Thursday 19 April 2018

Hallelujah for Dublin tribute gig -- it's the reason why Leonard Cohen came back

Leonard Cohen sings at his comeback tour in 2008. He agreed to the tour when two tribute concerts in Dublin performed
by artists including Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker and Lou Reed, inset, were a huge success
Leonard Cohen sings at his comeback tour in 2008. He agreed to the tour when two tribute concerts in Dublin performed by artists including Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker and Lou Reed, inset, were a huge success

Brian Hutton

LEONARD COHEN was coaxed back on to the stage by a tribute gig in Ireland, his promoter has revealed.

Rob Hallett, the concert impresario who persuaded the singer and poet out of retirement, said he used a show in Dublin six years ago to win his argument.

The president of international touring at AEG Live, who also worked with Prince and on Michael Jackson's ill-fated comeback, first met his childhood hero, Mr Cohen, in February 2007.

The singer, then retired, was under financial pressures and the pair sat down and talked about touring.

"He had several concerns -- the main one was that no-one would want to see him," Mr Hallett recalls.

Despite worries about embarrassing himself, the promoter and life-long fan persuaded Mr Cohen there was a massive audience waiting to see him mainly on the back of a two-night tribute concert in Dublin, called 'Came So Far for Beauty', the year before.

The bill for the tribute concerts included Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Beth Orton and Jarvis Cocker.

"I said: 'Leonard, if a bunch of people who are not that well known can sell out two nights at The Point in Dublin just singing your songs, imagine how many nights you could sell,'" he said.

"That was a major feature of my argument."

After agreeing to rehearsals, Cohen did small gigs in obscure parts of Canada before his celebrated 2008 comeback concerts in Dublin's Museum of Modern Art, in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Mr Hallett said it was the first time he had played to 10,000 people since the 1970s.

"Dublin affected the whole flavour, size and shape of the tour," he said.

The promoter remembers how Mr Cohen turned down VIP guest Bono's request to meet up for a drink afterwards because he was too tired.

"Then Bono said how about lunch tomorrow, and Leonard said tell him, thank you very much, he's a lovely man, but I'm tired and I have another show to do," Mr Hallett recalls.

"That became the flavour of the whole tour, from Bono, to Joni Mitchell, Elton John to presidents of countries."

However, plans for a Leonard Cohen extravaganza at Lissadell House this year have been scuppered over a row about rights of way through the estate.

"I was working on a series because we think Lissadell is a magical place," Mr Hallett said.

Mr Cohen, a fan of WB Yeats, opened a museum to the poet at the house during his gigs there two years ago but that has since been closed to the public, along with the house and gardens.

Irish Independent

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