“Breton Woodstock” – RockScène/Elixir Festival, Guéhenno: July 13, 1985
Woodstock was the model and inspiration for many rock festivals. The Brittany version was the Elixer Festival (aka RockScène as of 1985) in Guéhenno, and its opening act in 1985 was Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen. Sur scène à Guéhenno en 1985 (Le Télégramme: Nov 11, 2016) notes the 1985 Festival was attended by 20.000 fans.and goes on to explain [via Google Translate]
That year, Leonard Cohen launched the festivities. What we said at the time, in the following terms: “Leonard Cohen had the ungrateful role of opening the show around 2 pm. No surprise in his repertoire. The amateurs of Protest songs of the Sixties languishly lulled by their favorite ballads.”
While the environment was perhaps not as brutal as the 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival at which Leonard Cohen and The Army performed while Maoists were said to be taking potshots, it was, as one fan described the Clash’s Guéhenno show, “rough and muscular.” The first person account offered at The Clash : Last Gig In France, while not mentioning Leonard Cohen, does provide a sense of the prevailing atmosphere:
The Clash and Depeche Mode at the time on the same bill, it is not easy to accept for us young punks, this curious mix of musical genres. The two groups live in Vannes in the same hotel, and their respective stage technicians cordially hate each other … It will later be said that the baseball bats were out backstage at the arrival of the 2 tour bus on the site and for a few minutes a general brawl broke out between the two parties. The concert was in Dante himself, with a place in the 1 st rank dearly defended. At 10:45 pm The Last Gang In Town takes the scene of assault. Joe Strummer tries to French between the pieces with a picturesque English accent. That evening, we ate dust for 1:25. Superb concert rough and muscular. I will spend a week getting rid of this damn ocher dust that made the site look like a gigantic battlefield.
Photos: Leonard Cohen at Guehenno
That same Le Télégramme article also offers a photo of Leonard Cohen and his band on stage. Another shot of Leonard Cohen taken by Richard Bellia at Guehenno can be viewed at Richard Bellia Photographie
These ads for the Festival Elixir in Guéhenno, France promote, along with the Clash, Depeche Mode, the Ramones, and other acts, the July 13, 1985 Leonard Cohen concert. The Ramones and Joan Armatrading were scheduled but did not appear.
Dominique BOILE provides a list of songs Leonard Cohen performed at the Festival that were broadcast on radio and/or TV from Recordings Of Leonard Cohen 1957-86.
Only a segment of Leonard Cohen’s performance of Passing Through is preserved on the second half of this three minute video. The first half comprises a description of the festival (in French). The onsite description at Rockscene à Guehenno follows [via Google Translate]:
Reportage dedicated to the Rockscene festival in Guehenno with Leonard COHEN headlining. Summary of the ups and downs of the festival (cancellation of group passages, climatic conditions). Excerpt from the concert of the Canadian singer in which he interprets “Passing Through”.
If the embedded player below malfunctions, try the ina.fr site: Rockscene à Guehenno
Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who alerted me to this video and Dominique BOILE, who supplied the ads an other information.