Ain't no cure for Cohen: No diminishing returns on reappearance

Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 01:00

FOR MANY of his fans, Leonard Cohen’s first concert at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham four years ago was akin to an Old Testament prophet coming among us to make the songs flesh.

It was his first concert in Ireland for more than 20 years and the first outside his native Canada since his self-imposed exile in a Buddhist monastery.

The memories of that show on a beautiful early summer’s evening in June 2008 have become tinged with magic. Those who were there will invariably tell you it was their favourite concert.

Few of them believed he would be back the following year, or indeed the year after that, for an equally memorable series of concerts at Lissadell House in Co Sligo in 2010.

Last night, after a two-year break from Ireland, he returned to the Royal Hospital for the first of four concerts this week in Dublin.

“Thank you for sitting in the cold and damp to listen to my melancholy dirges,” he told the audience. It wasn’t quite that bad – it was dry for starters – but there was a distinct autumnal chill in the air.

His frequent trips over here have not resulted in diminishing returns. There are only production tickets left for the rest of the run, and each night has a capacity of 10,000.

This time round he also has a new album to promote. The record, entitled Old Ideas, is a nod to his advancing age – he’s 78 in 10 days’ time.

On the opening track, Going Home, he describes himself as a “lazy bastard living in a suit”, and muses frankly in the song The Darkness that “I’ve got no future, I know my days are few”. Both songs got an outing last night.

He introduces his band as if they are the cast of a well-loved play the audience has seen many times before.

His days may be short but his set is not. Once again it clocked in at more than three hours, beginning with Dance Me To the End of Love.

Many fans were caught out by the early start of 7.15pm and were still filing in when he began his song marathon.

Those attending tonight and on Friday and Saturday nights are advised to come early.

One who is scheduled to be there tonight is President Michael D Higgins, perhaps his most high-profile Irish fan.