Hallelujah, as Cohen plays Lissadell


The mutual appreciation society that is Leonard Cohen and his Irish fans was renewed last night in the beautiful surrounds of Lissadell House in Co Sligo.

Cohen said he was honoured to have such an “historical setting” and delighted the near-capacity crowd of 10,000 by reciting WB Yeats’ poem In memory of Eva Gore Booth and Constance Markiewicz which begins

"The light of evening, Lissadell,

Great windows open to the south,

Two girls in silk kimonos, both,

Beautiful, one a gazelle.”

He said he had learned the poem 50 years ago in his home town of Montreal. “I never knew my steps would take me to this place that I would receive such a welcome sheltered in the spirit of the great master,” he said referring to Yeats.

Concert promoter John Reynolds said Cohen had spent two hours before the concert looking around the Yeats’ Gallery in the house which is now owned by the barrister couple Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy.

“He said in his own words that he was humbled by the experience,” Reynolds said.

Cohen also changed the lyrics of Hallelujah to “you don’t think I’d come to the Yeats’ county just to fool ya”.

The start of the concert was delayed for a half-an-hour to allow for the long traffic jams. Cohen, now 75, went on stage at 8pm and finished at 11.40pm. He tried out a number of new songs including Born in Chains, only the second time it has been heard live, and The Darkness.

The songs are likely to be part of a new album Cohen is planning for next year.

The stage for his concert was framed on one side by a mist-covered Ben Bulben and on the other by Sligo Bay with the lights of Sligo town in the background. The house itself provided the backdrop for the concert.

It was a chilly evening and the band had an electric heater on stage for the first half of their performance.

The site showed evidence of three weeks of wet weather with sawdust everywhere, but the rain, which threatened all evening, only arrived at the very end of the concert.

It was Cohen’s eighth Irish concert in just two years after a hiatus of more than 20 years which had led most of his fans to believe he had retired.

Nevertheless, the enthusiasm remained undimmed among his fans or among the people of Sligo. A banner in Sligo town welcomed Cohen to the town and a series of event s were planned over the weekend to coincide with the biggest music event the county has ever hosted.

It is expected to be dry for tonight’s concert.