CONCERT REPORT: Big Chill (August 3)

Canada and Europe (May 11 - August 3, 2008). Concert reports, set lists, photos, media coverage, multimedia links, recollections...
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CONCERT REPORT: Big Chill (August 3)

Post by commonweal » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:00 am

Alright, so this is the end of the road for a few short weeks. Let's make it a good one.

Weather forecast is mixed, so there may be some mud. But, Leonard, if you or the band are reading this, please don't feel you have to cut the gig short no matter how horrible the famous British summer weather gets. We are hardy folk and can take it you know. If we get our summer colds there is time enough before the Fall tour to recover.

I'm off at the crack of dawn, and will not be back before late on Monday. Will Martha Wainwright sing The Traitor? Will Beth Orton sing Sisters of Mercy? Will Leonard sing Famous Blue Raincoat?

All will be revealed over the weekend, and we can discuss and digest it all as we while away August and September ready for more (yes, more) just as it starts to get dark again.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by AndrewGMooney » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:07 am

Truncated set due to festival running order. Didn't come on til gone 9, rather than 8:30 as previously suggested.
Sadly, this meant no 'If It Be Your Will'...! No 'Boogie Street', 'Democracy' or 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' either.
Very few band introductions. A real sense of urgency to make the best use of the time available.

It didn't rain during the set, having done so earlier, but it was cold! However, a very warm welcome was extended from the large crowd.
Leonard and the band seemed in good cheer for the final night of this first leg of the tour.

Firework display and huge bonfire started mid-set. Very 'festive' atmosphere. Someone next to me had some incomprehensible flag and finally was persuaded to take it down and stop blocking people's sight-lines. Lots of singing along, some even in tune!

I live 8 miles from the site. I expect all the other Leonard Cohen fans are still in the techno tent listening to some 'bangin tunes' as i believe the youngsters call their music. It goes on unti 4:00 in the morning. As I left an orchestra was playing on the main stage. Playing what appeared to be 'hip-hop', but I was too tired and cold to give them the attention they deserve.

Many thanks to Leonard, the band, the crew and the crowd who created such a great atmosphere.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by Diane » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:21 am

We were right at the front. It was fantastic. Leonard was beautiful. I'm very tired and very happy. Good night.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by secretchord » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:29 pm

just got back, how many more superlatives can you keep piling on?

Leonard and the band just seem to get better (I was at two of the Op. House shows), this was an amazing gig, something about being outdoors, the festival atmosphere etc

too short of course but some of the songs really rocked, Everybody Knows, I'm Your Man, First we Take manhattan

the friend I went with wasn't particularly a fan although she likes the 'classics' such as Suzanne etc and her view was the 'that's as close to perfection as you can get'

the orchestra on after Leonard was in fact The Bays - they were something else again, mindblowing stuff
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by Steve Wilcox » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:15 pm

It was one of the most anticipated festival appearances of the summer and, when called to the stage on Sunday, Leonard Cohen didn't disappoint. Currently enjoying a new burst of enthusiasm for his music, Cohen's performance at the Big Chill Festival stunned crowds in much the same way he did at the recent Glastonbury festival.

The legendary Leonard Cohen, who sang at the finale, seemed to epitomise the cross-generational divide of The Big Chill. As Cohen, 73, skipped around the stage in his trade mark black suit and Fedora, teenage fans, in hot-pants and minis, their faces daubed with ulttra-violet 'war-paint' by StarGazer, sang along to all the lyrics.

And so to the act we have not dared to anticipate. At 73, and with a career spanning four decades, how can Leonard Cohen possibly meet expectations? Quite simply, he doesn't. Instead, he surpasses them and proves himself a septagenarian dark saint, with an impossible sex appeal, and a humble sincerity of performance that makes him sound as though he bleeds and burns every word he sings. Most of the favourites are there; 'Tower of Song', 'Suzanne', 'Goodbye, Marianne', 'That's no way to say goodbye', 'Dance me to the end of love', 'Bird on the Wire', and a soul-soaring version of 'Hallelujah' which has the unusually tuneful crowd serenading Cohen himself with the chorus. His delivery of 'I'm your man' is so erotic, he could still have his pick of the female audience (and probably some of the male), irrespective of age. Cohen the man may have an ego, but the Cohen the performer certainly doesn't. And it's this generosity, this willingness to share his capacity for rendering human experience in lyrical song that make for an utterly spell-binding performance and the unquestionable highlight of the Big Chill.

from - "Boosh bomb but Cohen is class at Big Chill"
The upstarts impressed but it took a 73 year-old miserablist to end the weekend on a high. Leonard Cohen's voice has dropped an octave since he recorded much of his best work but following tentative steps through Suzanne, he sparked a mass singalong with the oft-covered Hallelujah. Not the obvious cause for ear-to-ear grins then but, like much of this festival, the biggest thrills came from the most unlikely of sources.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by Diane » Mon Aug 04, 2008 10:31 pm

I was very happy to arrive yesterday at Eastnor Park in the Malvern hills which already had happy associations for me as I have been there in the past for excellent mountain biking events. The Big Chill sure is a huge place, and it took a while to get into it, walk around all the event tents and stalls, and soak up the atmosphere. Ages of attendees were from babyhood to people in their seventies and many were in fancy dress. As Rob later commented, it would be difficult to dress in such a way as to stand out there! I met up with Jonesey and her friend Marie-Rose and a young man named Casper, and then we all met with Rob and Ann. Thanks for sharing the memories with me, people, you were a lot of fun to be with!

We tried to contact loulou and Steve and Habie, but without success unfortunately.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by Diane » Mon Aug 04, 2008 10:38 pm


Of the music that I payed attention to, I enjoyed African Headcharge, and especially The Imagined Village. We were at the front to see them, having already claimed our spot in readiness for Leonard. One very memorable song was Tam Lyn, with Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah reciting the story on-screen, and with some marvellous drumming and fiddling going on. Riveting Stuff. We then had to endure a screeching French girl called Camille and her band for an hour, but many people seemed to enjoy her show so whatever floats your boat.

And then on Leonard's band came, and then on he came, and somehow many thousands of people seemed to have congregated behind us and they were all rapturous from the start, and yet quiet during the songs (other than the choruses of the singalong ones, Marianne, Hallelujah, First We Take Manhatten). He showed no sign of being tired on this last day of the summer tour, and expressed regret than he couldn't play for longer than an hour and a half, as secretchord said. He had the doo dum dum joke very well honed, and he spun it out, and had the entire audience dying to hear what the ultimate meaning of life was, from the man they knew would know if anybody on this earth did. Brilliant.

This is the fifth time I have seen Leonard on the summer tour, all outdoor venues, all with their own special atmosphere and unspoken personal highlights. It was a dream to be close to him on the final night of the Summer Tour. Driving home I was listening to Songs of Love and Hate, and just wondering how one man can be such a genuis with words, have such a magnificent voice, and display such generosity, graciousness and humility, night after night, and at the age of 73. I feel so honoured to have witnessed these concerts.

The burning honesty of what he brings to the world has a very precious beauty. Thank You Leonard.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by tomsakic » Tue Aug 05, 2008 2:07 pm

Anthem from the Big Chill: - Last song on the 2008 Summer Tour...

Tower of Song -
Dance Me to the End of Love -
Ain't No Cure For Love -
Bird on the Wire -
Who By Fire -
So Long, Marianne - - with audience, and heart-breaking
Closing Time -

All videos by routeoz. I must say these are among best videos from this tour.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by UrPal » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:36 pm

The atmosphere down the front during LC's performance at the Big Chill was electric. I hope the vids do it justice.

I stood waiting a solid five hours plus down near the front - part of it washing my eyelids in the rain - but it was worth the wait.

I didn't realise it before going, but the Big Chill started as a ravers do in the mid-nineties. Before booking I had wondered why I had heard of so few of the headline acts, but that became obvious once I saw all the banging DJ sets going on around site on the rainy Friday night.

The dance scene not exactly being my thang, the next couple of days were spent "chilling" in a big way whilst waiting for the lyrical to come. Fortunately the Saturday was mostly glorious sunshine, so relaxing in a valley of fields and woodland on the Hereford/Worcester border with the Malvern Hills in the background wasn't too challenging an ordeal.

Leonard Cohen seemed an odd choice to be appearing at and headlining an electro-dance orientated festival, but the reception from the crowd was very warm and respectful with a good dash of fun in place of the "earnestness" that has perhaps tempered the "mainstream" gigs on the tour.

Afterwards, as I stood with my 24 year old companion waiting for a cup of tea to warm up, I noticed tears were welling in her eyes. I thought something was wrong. It turned out she had been overwhelmed by the experience. And the sadness in some of the songs. A year or two back she didn't even know who Leonard Cohen was and now she loves him.

Not bad going for an old fella. Still charming. Still breaking hearts.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by secretchord » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:13 pm

UrPal wrote:The atmosphere down the front during LC's performance at the Big Chill was electric. I hope the vids do it justice.
well I've just sat and watched them all and yes they do it justice (I was about 10 people or so from the front, it was amazing)
...that David played and it pleased the Lord...
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by scorp » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:26 pm

hi it's scorp (routeoz) here. here is a still i took of the crowd, using my camera's night time vision mode (which i also used in most if not all of the clips).

You can save it from flickr...makes a half decent screen saver and is more impressive when blown up to screen size. The grainy apprearance is due to the night vision mode, but maybe that gives it edge.
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by Ziyad » Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:39 pm

Thanks all for the posts, piccys and videos.

I went with my family and my 2 daughters (10 and 12) who have been to about 10 gigs in their life - but incredibly Leonard is the nearest they've ever been to the front (we were 2nd/3rd row) and they loved it. We were in the gods at the O2 and for them, the Big Chill was more special. Especially as they could sing along to their hearts delight - I had to ask them to quieten it down for Suzanne at the O2 as we were in danger of kicking off an international incident!

I've now seen him 5 times this tour - and would recommend all to try to see at least 1 festival show as well as the full 3 hour show. In English sit down venues, based on my experience in Manchester twice and London, we are very reverential and quiet, whereas at Glastonbury and The Big Chill, there is much more of a live atmosphere with the crowd interacting, singing, dancing, punching the air and a bit of general mayhem. Both types of shows are different, and both are experiences that should not be missed. I was told by someone who saw the Dublin and Amsterdam shows that they were more like the UK festival appearances.

I asked my daughters what they preferred and their reaction was the atmosphere and fun of the Big Chill, but the sound was a lot better at the O2 - "I can't hear the lovely guitar" meaning Javier. And they both loved singing along. It was magical watching my children's reaction at TBC. My youngest is now a Lenny expert and she sat me down to watch LC on You Tube, showing me how even back in the 70's he held the mike in one hand and the wire in the other as he does today! Interestingly she forced me to watch the official video of First We Take Manhattan with her as she had not been able to watch it by herself on You Tube - it was too scary.

Unlike Diane, I thoroughly enjoyed the battiness of Camille, but I slightly knew what to expect as I am a fan of Nouvelle Vague her previous band. The Big Chill and Glasto were quite similar - Glasto had Democracy in addition and at Glasto he finished with Anthem and Manhattan, whereas they were transposed to better effect at TBC. For me, Anthem is the song that takes special place on this tour and I was pleased he ended with it at the last concert of the summer tour. There was slightly more mayhem at Glasto - probably the sheer numbers, the younger audience of non-fans, and the recreational drugs.

Interestingly, my partner commented that Leonard seemed to be much more tired than at the O2, and she could hear it in his voice and she felt in some songs - the tune, the singing and the Lenny's timing were not quite as together at TBC. I kinda know what she meant, but I'm not really sure.

I do have some misgivings about the live shows - they surfaced more at the O2 when I had far a worse position that at Manchester or Glastonbury and went with a group of 12, including some old friends who had seen Lenny in the 70's and 80's with me, but who were not obsessive fans, so perhaps I was slightly looking at the gig from their eyes. I also went with a friend who doesn't like live music and another who does and who shares my passion for new and live music but who I knew felt LC's music was limited - "barmitzvah cabaret" as he put it. Interestingly, the person who has no time for live music loved LC, as did a friend who loves music, knows Lenny's music and had never seen him live. The friend who I regularly go to Glastonbury with and to see the latest new bands couldn't get past the music to the lyrics. Of the 3 who had seen LC with me from my youth, the common complaint was the music was too polished, too many distractions e.g. repetitive band intros and a lack of real passion from LC. I can't agree with the final point, but there are changes I would make.

It's tough for me to write this, bearing in mind, I would happily have seen every date on this tour if I could, and I will be going to at least 2 dates in the Fall tour. I think the band are great, but I would prefer them to be involved partially, maybe for a third or half of the set. I miss the intensity of the pared down performances that typify my favourite LC (and favourite album off all time) - Songs Of Love And Hate. I know he is 73 and I am grateful that I have had the chance to see Leonard live again - when he went up on Mount Balti I never thought I'd see Leonard perform again. And I'm grateful that he has battled many of his demons, but as a live show, we get too much light and too little dark. Perhaps 1 hr of solo acoustic, 1 hour of a small band and 1 hour of the current band would work better. Also, whilst lyrically, I understand that I'm Your Man and The Future project a worldview that LC is comfortable at exploring - and don't get me wrong, Anthem is absolutely breathtakingly magical, I selfishly want Avalanche, Dress Rehearsal Rag, Last Year's Man, Joan of Arc, Famous Blue Raincoat (which he hasn't played at any of the 5 shows I've seen), Last Year's Man, Sing Another Song Boys, Diamonds In the Mine, Nancy, Chelsea Hotel, Take This Longing, A Singer Must Die, Lover Lover Lover, Leaving Greensleeves, One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong, Stranger Song, Teachers, You Know Who I Am, Please Don't Pass Me By, The Partisan, A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes. Also, it would be interesting to resurrect songs from Death Of A Ladies Man.

I know the answer - his pain is no credential here, he sings what he feels. He is no longer the same tortured soul he was. But I still want more unpredictability and messiness. Also, I want more talking between songs. Many can sing, but no-one can tell tales like LC.

Of course I know I am being churlish. He is 73. He is playing for 3 hours, almost every night. If someone had told me I would be lucky enough to see him do three 3 hour shows in 2008, as well as seeing him at Glastonbury, on the Pyramid stage, my favourite music venue in the whole wide world, I would have bitten there hands off for the opportunity. But like the lady in her darkened door, I am selfish and I want more. So if you are listening Leonard, please give us more of the dark stuff, preferably solo!

By the way, perhaps someone from the forum, made me an incredibly proud father on Sunday night. The had made space for my 10 year old in the 2nd row at The Big Chill, and he told her and me that I had brought her up very well because she adores LC - Suzanne is in her top 5 of favourite ever songs - and she knew the words! As I said to my partner, from a fellow LC obsessive, that is the highest compliment possible!

On a final note, I drove home on a high, totally wide awake at 3am, thinking of LC at the Big Chill, and listening and singing along to the selection of songs he’s been playing this tour. In terms of satisfaction, Leonard always provides 100%, but I still want 110%!
1974 London RAH|1976 London RAH, London New Vic x 3|1979 Manchester|1985 London Hamm x 2|1988 London RAH x 3|1993 London RAH x 2|2008 Manchester x 2, Glastonbury, London O2 x 2, Big Chill, London RAH, Brighton|2009 Weybridge|2012 London Wembley|2013 London O2 x 2

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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by secretchord » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:23 am

very interesting post ziyad, much that I agree with

I too felt the difference between the reverential and meditative atmosphere (at the Opera House in my case) and the unrestrained exuberance at the Big Chill, I appreciate both of them but for sheer ecstatic celebration of Leonard and his genius I preferred the Big Chill, I could sing and dance to my heart's content and nobody minded, most other people were doing it too and the feeling of community and shared joyfulness was something I have rarely experienced

much as I disagree with the 'barmitzvah cabaret' comment I also would give practically anything to see Leonard playing solo with an acoustic guitar, I saw Beth Orton the previous day and she was great, very simple, direct, just her and one other musician, she was totally captivating and authentic, if only we would have the chance to see Leonard like that

but I'm very very happy with what happened at the Big Chill on sunday evening, no complaints from me
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Re: Big Chill (Aug 3)

Post by pegasus4 » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:49 am

This last month I have been lucky enough to see two of the best concerts I have ever seen. One was the magical performance given by Leonard in Amsterdam. The other was an awesome performance by Tom Waits in Dublin last Friday.. Both artists in their inimitable way dig deep, very deep and to see them both at the top of their game was an absolute privilege. To be able to see Leonard again at the Big Chill was an added bonus. Unfortunately, whilst Leonard and the band and angels did not disappoint there were frustrations to contend from where we were watching. From previous comments it seems a different concert was going on at the front than half way back. Here for the first half of the act there was a continual movement of people pushing forward or moving away! Several times we had to endure people talking on their mobile phones whilst the most sublime of songs were being sung on stage. Half-way through and this had to be seen to be believed, a mother pushed her way through the serried ranks of the audience with push chair and baby until the crowd became too thick she couldn’t progress any further. Needless to say the baby began to cry when the woman halted just in front of us. And all this happened just before the fireworks and bonfire started up! But hey this was the mayhem of the Big Chill and anything goes and besides, mobile phones and push chairs excepted, I doubt if it was any different for the Sermon on the Mount. This wasn’t going to be an entirely partisan crowd and there were probably many there who had never heard of Leonard before. These things apart though the wonderful thing was that as the performance progressed the audience became more attentive and hushed or started to sing along. The appreciation grew measurably after Hallelujah which Leonard absolutely, absolutely nailed. By the end the huge crowd was in rapturous applause for a stellar performance and for all the irritations I was so grateful to have witnessed and been a part of this event. I hope someone tells that baby that she was there when a septuagenarian from Canada sang his heart out for us beneath the night sky in a field near the Malvern Hills. Thank you Leonard

A footnote.—Again unlike Diane and like Ziyad we thoroughly enjoyed Camille’s act. She, her singers and band struck up some wonderful grooves. She had a lot of the crowd dancing and jigging to her music and was brought back for a couple of encores. She has a great voice, can send herself up, has a good sense of fun and warmth and a Gallic bare assed cheek! She put us in a good mood for the main event.
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