- Live Review
- 02 Dec 22
A stunning night filled with Leonard Cohen tracks hit Limerick's Lime Tree Theatre on November 19.
Bird On The Wire is an eight-piece collective of outstanding Irish musicians interpreting the songbook of one of the greatest songwriters.
Pauline Scanlon and The Whileaways celebrate many of Leonard Cohen’s best-loved life works, leading a masterful collective including Will Merrigan on bass, Dave Clancy on keys, Matthew Berrill on brass and Beoga's Eamon Murray on drums.
Pauline Scanlon dominated the Irish music scene with her incredible debut album, Red Colour Sun, over ten years ago. As a solo artist, as well as a member of vocal duo LUMIERE, Scanlon has enraptured audiences over the entire world with her distinctly magical voice.
Pauline has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists including Damien Dempsey, Sinéad O’Connor, John Spillane and is a member of several high-profile groups including Dónal Lunny’s Atlantic Arc Orchestra.
The Whileaways are three powerful Irish vocies based in Galway: Noelie McDonnell, Noriana Kennedy and Nicola Joyce. The three combine to create a delicate decoration of harmonies, tradition and beautifully crafted original songs. The group have released three critically acclaimed albums, toured all over the world, and been nominated for Best Group and Best Album in the RTÉ Folk Awards.
Bird On The Wire has been performed across Ireland and the UK to sold-out audiences, receiving rave reviews - establishing the act as one of the most sensitive and fitting tributes to the master musician.
The show brought it's incredible setlist to Limerick's Lime Tree Theatre on Saturday, November 19. A sold-out audience waited in eager anticipation for the group to take the stage.
Thunderous applause filled the sold-out theatre as the musician's took their places on the paired back stage.
Pauline began the show with 'Famous Blue Raincoat' - a beautifully airy, Celtic take on the hugely famous track. As the show opened, a stunning light show started with it. Twinkly Spanish-like guitar by Noelie McDonnell played an essential role in bringing the essence of Leonard Cohen to the track.
The group moved on to 'Alexandra Leaving' after addressing the audience, with Nicola of the Whileaways taking lead. Beautifully tight, ethereal harmonies induced goosebumps across the audience, with the stunning band supporting their quartet of voices throughout.
'Did I Ever Love You' came next, bringing a lighter feel to the room, with bouncy guitar and drums guiding the slick harmonies.
Coming into the next piece, Scanlon paused to speak to the crowd. She marked one of her favourite things about bringing these songs on tour as when she looks out into the crowd and sees people sharing moments during their favourite songs. The singer then turned to the meaning the following song means to her, saying it was her late Mother's favourite song. Pauline told the audience how her Mom wrote out every lyric of it for her leaving certificate, that's how much it meant to her. The performer then moved in to a heart-breaking rendition of 'Suzanne'.
'Everybody Knows' came next, a track co-written by Sharon Robinson. Before this piece, Noriana Kennedy spoke about how much Leonard Cohen loved to sing with women, and his adoration of harmonies. 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' followed, before incredibly powerful string kicked off the next track. 'Who By Fire' was recreated exceptionally by the magnificent band - with the two violinists in particular stealing the show.
Pauline fronted 'Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye' with transcendent duet moments as Nicola joined in.
The group stopped to inform the Theatre of how their whole show began. The quartet revealed the show was never meant to end up as a tour - actually, it was a rather elaborate present from a Kerry man to his wife on their 25th anniversary. His wife's two favourite singers were Leonard Cohen and Pauline - and so, Pauline brought the idea to the band and 4 years later they're still going strong.
Each singer laughed while telling the story, as the audience seemed dumbfounded by the information.
As laughter and applause died down, the group moved on to 'Chelsea Hotel'.
The opening chords of the singer and poet's most well-known track, 'Hallelujah', hung over the tiered auditorium, as Pauline and the band encouraged the crowd to sing along. Each singer took a verse to make their own, except for Noelie, who was graciously given two.
If I didn't think it before this track, it became increasingly more obvious as the lights dimmed to just a spotlight on the singer and his guitar, that this man perfectly captured a young Cohen. The rasp and depth to his voice, alongside the delicate harmonies in the background, brought me back to listening to Cohen CDs growing up. It was astonishingly uncanny - a tremendous comparison to have been witness to.
Next up was another hugely popular track - 'So Long, Marianne'. Remarkable harmonies decorated the piece, with exceptional work on the keys throughout the track.
Of course, 'Bird On The Wire', the title track of the show, had to be included! The audience was delighted with this performance.
For the group's final track - or so we thought - the lights dimmed and a spotlight rose on Noelie as he said the iconic Leonard Cohen quote, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." Of course, this bled into 'Anthem', which the male singer took lead on. The crowd rose to their feet as the track came to a close.
Staying on their feet and demanding an encore, the audience whooped and hollered until the group returned to the stage.
The group, of course, obliged, coming back onstage to appease the crowd. Encouraging the crowd to dance and get into the music, the group started with 'If It Be Your Will'. The crowd called out for 'Dance Me To The End Of Love' until the group got the message - Noelie took the lead on this track, as only appropriate with his stunning tone.
For the actual final track, Pauline asked the audience to stand and dance as she began 'First We Take Manhattan'. A raucous applause exploded across the theatre as the group thanked everyone for coming.
A show which has been seen venues all across Europe and further afield - you would never tell its origins! From anniversary present to extremely polished performance, I couldn't possibly recommend going to see this magnificent show more. A pure night of enjoyment, uncovering old favourite tracks, dancing along to songs, and taking in musical excellence, it was a delight from start to finish.
The singers, of course, took spotlight, but indeed the band where the true troopers of the night, perfectly setting the mood and tone for each track, with an expansive musicality noted throughout. The Irish twist taken on each track made the night unique, without straying too much from the iconic music. The entire evening was really well put-together, with just enough crowd interaction and clear enjoyment expressed from the group on stage.
Bird On The Wire: The Songs of Leonard Cohen returns to Ireland throughout December and January - check out their website to grab tickets while you still can!