Longford Leader Columnist Mattie Fox: Creative promoter John Reynolds shook up the cosy consensus

Mattie Fox

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Mattie Fox

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Many tributes to 'visionary Longford concert promoter' John Reynolds (52)

The late John Reynolds.

John Reynolds left this world on Thursday, October 25, and his passing marks, perhaps, the last of the truly creative, and groundbreaking promoters of live music in Ireland.

He shook up the cosy consensus.

John had an extraordinary belief in the sheer power of talent, and couldn’t really be constrained by the short term fiscal realities at play.

John, for all his outward modernity, belonged to a somewhat old school of belief that given time, the returns from quality events, run properly, with great talent would win out, and would show all who doubted that he was right all along.

Few could argue given that he blazed a trail of original ideas all through his life - including The Pod (a complex that included Crawdaddy, Chocolate Bar, Red Box, and Tripod), Electric Picnic, .....an exhaustive list of successful enterprises, festivals, events, all marked with outstanding originality.

Read more: ‘Visionary’ Longford promoter John Reynolds was never afraid to take a chance

He got his appetite for promotion from his father Jim who believed reinvesting in the asset that was his business, came first always.

In many ways John was completely different from his father, yet when studied carefully was found to be cut from the same cloth.

John was primarily a creative visionary, a most imaginative man who wasn’t really consumed by the bottom line, rather he was possessed and energised by the aspiration to do things in the correct way.

Again, just like his father, except John took things way beyond the scale of normal, way beyond the concept of risk taking.
John loathed mediocrity, and didn’t mind paying for creative talent.

Time and again he proved this, through events like Leonard Cohen’s three nights in Kilmainham Castle back on the weekend of June 14, 2008. It proved to be a new departure in live gigs.

Many people from the business said that he could never better that.

A few years later he presented Cohen - who had then become the coolest artist on the circuit, oozing integrity, imagination, showmanship, wonderful poetry and songs along with a magnificent band - in Lissadell House in Sligo.

Anyone attending, soon forgot about Kilmainham as the gig in Lissadell was an amazing, phenomenal success, beyond compare.

John Reynolds had really arrived, because this marked a departure from the strained thinking of most promoters, and had the combined effect of marrying the talents of a great promoter, with one of the very great and singular artists of our time, Leonard Cohen.

Read more: Many tributes to 'visionary Longford concert promoter' John Reynolds (52)

Cohen had finally reached the true pinnacle of his powers, and when he took the stage in Lissadell he was greeted with a special feeling among the crowd, and a resounding long applause.

This was the event in Ireland that would never be forgotten.

Here we are several years later after numerous utterly forgettable festivals, gigs, concerts, some well presented and well promoted, yet we’re still talking about Cohen in Lissadell, and other Pod presentations.

I knew several household name musicians who attended that concert, and every single one was breathless at the restrained power of the band playing behind the genius out front. Never faltering, they journeyed seamlessly through a repertoire of humour, pathos, drama, darkness, light and shade, accompanying the songs with elegant beautiful sounds. An eerie magic.

The stage and lighting was presented with a deft and tender touch.

There will be many gigs in times to come, but it’s doubtful if ever a crowd are so utterly transfixed as those two shows.

It was really something to witness the almost spiritual aura woven those evenings, on the far west coast of Ireland.

John had many successes, and continued to break new ground but it was difficult to stay above the waterline of perceived success.

Great shows, and great gigs, call for massive outlay.

John was an innovator, and maybe in Ireland we’re still too old fashioned, and embryonic, to see past the next week’s dollar.
John Reynolds, RIP.