant photos. Brilliant memories though 🙂

 

 

All Photos:

© Gwen Langford

Photos: Las Vegas Night One

I was miles back at this concert so the photos aren’t great.

All Photos:

© Gwen Langford

Review: Leonard Cohen Tour Finale Caesars Palace December 10-11 2010

As a teenager Leonard Cohen practised hypnotism, and I sometimes wonder is that what he does to us at his concerts, as no matter how many times I’ve seen him live I always feel compelled to go again. I’m happy to be under this spell though as it meant I have had the best experiences of my life. Having this year alone previously seen Leonard in concert here in Ireland and also in Poland I decided I just had to attend the final two shows of the tour, so it was off to Las Vegas for only my second ever time out of Ireland. Poland had being the first, such is the impact Leonard has had on my life. Since the concerts at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace Las Vegas were the final two shows of a mammoth three year tour I just knew I had to be there no matter what the sacrifices I’d have to make.

The first of the two shows took place on Friday December 10th with the final show taking place the following night. Both nights saw almost identical set lists with the only exception being the addition of Born in Chains on the final night. However no two Leonard concerts are the same, regardless of set list and while always brilliant, each night had its own special moments and memories.

On the Friday night on entering The Colosseum, for the first time, I was very taken with the design and how compact it looked. It seemed incredibly small for a venue which can hold up to 5000 patrons. I was almost at the rear of the venue for the Friday show but I felt like I was close to the stage!

Leonard and his wonderful band entered the stage shortly after 8pm to a wondrous applause from a delighted audience, where there were many who like myself had travelled thousands of miles to be able to witness the magic at the end of the tour. Hearing the familiar sounds of the now traditional opening song at a Cohen concert, Dance me to the end of Love I sat back relaxed and was all ready to enjoy what I knew would be over three hours of entertainment to come.

As always Leonard and his fantastic band performed to the highest level. It is a testament to Leonard of how well he is respected in the industry that he can attract great musicians in their own right to go on tour with him for three years. The mutual love and respect they all have for each other is there to see and really adds to what is already a perfect formula. During all of the many solo parts for each musician Leonard stands there, hat removed head bowed listening intently, appreciating every word and every note. Even though this is a familiar sight to my eyes it never fails to move me or to impress me. In all the concerts I attend I’ve never seen this high level of mutual respect before, except in an actual band situation. Lead singers may command respect but I’ve never seen it returned in the same way as Leonard returns it.

I find it hard to pick individual musical highlights as I love all the songs, and when each is performed to perfection it is almost impossible to choose individual favourites. However as always for me Hallelujah was a standout moment, bittersweet that while I knew I’d hear Leonard perform it again the following night, the end was nigh. Other standout songs for me from the first night include My Gypsy Wife, a spoken rendition of A Thousand Kisses Deep, which was unfortunately nearly ruined for me when a woman nearby started moaning really loudly. While initially funny it did become an irritant after a while. To my ears and those beside me it sounded like moans of pleasure, however while talking to a friend after the concert he told me a woman fitting the description I described was being taken off on a stretcher!

Another song which was extra special was the solo performance of Boogie Street by Sharon Robinson, who had being absent for some European dates due to illness including the concert I attended in Katowice. I was very happy to see her return and as always her vocals were impeccable. Sharon has co-written many of Leonard’s recent songs where of course he has supplied the lyrics and she the music. Along with the aforementioned Boogie Street two of these songs include Waiting for the Miracle and In My Secret Life. I absolutely love the melodies of both these songs so Sharon will always be held in high respect, and I was delighted to see her back and looking and sounding fantastic.

Non-musical highlights included when Leonard described Las Vegas as an unmagical place, and a curious place. It does seem a strange place for Leonard to perform as everything is very over the top and extravagant, which are descriptions which one could never use when describing Leonard . Usually he introduces Anthem with saying how lucky we are to gather in this privileged place while so much of the world in plunged in chaos which he did indeed return to for the final show, but we appreciated the change for one night only! It made his line in Anthem “There is a crack in everything” seem more poignant than at any of the previous concerts I’d attended.

At the end of this song as it is always the end of the first half Leonard introduces us to his wonderful band. Always eloquent in his introductions it is a part of the show I love and each band member in turn is described in a wonderful way like when he introduces his musical director Roscoe Beck as the pilgrim of perfection. However in recent shows he has taken to giving drummer Raphael Bernardo Gayol an extended introduction. While I had heard about it I hadn’t seen it before the Friday night show. My favourite quote from this new extended introduction was when Cohen called him the drummer in the quietest rock and roll band around!

Another personal highlight from the Friday show was during Leonard’s thanks at the end of the show. While thanking the fans he acknowledged that many of us had travelled long distances to be there and he couldn’t describe us as fans, that it was more than that. This touched my heart and it most certainly true that I don’t just love Leonard for his wonderful songs, it is indeed more than that!

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Friday concert the Saturday one simply blew me away. I don’t think Lissadell will ever be topped for me but this has come very, very close. Right from the start there was a raw energy to everything and the atmosphere was electric. We knew we were in for a very special night but we also knew this would be the final concert for the foreseeable future which meant emotions were heightened right from the off. This could be seen on stage too where everyone seemed to be pushing that little bit extra. It brings new meaning to the phrase 110% as that is what it felt like they were giving.

Nearly every song ended with a standing ovation at the Saturday show from most of the audience. The first song of the Friday show to achieve this was Hallelujah which is performed in the second half of the show to put this in perspective.

There was a very special moment when during the last few minutes of the interval a section of the fans started singing Passing Through and when Leonard came out on stage after hearing the fans he sang a line from it for us. For the final show it had being arranged via email to get as many women as possible to wear something with polka dots for the final show in tribute to the lyrics of Closing Time. While I did indeed have a headband on I was too far back to be seen from the stage but it was great to see people waving these items over their heads during the song with some people throwing them on stage!

As mentioned earlier in this report Leonard performed Born in Chains on the Saturday night. Having not been performed the previous night I was very pleased to hear it. There are solos from Sharon Robinson and individual solos from Hattie and Charley Webb. Mixing these beautiful singers with Leonard’s gorgeous voice makes for the most wonderful harmonies and adds such magic to each song. I do love the solos in this song and also when The Webb Sisters sing If it be Your Will as well as the aforementioned Boogie Street by Robinson. All of the band members play an important roll with many solos throughout. I especially love Javier Mas introduction to Who By Fire, Dino Soldo’s solo during Bird on the Wire and a personal favourite has to be Neil Larson’s piano solo during my beloved Hallelujah. I also appreciate the important roles of bassist Roscoe Beck, lead guitarist Bob Metzger and of course the master timekeeper Rafael Bernardo Gayol.

Like the Friday night it is is extremely difficult to pick individual highlights apart from of course my precious Hallelujah where on the Saturday night I felt my heart was breaking as I knew it will be long time before I get to hear it performed live again. So Long Marianne is also a personal favourite to hear live and it comes very close to Hallelujah both in my affections and as a personal highlight at each concert.  I was very happy when Leonard again recited A Thousand Kisses Deep this time with no interruption. While I love Leonard for his singing of his songs first and foremost, this is an absolute gem when it is recited. Leonard who was first a poet is an expert at recitation.

While the end was nigh we really couldn’t ask for more as we were treated to almost four hours of magic with only a twenty minute interval. I really felt for Leonard and his band, for as heartbroken as we were that the tour was over they have spent three years on the road together and the bond between them all is plain to see. There were tears in my eyes as Leonard said his final thanks to everyone involved over the last three years.

Now the tour is finally over Leonard is heading into studio to record his twelfth album and first since 2004. If the three songs premiered on this tour, Born in Chains, The Darkness and Feels so Good are anything to go by this record will be amongst the best work he has ever released. Rarely is an artist still at the top of his game in his mid seventies but then Leonard Cohen is an unique entity.

After the show on the Saturday night I was lucky enough to meet both Dino Soldo and The Webb Sisters. It was great being able to personally thank them for their contribution to the tour and each show. However nothing will ever beat the moment when on the Sunday morning I actually met Leonard and was personally able to thank him for the effect he has had on my life and for his amazing concerts and that I really do hope he tours again. I also conveyed this wish to his manager Robert Kory who promised he would do his best to make this wish happen.

I say thank you to Leonard Cohen,his wonderful band and crew and will be forever grateful to have being there to witness the magic. For now, I say until we meet again, So Long Leonard Cohen it has being a pleasure to attend these concerts.

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.