Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

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honeyrose
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Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by honeyrose » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:38 pm

Not sure if this has been reported elsewhere, (I expect Jarkko will move it if it has) but there is a very interesting article with quotes from Leonard's tour promoter Rob Hallett of AEG about the 2008 tours, in the January issue of Rock's Back Pages, reproduced here. You will see at the end there is talk of further tours, later in 2009, I just hope they don't wear him out....

Honeyrose



Music Blogs > Rock's Backpages > Praise Be... Or How "Hallelujah" Man Leonard Cohen's Comeback Actually Happened
Posted Fri Jan 9, 2009 11:53am PST by Johnny Black in Rock's Backpages

Johnny Black explains how the world's pre-eminent septuagenarian Jewish Buddhist singer-poet staged the year's most remarkable comeback.

Bob Dylan's recent return to prominence as a major international artist came as a surprise even to seasoned veterans in the industry. So who would have laid odds on another heritage act of similar vintage not only pulling off the same trick, but actually outselling the spokesman of his generation?

Rob Hallett of AEG Live, that's who.

While his peers were headbanging to Black Sabbath, the 12-year-old Hallett found himself enraptured by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, the maestro of magnificent melancholy. "His music was saying more to me," recalls Hallett. "There are lines in his songs and poems that I have lived my life by."

So, on October 8, 2005, when it emerged that Cohen's former manager, Kelley Lynch, had misappropriated over $5 million from the artist's retirement fund, plus publishing rights to his songs, Hallett was saddened. "Rumor had it that even his cash card wouldn't work. That was a sad thing to me, that my childhood hero was reduced to that state."

Paradoxically, though, it was Cohen's financial plunge that triggered his current reversal of fortune, making him more successful now--in his 70s--than ever before.

"I went to meet him in his lawyer, Robert Kory's office in Beverly Hills," explains Hallett. "I started the conversation by coming out of the closet and admitting that I was a lifelong fan, I own all his albums and books, and I can quote lyrics from all his songs."

Having captured Cohen's attention, Hallett made his pitch, explaining that he believed Cohen had become a sleeping giant, one of the few artists that people wanted to see but couldn't.

Cohen, financially bereft, pointed out that he didn't have a band, hadn't played in fifteen years, and was doubtful that he still had an audience. Determined to work with his lifelong hero, Hallett offered to pick up the tabs for musicians and rehearsals. "I said, ‘When you think you've got a band, and you feel ready to go out again, I'll put it together. Then we'll do a deal on the back end, recoup our costs and you'll get the rest'."

Hallett says he then went further and promised not just to recoup everything that had been taken from Cohen, but to try to double it.

With the deal in his pocket, Hallett admits that he then faced an uphill battle to convince not just the rest of the business, but some of his own associates at AEG Live, that Cohen could deliver the goods.

On January 13, 2008, Cohen publicly announced his long-anticipated return to performing and, that February, started two and a half months of solid rehearsals with a hand-picked band.

If Hallett was having any doubts, he must have been heartened by the extraordinary workings of fate over the following weeks.

First, Jason Castro performed Cohen's classic song, "Hallelujah," on the seventh season of American Idol, exposing the song to a whole new audience. The result? On March 7, 2008, Jeff Buckley's version of Cohen's "Hallelujah" went to number 1 on the iTunes chart.

A mere three days later, Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in recognition of his status among the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters".

If it reads like a build-up that had been coordinated with military precision, Hallett insists, "All of that was serendipity. I planned none of it, but all those things made Leonard more aware of his own worth."

Cohen set off on tour for the first time in 15 years when he stepped back onto the stage of the 700-capacity Playhouse Theatre in the university town of Fredericton, New Brunswick on May 11.

Cohen had insisted on eighteen small warm-up dates to restore himself to peak performing capacity. "We kept it off the internet as far as possible," says Hallett, "and just advertised it in the local paper."

The good burghers of Fredericton gave Cohen a standing ovation before he had sung a note and he rewarded them with a three-hour show. "He's 73," points out Hallett. "We were all stunned."

It wasn't until they reached Toronto's Sony Centre For The Performing Arts on June 6 that Hallett invited the world's media along. "It's a 3,500-seater and we sold out three nights in a day and a half."

The reviews were almost uniformly glowing and Cohen was back with a bigger bang than anyone other than Hallett had anticipated.

Tour manager Mike Scoble has spent 25 years looking after everything from the opening of the Welsh Assembly to the last Mika tour, but even he sounds taken aback by Cohen's achievement. "We have to try to keep up with him," says Scoble. "If he's onstage for three hours, the rest of us can't pretend we're tired. The age range of the audience is amazing. It really is from 18 to 80."

This was all heartening, but how might the venerable troubadour fare in front of a non-Canadian audience? Hallett chose Dublin as the testing ground. "I knew Dublin was Leonard's spiritual home, him being a poet," he points out. "I'd been doing some work with John Reynolds at POD Concerts, and he came up with the idea of building an arena in the grounds of the Museum of Modern Art."

To make this ambitious plan economically viable, Hallett realized, they'd have to play three nights but Reynolds was doubtful if the potential audience was big enough. "When the first two went on sale," chuckles Hallett, "they sold out in half an hour so we added the third. We did 36,000 tickets in Dublin. Just amazing. They actually rushed the stage...women running up the aisles screaming...They were singing, dancing, cheering, clapping and just sharing in it. When he sang, ‘Democracy is coming to the USA' the whole crowd jumped up and started shouting ‘Barack!'. And to see Leonard's smile, it was just a joy."

"It's a very simple production," points out Mike Scoble. "The lighting is very understated and there are no special effects except for Leonard running on and off the stage. What makes it special is the songs, Leonard's personality and the sheer quality of the band."

The choice of imaginatively appropriate venues for the European jaunt didn't stop with Dublin's Museum. In Manchester Cohen played four nights at the Opera House, and would go on to European and Scottish castles, medieval Italian towns and French olive groves.

"There will never be anything better than Leonard Cohen's performance that night for me," says Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis." I had been trying to get him here for almost 40 years and I never could. Then, the only time I didn't try, his agent rang up and offered him."

Cohen's Pyramid Stage tour-de-force on June 29 elicited a rapturous reception as the strains of 'Hallelujah' rang out into the sunset." People say he's grumpy and depressed but he's nothing like that," adds Eavis. "He's such a lovely man. After every song he took his hat off and bowed to the audience. When he got to ‘Hallelujah,' people were just lifting off the ground."

Glastonbury, however, delivered a more sobering lesson to Hallett. "It was a great performance, and the audience loved it," he says, "but Leonard is a perfectionist and he wasn't completely relaxed because he hadn't been able to do a soundcheck. We made sure to sort that out on the other festival dates."

The first European mainland date followed on July 1 with 18,000 devotees at Oslo's Aliset Stadium. "I had the Bon Jovi tour at the same time so I was running around between the two, one day with Leonard, one day with Bon Jovi," reveals Hallett. "The lovely thing is that Jon Bon Jovi is a huge Cohen fan, he does 'Hallelujah' in their encore, and whenever I went to one of his dates, the first thing he'd ask me was ‘How was Leonard?'"

July 5th brought the first of the castle dates, promoted by Concerts DK at Copenhagen's Rosenborg Castle. "The audience for Leonard Cohen is unique," reckons Kim Worsoe of Concerts DK. "His show is as close as you can get to a religious experience. Our first two dates, in July, sold 21,000 tickets, and for the upcoming October dates, we've sold out 12,000 tickets at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki and 8,500 for the Forum in Copenhagen."

The Paris-based Gerard Drouot Productions handled Cohen's first French dates. "The festival in Lyon on the 9th sold out very quickly in 3 or 4 days (4,000), says Drouot." At Nice he was playing a part of the Nice Jazz Festival, and we did the largest attendance of the entire festival that night with over 7,000 tickets sold. Being Canadian, he speaks good French, and he uses it to introduce most of his songs with a short translation of the main lyrics."

Three members of U2, Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton, turned out to see Cohen in Nice. "It's a beautiful setting, in an olive grove," says Hallett. "Bono had seen Leonard in Dublin and loved it, so he brought the others along to Nice."

After Lyon, Cohen moved on to Bruges, a concert promoted by Pascal Van De Velde, who founded his own company, Greenhouse Talent, after leaving Live Nation in 2004. "The Cactus Festival site is an 8,000 capacity park in the medieval city centre," he reveals. "It sold out in under two weeks. We had rain until 7 pm and then the sun came out. The show was outstanding on every single level: the magic performance, the quality of the sound, the gentle artiste ... pure magic."

Barry Wright, whose Edinburgh company Castle Concerts enjoys a unique relationship with Historic Scotland allowing them to stage rock events in Scottish castles, was delighted with Cohen's showing on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade on July 16. "This year we had five shows over the summer period--including Girls Aloud, Boyzone and the Proclaimers," says Wright. "They all sold out but Leonard Cohen was our fastest sell out ever."

For Wright, Cohen's resurgence underlines the long-term importance of nurturing top quality talent. "If you write your own songs, create your own music and you have talent, you can have a 20-year career," he feels. "If you're created by some TV talent show, you've probably got three and a half years."

The biggest gamble of the tour was, undoubtedly, Hallett's decision to put Cohen into London's 16,000-capacity O2 on July 17. "Everybody had questioned my sanity on that one, but we sold out in 24 hours and the show was a revelation. Leonard's charm turned it into a club. It was incredible. You could hear a pin drop, even when he recited a poem." Inspired by this triumph, AEG Live put another O2 show on sale for November. "It sold out in 24 hours, so we added a third."

At Benecassim on the 20th, says Hallett, "We'd learned our lessons from Glastonbury. We arrived well in advance so Leonard could have a soundcheck and I think Vince Power will confirm it's one of the best performances he's ever seen."

The tour moved into Italy on the 27th for Lucca's Summer Festival, a gig promoted by D'Alessandro E Galli, which Hallett rates as his personal favourite. "7,000 people in a beautiful medieval town in the heart of Tuscany," he recalls. "The promoter, Domenico D'Alessandro, sold tickets for that show in Mozambique, London, Zimbabwe, Washington, all over the world. It was a very special gig because of that."

The first leg of the tour ended with another triumph, when Cohen won over the youthful, dance-oriented crowd at the Big Chill in Ledbury, UK. Founder Katrina Larkin, however, professes no surprise. "It's because he is a genuine person who Big Chillers have admired and loved for years--it was almost beyond our dreams that he was able to perform at the festival. He added a magical moment that I don't think any of us at the Big Chill will ever forget."

Remarkable as Leonard Cohen's comeback has been, Rob Hallett is convinced the end is nowhere near. "We'll start up again in Hawaii in mid-January, go down through New Zealand, into Australia, back out via Japan, then South Africa, have another break, then do the United States of America. After that, who knows? He could tour in Europe until he no longer wants to."

Read more Leonard Cohen interviews and reviews at http://www.rocksbackpages.com. Over 13,000 articles by the greatest writers from the finest rock publications of the last 40 years
MaryB
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by MaryB » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:53 pm

Honeyrose,
What an insightful report of the genesis and development of this tour. Thank you for this!
Kindest regards,
Mary
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by jarkko » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:01 am

"We'll start up again in Hawaii in mid-January, go down through New Zealand, into Australia, back out via Japan, then South Africa, have another break, then do the United States of America.
Note that Hawaii, Japan and South Africa were removed from the tentative itinerary for various reasons.
1988, 1993: Helsinki||2008: Manchester|Oslo|London O2|Berlin|Helsinki|London RAH|| 2009: New York Beacon|Berlin|Venice|Barcelona|Las Vegas|San José||2010: Salzburg|Helsinki|Gent|Bratislava|Las Vegas|| 2012: Gent|Helsinki|Verona|| 2013: New York|Pula|Oslo|||
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tinderella
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by tinderella » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:18 am

Absolutely wonderful to read.... and I feel proud that they chose Dublin as the testing ground.... It was a privilege to be there :D
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Violet
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by Violet » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:33 am

Hi Tinderella,

Yes, this is wonderful to read... I can't wait to see him in my home town!

v i o l e t
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by lizzytysh » Thu Jan 29, 2009 6:10 am

Oh, drat! I got so excited when I saw South Africa, seriously hoping that Jo would finally be able to see Leonard, only to find it disappear as unexpectedly as it had appeared :( .

Super that they're starting out in Hawaii, though 8) :D !

~ Lizzy

***'No start in Hawaii! / Jarkko***
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canuck
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by canuck » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:14 am

I do hope someone on this tour is keeping a journal - I'd love to hear some behind the scenes stories of the tour and reactions to various shows.

Once he's finished working so hard on the tour, maybe someone will convince Leonard to do an interview where he reflects on the shows and shares some stories with us.

And yes, that's a hint Jarkko :)
MaryB
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by MaryB » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:11 am

canuck wrote:I do hope someone on this tour is keeping a journal - I'd love to hear some behind the scenes stories of the tour and reactions to various shows.

Once he's finished working so hard on the tour, maybe someone will convince Leonard to do an interview where he reflects on the shows and shares some stories with us.

And yes, that's a hint Jarkko :)
What a fantastic idea! I hope it happens Canuck !
Kindest regards,
Mary
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by spirit_on_the_water » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:28 pm

That was wonderful to read. Outselling Dylan!

I have tickets to see Dylan at the O2 Arena in April (UK), however nothing will ever top the magic of seeing Leonard Cohen there in July, and later in Birmingham. Magic!! And now I have that wonderful DVD to look forward to!!

Come to Europe Len, just for one last goodbye....I am 23, and although your songs are eternal and shall be played in the eternal encore of the universe, I am greedy and want to see you once more! Personally. Before that eternal encore!

Ed
efc

Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by efc » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:38 pm

honeyrose wrote:
This was all heartening, but how might the venerable troubadour fare in front of a non-Canadian audience? Hallett chose Dublin as the testing ground. "I knew Dublin was Leonard's spiritual home, him being a poet," he points out. "I'd been doing some work with John Reynolds at POD Concerts, and he came up with the idea of building an arena in the grounds of the Museum of Modern Art."

To make this ambitious plan economically viable, Hallett realized, they'd have to play three nights but Reynolds was doubtful if the potential audience was big enough. "When the first two went on sale," chuckles Hallett, "they sold out in half an hour so we added the third. We did 36,000 tickets in Dublin. Just amazing. They actually rushed the stage...women running up the aisles screaming...They were singing, dancing, cheering, clapping and just sharing in it. When he sang, ‘Democracy is coming to the USA' the whole crowd jumped up and started shouting ‘Barack!'. And to see Leonard's smile, it was just a joy."
Interesting article.

The bit I've quoted covers an issue I've spoken about before, ie. the political content of a show. It was the same sort of thing at all the gigs, including those at the Royal Albert Hall.
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by Birdonawire » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:30 am

[quote="honeyrose"]
...Hallett chose Dublin as the testing ground. "I knew Dublin was Leonard's spiritual home, him being a poet," he points out...

I feel a real sense of pride reading this, and to be honest, with the government here at present there's not too much to feel proud about. But this reminds me to always look a little further than the current situation.

He mentions Leonard's fans range from 18-80, well I brought my 9 year old daughter Ciara to his Dublin gig. She was over the moon. It was cold and we got rained on but she loved it. It's a memory that will stay with her (and me) forever (I intend using it as my ace card when I get old and infirm, a good nursing home is on the cards methinks :lol: ).

Come back home Leonard. Never mind the global recession, I'm sure we can all break open our piggy banks (or those of our 9yr old daughters)and make your trip worthwhile. In any case, Ciara says you owe her a "personalised"(in her own words) autograph. After all, as she reminds me, she did get rained on! :lol:

Eric.
New York (Joe's Pub), April 24th 2007 / Dublin, June 14th 2008 / Dublin, June 15th 2008 / New York, February 19th 2009 / Dublin, July 20th 2009 / Barcelona, September 21st 2009 / Sligo...here I come!
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tinderella
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by tinderella » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:30 am

HI Eric, I remember your lovely daughter in Deirdres house, she was the star that day! ... It is so fantastic she got to see Leonard and even the rain did not dampen the evening i bet. He will come back here have no doubt... sure he wanted to wrap up our audience and take us with him for the rest of the tour :D
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by Birdonawire » Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:27 am

Hi Tinderella,

The rain didn't dampen the day one bit. In fact in a way, it added to it. It's the kind of memory I'm sure Ciara will look back on with a quiet smile when she's older. And it was great to meet everyone in Deirdre's house. It was a really good way to start the evening. Thanks Damellon.
With Leonard saying that, he was lucky he didn't have 12000 fans trying to squeeze onto the plane with him on his way to his next gig!
New York (Joe's Pub), April 24th 2007 / Dublin, June 14th 2008 / Dublin, June 15th 2008 / New York, February 19th 2009 / Dublin, July 20th 2009 / Barcelona, September 21st 2009 / Sligo...here I come!
Dream Warrior
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by Dream Warrior » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:06 am

This warm and insightful interview is filled with suc fascinating details about the unfolding of the tour. Clearly, Rob Hallett is the unsung hero of this tour and everyone who loves Leonard Cohen owes him a debt of gratitude.

L
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dick
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Re: Interview with Promoter Rob Hallett and possible 2009 dates

Post by dick » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:33 pm

Great interview and summary by Rob --
thanks for posting it!

and hi to eric and all...

Our US turn finally approaching.... can't explain how much anticipation brewing over Feb 19 at the Beacon!

dick
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