I Would Like To Thank The Academy …

*pkt* *pkt* … is this thing on? *screeeee*

Well … I’ve have to say that I never expected to be bringing this blog back to life, much less to be doing so to accept an award. But, thanks to the amazing generosity of Arlene Dick (aka the absolute centre of the Leonard Cohen blogging world), that is exactly what I am doing. Arlene has been kind enough to bestow upon this blog the:

Award.

Wow .. I am speechless. As a small token of thanks to Arlene, I’d ask anyone who is not already a daily visitor to her excellent Leonard Cohen blog, OnBoogieStreet, click over there right now. Hers is truly one of the most informative pages of frequent updates of all the significant events in the LC world (even when things are slow, such as between tours and albums). Every serious Cohen fan should drop by from time to time … as I’m sure Leonard must do himself🙂

For me, I’ll just take this moment to “lift a happy face to thank her [as] the fiddler fiddles something so sublime” … and head on back to Closing Time.

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PS: Reliving the Concerts via Audience Recordings

[UPDATE: 29 January 2011 — a twelfth recording from Leonard’s 2010 Australian tour has just been distributed online. The recording is from the final show in Perth. In My Little World, this is exciting news :-)]

OK, I have known for a little while that many (actually almost all) of the Down Under Leonard Cohen concerts that I attended were recorded by audience members who have subsequently shared their recordings online. I haven’t mentioned this fact here before, because I’m not really sure of the legal status of music recordings made and shared in this way. But, since people seem to be talking a lot about these over on the Leonard Cohen Forum (and in some cases giving out download links for them), I figure there’s no harm in pointing readers of this blog to the relevant forum threads where such information and links can be found.

So, if you’re interested in finding out more about the unofficial live recordings of Leonard’s wonderful shows in Australia and New Zealand, point your browser here. The summary list included in this post, BTW, also includes links to audience recordings for some of the European concerts earlier in the year. It’s not 100% up-to-date, however: it doesn’t include the recently-issued recording of Sydney (8 November) and a few shows from the American leg which closed the tour.

Usual disclaimers apply: none of the postings in the Forum thread are mine; none of the files linked to are hosted on this blog, or even actually on the LC Forum site. Please don’t ask me questions about downloading — or otherwise obtaining — these music files. All the information you’ll need is in the forum thread I’ve linked to. Please read what people have posted, and if you are having difficulties ask the kind people on the forum for assistance.

Packaging for the Down Under Recordings

In the meantime, the existence of these (unofficial) “Live CDs” capturing Leonard’s tour Down Under has given me an idea for a new project. It would be fantastic to also have associated CD Packaging (booklets, disc labels and tray slips) for these unofficial discs. So, I figured I’d make some, using the photos and concert reports from this blog. You can check out my work here: but, be warned I’ve really only just started this time-consuming process, so the list of finished packaging is still far from complete (2 complete sets at time of writing, with 9 more to go). I’m making these designs pretty much for my own gratification, but if someone finds them interesting or handy for their own personal (i.e., non-commercial) use, that would be an added bonus.

BTW you can also get to the “CD Packaging” page directly from my blog home page, by clicking the link just below the header picture.

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(Blog) Closing Time

Well, the great Leonard Cohen World Tour 2008-2009-2010 is now officially over. His magical month of concerts in Australia and New Zealand is now just a very pleasant memory — sure it only wound up three weeks ago, but on the blog-o-sphere, three weeks is forever🙂.

All of this makes me think it’s time to shut up shop on writing this blog and turn it over to being a kind of time capsule documenting Leonard’s “great affair” Down Under.

To help anyone who is interested in delving back into the various concert reports and photos that I have published on this blog, I have put together a “table of contents” of a sort, by way of the itinerary page

Before I sign off for good, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the many Leonard Cohen fans who I’ve had the rare privilege of meeting, either in person or online, as I pursued my crazy dream of following the tour for a month. Everyone I’ve spoken with has been so friendly and warm; it added an extra (somewhat unexpected) pleasurable dimension to travelling around.

In (rough) chronological order I would like to thank: Bev (B4Real), Karen (wombat writer), Andrew Darby and friends, Matt James and partner, notjustadoll, Ania and her band of friends and family, AlanM and his group of Adelaide converts, Helena (aka Leonard’s “#1 Fan”) and husband, Pete (skipper1967) and wife, Wendy (Mabeanie1) and husband, Ann (womanfromaroom) and Greg Ross. Meeting you all was a wonderful and unique experience.

I also had the great pleasure of corresponding with some lovely folks from various online Leonard Cohen communities. Most notable of these was Arlene Dick (bridger15) who is somewhat of a celebrity in the LC Fan world, partly because of her unwavering enthusiasm as a concert videographer, and partly because of her remarkable blog.

While on the topic of blogs … anyone who has an interest in Leonard and the literary works he inspires, should definitely also check out Karen Lee Thompson’s blog. I was lucky enough to briefly meet Karen (under the pseudonym wombat writer) at the Brisbane concert, but since then I’ve read enough to become quite intrigued by her upcoming novel, 8 States of Catastrophe, which has a definite LC connection …

Finally … a blanket thank-you to everyone who has read this collection of somewhat random musings about my Leonard Cohen travels. I hope you’ve found it to be interesting, or amusing, or somehow worthy of your attention (even if only briefly).

Now, to start planning for the lcdownunder2012 blog🙂

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Tonight, Everyone Knows Why The Wine Is Flowing

Leonard Cohen and wine. Despite the fact that in recent years, Leonard seems to have curbed (or entirely eliminated) his consumption of fine wine, there’s still something that makes the two oddly synonymous (for me, at least).

One notable reason for this association has got to be the several truly magnificent (some have said “spiritual”) performances that Leonard gave in Australian wineries during the 2009 tour. Those were exquisite and memorable performances (I saw three: McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley and Bowral). As an appreciator of good wine, at the time of the ’09 tour I created for myself a special “limited edition” souvenir collection of LC commemorative wine. Basically I jumped online, went to the websites for the five wineries which hosted Leonard’s “Day on the Green” concerts and bought myself a few bottles of their better wine. I even made up some neat home-made labels for the bottles.

Since January 2009, these bottles have been sitting in (what I laughingly refer to as) my cellar … just silently calling out to be opened. I’ve resisted temptation so far (literally fighting against the bottles :-)).

But tonight … with the final show of the 3-year world tour just about to wrap up, I reckon it’s time for the first unbottling.

I have a hard time believing that Leonard Cohen won’t be doing something similar in about half an hour’s time. I mean … it’s Las Vegas🙂

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I Guess You Go For Nothing, If You Really Want To Go That Far

Before I close off this account of my travels, I feel it’s only fair to include some entirely gratiutous statements about the “highlights” of my month spent meandering around two big countries. People keep asking me questions about this sort of stuff, so … I’ll have a go at boiling down a whole month of my life into a few short “best of” moments.

The Performances

Best Concert:

This is actually the thing that people ask me most about. “You’ve seen 12 concerts … which was the best one?” But, the reality is that every night is special in its own way, and there really isn’t any one performance that outshines all others in every regard. So … maybe it’s a cop-out, but I’d have to say that they were all the best :-) . To say anything else seems to somehow diminish the experience.

Most Unexpected Leonard Cohen Song:

Leonard’s unexpected solo performance of Night Comes On (click to hear: audio thanks to Maarten Massa) at one of the Auckland shows. So far this is the only performance of this song on the 2008-2009-2010 tour and pretty much came as a complete surprise to me … and to the LC fan community. In fact, when I put up my set list, I think some people thought I was making it up🙂

Most Unexpected Leonard Cohen Monologue:

Rafael’s bizarre introduction in Perth. Interestingly this seems to have become a staple for the last performances of the world tour. Who would have thought that the terms “Leonard Cohen” and “Aryan Brotherhood” would ever be associated in *any* way with one another🙂

Almost as unexpected were Leonard’s humorous remarks about Wellington’s “Colossal Squid”.

Favourite Leonard Cohen Performance:

Well, it’s hard to nominate just one … but certainly some of the LC solo performances of Avalanche and A Singer Must Die were quite stunning moments during the concerts. Also, being a bit of a lyrics-spotter, the variant version of the poem A Thousand Kisses Deep offered up by Leonard in Perth also stands as a memorable performance.

Favourite Support-Act Moment:

A tie between: (1) the moment during her first performance (Brisbane) where Clare Bowditch realised to her extreme and genuine surprise that she was being shown up on the big screens … and (2) Linda Bull’s performance of Everything’s Turning To White at Hanging Rock.

Actually, to be honest there were a lot of other great Clare Bowditch moments too — I just wish she’d played my favourite of her songs (You Looked So Good) more than once during the tour.

Best Sound:

Rod Laver Arena … it was the only big and boxy room that Leonard played which didn’t *sound* like a big and boxy room.

Newest-Looking Venue:

Adelaide Entertainment Centre … well at least from the outside it looks nice and new.

If you watch the nice illuminated canopy for long enough you get to see a nice little light show (for free!)

Most Spectacular Venue:

Hanging Rock. Enough said … go look at the photos if you don’t believe me🙂

The Fans

Most Creative Fan Adulation:

Bev’s soft-toy kangaroo, Matilda, lobbed up on stage at Brisbane only to be picked up by Leonard and gently placed on Rafael’s drum platform behind him.

Hopefully Matilda has found a home in the (now considerable) collection of soft toys which have graced Leonard’s stage

Most Persistent Fan Adulation:

Helena’s laminated A4 Heart banner, which she brought to both the Adelaide and Hanging Rock concerts. Helena was such a trooper … she literally waved this banner above her head at the end of every song Leonard played.

Most Inexplicable Fan Adulation:

Dog Boy from Hobart

Biggest Fan Gathering:

ania’s front room following the first of the Melbourne concerts. I don’t know how many avid Cohen fans we jammed into that one room — I lost count. But there was a lot of love for Our Man crammed into a small area, along with plenty of Aussie wine and beer :-)

My Caffeine Dependence

Most Extreme Sleep Deprivation:

Following the Brisbane concert, I spent about three hours typing up a concert report (sitting on a bathroom floor, so Cathy could get to sleep in the next room). I eventually got to sleep around 3AM. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken into account the fact that, because Queensland doesn’t have daylight savings, their dawn at this time of year comes at something like 5:30AM. And my room had nice, but not very opaque, curtains on the massive East-facing windows …

Best Quality Coffee:

Federal Coffee Palace, Melbourne GPO. I initially stopped there to meet some old friends for coffee … but that quickly became two coffees, and then … well a whole afternoon’s worth of coffees.

Best Place To Get Coffee:

Midnight Espresso, Wellington (Cuba Street). If I lived in Wellington, New Zealand *this* would be one of my regular haunts. It’s kind of like a cross between a funky cafe and a bohemian bar. And most of the food is vegetarian … what’s not to love?

Most Expensive Place To Get Coffee:

The $5 mug of black coffee I bought at a cafe in Australia Square, Sydney wins this award. Although (surprisingly) this was closely followed by expensive coffee at a cafe in Salamanca Square, Hobart.

Everything Else

Best Place To Stay:

Fountainside Hotel, Hobart. I have already sung the praises of this hotel in the blog writeup for Hobart … but it really was a great place to stay, and excellent value for money (something I was certainly appreciating by that part of the trip :-)).

Be warned, however, that staying in a hotel with cheap and tasty buffet breakfasts can lead to chronic over-eating. I’m just saying.

Most Unlikely Meteorological Phenomemon:

Total calm on the top of Mount Victoria, Wellington. Wellington as a city is almost synonymous with windy weather. Imagine my surprise, then, when I drove up to the very top of Mount Victoria (high up above the city) only to experience one of the ultra-rare days when there is absolutely no wind at all … I’m not sure whether to feel blessed or cheated🙂

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Pre-Sale Tickets: Are They Worth It?

Now that the dust is settling on my frantic journey around Australia and New Zealand in pursuit of Leonard’s concerts, I’m finally getting some time to reflect back on each of the twelve individual performances I was lucky enough to attend.

One of the few things that I find inexplicable about my various concert-going experiences is the extreme variability in the quality of the tickets I was able to obtain to each of the different shows (and here I mean quality in terms of the location of the seating). Why should this seem strange? Well, because I bought all of the tickets in exactly the same way — via the exclusive “member only” pre-sales offered by the Frontier Touring Co.

For various reasons (which I won’t go into here), I missed out on buying tickets through the “fan club” sales offered by the Leonard Cohen Forum — this was a shame, the fan club seats were generally excellent, at least from what others have told me. Because I missed this offer, I thought I should buy my (many) tickets via the next best method — the touring company pre-sales. Armed with my personalised code from Frontier, I dutifully hovered over the ticketek and ticketmaster websites on the days when pre-sales opened, and pounced mere minutes (or in some cases, seconds) after sales had begun, buying the best class of seating available. So, you’d think that given this approach, I would have scored tickets that were either consistently great … or at least consistently alright.

Don’t get me wrong … overall I’m certainly not unhappy with most of the seats I was allocated … but I’d have to say I’m surprised at the high level of variability in terms of location. Yes, I did manage to score one pair of front row tickets (to Auckland, Night 1) … and three or so that were around row 5. But most were more like 18 to 25 rows back from the stage. And in one case my allocated “Gold Class” seat was so far back that I counted only seven rows of seats between me and the very back of the auditorium. So … a bit of a lottery, really. Not what I expected.

Conversely, in talking to other folks who had bought their tickets via far less “exclusive” methods (i.e., just waiting until ticket sales opened to the general public and hovering over the ticket vendor’s site), many of those were able to score far better seats that I’d obtained via pre-sales. In some cases I spoke to people who’d happily scored front-row centre tickets via general sales several days after I’d bought my pre-sales tickets in row 8.

All of which makes me wonder about the whole pre-sales thing … specifically, is it worth it? The pre-sales allocation blocks certainly aren’t the “best available” tickets … and if you’re going to “hover” over the website on opening day, maybe it’s better to hover over general sales? I’d have to say, if I did it all again (and couldn’t go the fan-club route, which was by far the best to buy tickets to these shows), I would probably skip pre-sales all together.

But, as they say, YMMV🙂

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In-Flight Entertainment

Well the craziness of following the UHTC around Australia and New Zealand is over for me, and has kind of morphed into the craziness of going back to normal life (while struggling through the “summer cold” which I call Hanging Rock’s Revenge :-)). There are still a few stray thoughts, half composed during my four weeks of travels, that I may still post here before closing the blog for good.

One thing that I did manage to spend quite a long time thinking about as I travelled around was (perhaps not surprisingly) Leonard’s music. In fact, with many many hours spent on aircraft with only a trusty iPod for entertainment, I managed to re-listen to quite a few  CDs which Our Man has touched in one way or another, and to consider them in the context of the rather unexpected trajectory his career has taken since going on tour in 2008.

The first observation I’ll make is pretty trivial: The Essential Leonard Cohen is a fantastic disc to listen to when flying between Australia and New Zealand. Apart from its obvious artistic merit … it also happens to be exactly the same duration as the average flight. Coincidence? Surely not. In fact the timing works out *so* well, that if you are making this flight and *not* listening to The Essential Leonard Cohen, you are clearly doing it wrong.🙂

Most of the Cohen-related CDs I re-listened to on flights were, however, from a class of things I call “Leonard Cohen Apocrypha” — things that clearly show the unique mark of LC but somehow seem to fall outside the canon of what most people accept as his known works:

Dear Heather (2004)

Maybe it’s a little heretical to call Leonard’s most recent studio album part of his “Apocrypha” … but it’s always struck me as something that really stands apart from the earlier direction of his recorded music, representing a divergence into what I can only think of as a more rarified, more capital-A “Artistic” modality. Leonard’s poetry has frequently lived in this kind of heady realm, but his songs have historically been a little less high-concept, or (in the very best cases) found a way to bury high concepts inside some deceptively simple words to make them meaningful on many different levels.

I re-listened to this disc early in my travels, with one particular goal in mind — I got to thinking about how strange (maybe even unprecedented) it was for an artist like Leonard to tour the world so comprehensively and to *not* play a single song of his most recent record. We’ve heard so many tales of established artists doing the exact opposite, that I thought I would relisten to try to understand what decision-making process might have lead to such an unlikely outcome. Well, after a re-listen … it’s really not too hard to see. Dear Heather is really Leonard operating (for the most part) in a pensive mode that doesn’t seem to me very compatible with the fairly energetic performances and arrangements that we have come to expect from the current band, and really from Leonard himself.

Anjani’s “Blue Alert”  (2006)

This is actually a very listenable CD, and always struck me as what it would sound like if the mind of Leonard Cohen had been born into the body of a sensuous female Jazz singer. Perhaps that’s a strange image, but it’s a combination that works. Again, however, it’s Leonard operating in a kind of slow and pensive modality.

I got a bit of a shock when listening to the track “Never Got To Love You” and realised that this is the source of the stanzas that Leonard has been reciting at the end of Closing Time during the Down Under Tour:

“They’re stacking up the chairs,
They’re wiping down the bar,
I never got to tell you
How beautiful you are.”

and

“They ought to hand the night a ticket
For speeding: it’s a crime
I had so much to tell you
But now it’s closing time”

Of course, as with all great discoveries … when I went back and checked the Leonard Cohen Forum, someone else had already recognised these lines. Apparently this spoken outro to Closing Time also featured in several of the French shows on the 2010 tour. Oh well, for a moment I thought I’d found something new and unique🙂

Philip Glass’ “Book of Longing” (2007)

In 2006 I actually saw one of the early performances of Philip Glass’ song-cycle “Book of Longing”, composed around and under poetry from Leonard’s book of the same name. Ironically, back then, just the idea of going to see a live music performance which had some, albeit second-hand, connection with Leonard’s songs was quite a novelty … I literally believed I would never have the privelege to see the “real thing”🙂

I’ve always struggled a bit with this expedition into pasting Leonard’s words over operatic-styled music (and had similar feelings about Night Magic back in the day). The poems are great … the musical performances are technically impressive, but somehow the two don’t gel for me into a satisfying whole.

2008: A Fork In The Road?

After listening to these three items of “Cohen Apocrypha” back-to-back, my travelling self was left with a strong feeling that post-Ten New Songs, Leonard’s musical endeavours were heading down a particular kind of road that while intriguing for its poetic beauty, and its conceptual pensive reflections on the nature of things, would *not* have delivered us something like the funky blues of The Darkness or the epic harmonies of Born In Chains. So, how did we get here? Simple. Leonard’s dire financial misfortunes forced him into a situation where the World Tour became a reality, and from the repetition and discipline of performance I believe he’s been able to get back in touch with some of his musical “roots” … reacquainting this musical/performance aspect of his creative abilities with the poetic/meditative aspect (which obviously never went away).

Lots of people since 2008 have observed that many good things have come from the terrible actions of Leonard’s former management. I guess my observation just adds one more to that catalogue: the unexpected joy of the World Tour 2008-2009-2010 has, I believe, re-energized Leonard in a way that I think has fundamentally changed the musical “road” he is currently heading down. To the point where I have great hopes that the next studio album (which is supposedly what happens in the new year) will seem as far removed to the Apocrypha discs I mentioned, as they seem from The Essential Leonard Cohen.

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Concert Report: Perth (24 November)

[apologies for the delay in getting this report published — it’s down to a combination of two factors. The first is travel; the second is that clearly I haven’t been heeding Leonard’s sage advice … I have come down with a summer cold.]

Tour-closing concerts are always an interesting beast. When you’ve been playing a series of concerts which have, as in the case of Leonard’s, been reviewed with such rapturous praise, how do you wrap it up in a way that is nicely satisfying for both the musicians (for which it’s a type of closure) and for the audience? It would seem that Leonard’s answer to this conundrum was extremely simple — just offer up a performance that encapsulates all the best of the tour and then add in some new and interesting twists as flavour enhancers for those of us who have been following his exploits closely throughout the tour.

Fans at nib stadium in Perth on Wednesday night were treated to a performance which combined the very best standards of the band’s musicianship with rare playfulness on Leonard’s part. It truly was a magnificent night. During the first set the performance was dominated by Our Man’s relaxed attitude and uncommon chattiness. The second set was a little more conventional, but was lifted by a crowd who was clear and demonstrative in their appreciation of Leonard and his music. Also, there was a (brand new?) variant offered of the poem recitation A Thousand Kisses Deep to keep us train-spotter types more than satisfied. By the time we were into the encores it was obvious that this was going to be a particularly memorable performance witnessed by a particularly engaged audience. There was a kind of magical and very “fun” atmosphere that pervaded the whole affair … like the last day of school, where pretty much everybody had adopted an “anything goes” attitude. The whole thing wrapped up with several bouts of thunderous applause for the encores and Leonard coming back onstage for a third encore (which has been rare for the Australian and New Zealand shows, mainly due to curfews). The show wrapped up pretty much spot on the curfew time (10:30pm) leaving an incredibly energized crowd filing out of the stadium somewhat awestruck.

Sharon — Still Missing

Once again, Sharon Robinson was absent from the performance. No explanation was given … and all we currently have to go is a stray remark in a Perth newspaper which suggests she may be in hospital (but which could be just unsubstantiated newspaper speculation).

I’m sure all readers will join me in sending their best wishes to Sharon for a speedy recovery from … well, whatever it is that’s keeping her from performing. Although the UHTC still put on a blazing show without her, she is most definitely missed.

The Venue

The vast majority of the concerts on the Down Under tour have been indoor ‘arena-style’ entertainment centres slash sporting stadiums. Hanging Rock was a one-off, where we were treated to a picnic-in-a-field kind of venue. Given this, the nib stadium — an open-air soccer (aka football, depending on where you are) venue — seemed like a bit of an odd place to see a Leonard Cohen concert. I felt a little bit like I should be there watching Bon Jovi, waving a cigarette lighter in the air (or the modern equivalent, a mobile phone :-)). But all-in-all it was an ok venue. The sound was pretty good where I was sitting. Apparently (according to womanfromaroom anyway) there was a bit of an imbalance between the number of male toilets (lots) and female toilets (not many) which I guess stems from the stadium’s status as primarily a football venue. Reportedly this problem was solved by the ladies staging a bit of a revolution at the interval and taking ownership of some of the male facilites.

One thing that was very obvious from the very beginning was the absence of the normal stage dressing — there were none of the flowing white curtains with diaphonous paintings by Leonard, instead the nib Stadium stage was adorned with plain black sheets both at the back and both sides. Lighting was also a lot more rudimentary than usual, although used to fairly good effect during the performance. The main spotlights were thrown from a pair of cherry-picker-type extensible scaffolds near the tent housing the mixing desk.

Being an outdoor venue, as the sun went down (pretty much the same time as Leonard took to the stage), it did get a little cooler. But nothing like the freezing conditions which played havoc with the band and audience at Hanging Rock. I was fairly comfortable with just a long-sleeved shirt and fleecy hoodie (not zipped), so it can’t have been all that chilly. Regardless, the Webb Sisters seemed to have plans in place to keep themselves warm — right from the beginning, they had two fan heaters (one each), and after the interval they returned with scarves. Hattie also wore gloves later in the night. Overall, however, nobody’s voice seemed to suffer … and there certainly didn’t seem to be a sense that the performers were uncomfortable.

The Crowd

As mentioned previously, the Perth audience were both vocal in their cheering and generous in their applause. The general vibe was definitely buzzing, although maybe a little less so than at the Hanging Rock show (where the audience had already been at the show, in some cases drinking, for some hours before Leonard came on). Western Australians have a bit of a reputation for embracing their inner larrikin … and this audience was certainly more than willing to shout out their admiration loudly and without reservation. One lovely example, which I think is a beautifully captured moment of Aussie-ness, was when a woman seated behind me loudly shouted out during Leonard’s spoken intro to Anthem, saying “Leonard, you spunk!” For those unfamiliar with the Australian idiom … a “spunk” is an attractive person, but it’s more the sort of statement of affection you’d expect to hear teenagers saying to each other in the schoolyard, which made it quite funny to hear in this context.

Fan Meetings

Prior to leaving Adelaide for the Perth show, I had been in touch with two different groups of folks from the Leonard Cohen Forum who were attending the concert. Ironically, three of the four people weren’t actually *from* Perth, but were visitors holidaying there. On the night, I first met up with Mabeanie1 and partner, who had incredible seats right in the front row. I spent most of the break between Clare Bowditch’s set and Leonard’s first set chatting with them — it was fantastic to hear some first hand accounts of how fan meetups in Europe and elsewhere work, and the magnitude to which these have grown.

At the interval I went in search of the other group of folks I knew were there: womanfromaroom and Greg Ross. After tracking them down and presenting them with their LC Forum lanyards, I got to speak briefly with them. womanfromaroom is currently visiting from Germany — it was again great to hear how the shows in Europe have been going recently, and in particular to hear how the Perth show differed from, or was similar to those shows. I was actually fortunate enough to spend quite a bit more time with these guys the next morning swapping war stories about Leonard, the Universe and Everything. Very nice!

A big thank you to both groups of people … as always they were wonderful, warm and accommodating people. Leonard’s fans are some of the best people out there, and the rare opportunity to meet more of them during this tour has been one of the aspects of the long trip that I’ve enjoyed the most. Thanks, guys!

The Set List

The nib Stadium is located in an area of Perth that is surrounded mostly by (what seemed to me) light industrial areas, but there are also residential suburbs not far away. So it was no surprise that there was a curfew — the promotional material said the show would wrap up at 10:30 (early, but it also started much earlier than all the other Aus and NZ shows, with Leonard on-stage just after 7). Leonard seemed to have decided at some point during the second encore (or maybe earlier) that he’d leave some time for a third encore — Closing time was sped up slightly to wrap up at around 10:20, leaving ten minutes for I Tried To Leave You. Third encores have been a rarity for the Aus and NZ shows, so this one was welcomed!

The songs played on the night were:

Set 1

01 Dance Me To The End Of Love
02 The Future
03 Ain’t No Cure For Love
04 Bird On The Wire
05 Everybody Knows
06 Who By Fire
07 The Darkness
08 Chelsea Hotel #2
09 Waiting For The Miracle
10 Anthem

Set 2

11 Tower of Song
12 Suzanne
13 Avalanche
14 Sisters Of Mercy
15 The Gypsy’s Wife
16 The Partisan
17 Hallelujah
18 I’m Your Man
19 A Thousand Kisses Deep [recitation, variant stanzas]
20 Take This Waltz

Encore 1

21 So Long, Marianne
22 First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2

23 Famous Blue Raincoat
24 If It Be Your Will
25 Closing Time

Encore 3

26 I Tried To Leave You

General Observations

There were a number of specific things that caught my attention on the night:

  • Wandering Bob: for some reason, Bob Metzger seemed to spend quite a bit of pre-performance time and between sets wandering around on stage, fiddling with cables and the like in his little area (just in front of the pedal steel guitar). The funny thing was … in his single-mindedness he almost wandered on to stage while Clare Bowditch was still playing her last song. It was only a gentle touch on the arm by Pikelet (Clare’s sidekick, not on stage for the last Bowditch song which was performed solo) which averted a bit of an embarassing, not to mention confusing, incident.
  • Clare’s Support Set: embracing the “do anything” attitude that pervaded the evening, Clare — who really hadn’t changed her set much, even when she had her band at Hanging Rock — added a couple of nice solo songs, one on guitar and one on keyboard. The latter was a new song, only written a short time ago and not yet recorded.
  • Clare and the Pineapple Juice: before playing one of her songs, Clare alluded to an incident where just before coming on stage at one of the shows, she had spilled a pitcher of pineapple juice in Leonard’s crotch. She related how he was quite unoffended, casually brushing aside the fact that she’d messed up his Armani suit.
  • Longer Interval: the break between Leonard’s first and second set — usually very precisely twenty minutes — was longer in Perth. I was wondering why … right up until I saw Joey’s photo of the bottle of wine that was being shared backstage during the interval. I guess if someone opened a bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage for me, I wouldn’t hurry either.
  • A Fasces of Flowers: during the standing ovations, the video cameras usually swivel around to film the crowd, putting the pictures up on the big screen. If there’s something of particular note, they tend to zoom in on it (as with the laminated heart sign at Hanging Rock). At the Perth show it seemed to be an odd-looking bundle of flowers held aloft a bit like a Roman fasces. I think it was topped with a sunflower.
  • Roscoe’s Gizmos: something else that’s grabbed my attention at a couple of the recent shows is the small collection of little gadgets that Roscoe has sitting on top of the equipment rack behind him. In particular, there’s a blue gizmo with an LCD screen and some buttons. After painstaking searching on google images, I can now confirm this is a bass tuner, specifically a Peterson VS II.

Specific Songs

As always there were some subtle (and on this occasion, also not-so-subtle) nuances to the performance in Perth which made it quite unique:

  • Bird On The Wire: Before playing this song, Leonard said “Well ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for your warm welcome here this evening. It’s a great pleasure to play for you. So glad that you invited us back to Australia and y’know it’s our last night here.” He then went on to give the normal statement about how the band would be giving everything tonight. Minor lyrical elaboration: “People, don’t cry, don’t cry you were always the one”
  • Everybody Knows: there’s been a little bit of discussion on the forum about the gesture Leonard makes when he sings the line “when you’ve done a little line or two.” At this show we didn’t get the little sniff (which I heard at Hanging Rock) but he still pointed his thumb at his nose.
  • Who By Fire: A different Javier intro again, seemingly more ‘modern’ than some of the other versions. Almost a combination of classical Spanish guitar, with maybe a touch of jazz mixed in there somewhere. As always it was extremely well received.
  • The Darkness: Leonard gave a spoken intro to this song: “I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how I caught it. There’s a lot of it going around, that’s all I can say. I was minding my own business, and I caught it.” This was a great rendition of this song with Leonard’s guitar playing on this version the best I’ve heard it, with just the right amount of twanginess and buzz. The Webb Sisters seemed to be trying to sing some lower harmonies for this song, to make up for the fact that Sharon was absent.
  • Anthem: The spoken intro to this song was: “Thanks a lot friends, you’ve been so very hospitable to us tonight. It’s really an honour to play for you. We are indeed privilegd to be able to gather in places like this for occasions like this when so much of this dark world is plunged in chaos and suffering. So, those of us who can …” The Saga of Rafael and “It”, which has been slowly unfolding in Leonard’s introduction to the drummer, came to a bit of a suprise conclusion (see below). When Leonard introduced Neil, he described him as “grammy nominated”. At the conclusion of the song, Leonard said “Thanks so much friends. Thank you for your kind attention. I don’t like to keep you up late on a school night, but we’ll be back in a few minutes with the second part of this concert. I hope you’ll be there. Thanks a lot friends.”
  • Rafael & It: Here’s how Leonard introduced Rafael: “A sculptor of silence. Laying it down, bringing it home, putting it to bed, clipping its toenails, smothering it with a pillow, going to jail, joining the Aryan Brotherhood, later converting to Judaism, later losing his faith, spending the remainder of his days working in a half-way house for destroyed vegetarians … the Regent of Restraint, the Prince of Passionate Precision, Rafael Bernado Gayol!”
  • Tower of Song: “Thanks so much friends, thanks for staying.” The audience reaction to Leonard’s keyboard solo was unusually raucous, with whoops and claps sporadically through the second half of the solo. At the end he said “Now I know why you are famous for your kindness.”
  • Suzanne: Leonard played another nice elaboration on his solo guitar intro to this song. All in all, a great version of this classic.
  • Sisters of Mercy: At some point during the first few bars of this song, a guy in audience loudly yelled out “yeeeaaah!”
  • The Partisan: There was something different with the sound of Rafael’s hi-hat line on this song. I don’t know whether it was a different line that he was playing, or there was something different in the mix or microphones.
  • Hallelujah: namecheck “I didn’t come to Perth to fool you.”
  • I’m Your Man: Again, there were lots of people talking along with the line “I’m Your Man”. We got the lines “You know damn well you can” and “if you want to work the street, ok, I’ll disappear for you”. The remark about wearing “an old man’s mask for you” got an unusually large laugh this time around. There were a few folk up and dancing at the front during this song, but security very quickly shut them down.
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep: This was notably different to any other performance of this poem that I’ve heard. Two stanzas were substituted at the end (see below). The comment about the perfect porn aristocrat and Leonard being “still into that” got an uncommonly large cheer, with a woman from the crowd loudly shouting out “eyyyyy”.
  • Variant stanzas: The Perth version of the poem was as per the version normally performed, right up until the second iteration of the lines about “his second-hand physique”, after that the rest of the recital was:

Don’t matter if the road is long
Don’t matter if it’s steep
Don’t matter if the moon goes out
And the Darkness is complete

Don’t matter if we lose out way
It’s written that we’ll meet
At least that’s what I heard you say
A Thousand Kisses Deep

  • Take This Waltz: In place of the line “I want you, I want you, I want you”, we got something different … and not the “Te Caro” substitution that has been in most of the recent performances. Instead, Leonard sang “I love you, I love you, I love you”. Generally, Leonard’s vocal delivery here was more flowing than usual. When, at the end of the song, he gave credit to the back-stage crew, he added in a thank you to the “custodians of our hats: Maz(?) and Lee Lomar(?), who’s leaving today.” Just before leaving the stage he said “I want to thank you all for the great hospitality you’ve show us this evening. We deeply appreciate it. Thanks so much.”
  • First We Take Manhattan: Rafael added in some double kicks in numerous places throughout this version, which added some extra energy to the song.
  • Famous Blue Raincoat: This was a very relaxed performance by Leonard. “The enemy is sleeping and the woman is free.”
  • If It Be Your Will: The Webb Sisters offered up some fantastic harmonies in this version — it was extremely well received by the audience.
  • Closing Time: This was performed with great gusto, a little faster than usual (I think with an eye towards leaving 10 minutes for a third encore). Leonard’s monologue at the end included the normal lines about stacking up the chairs, the lines about giving the night a ticket, and then “Been so great being here, friends and to share the stage with the astonishing Clare Bowditch and Evelyn Morris. I want to thank you all for the warm greeting and the warm hospitality that you’ve shown us tonight. Take it easy friends. I don’t know when we’ll meet again. Until that time, God bless you, every one. Thanks for everything friends. Good night!”
  • I Tried To Leave You: For their solo, the Webb Sisters provided a different harmonic piece than they have performed at the rest of the shows on this tour.
  • Final outro: “Ah you’ve been so good friends. Thank you so much. We hope to see you soon. What a lovely way to leave Australia with this incredible display of affection. Thank you so much, friends!”

That’s It For Australia & NZ

Perth marked the end of Leonard’s Down Under tour … but not the end of the “World Tour 2010”. There are still a handful of shows coming up in Canada and the US. But someone else will need to chronicle those … I’ve got to start paying off all my travels around Australia and New Zealand!

All the best to Leonard and the band for the remainder of the tour!

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I Went So Far For Beauty

Well, I’m now back in Adelaide at the end of my long month of travelling around Australia and New Zealand to see Leonard and the band perform.

As I’ve travelled around I’ve spoken to a lot of Cohen fans at the shows, and explained what I have been doing (in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a complete lunatic … hopefully). Overwhelmingly the people I’ve spoken to have asked me two main questions:

  1. How much does all this cost?
  2. How far do you travel?

Speaking with a few others who have done similar things, I have been given the clear advice never to even try to calculate the answer to the first of these questions. It sounds like good advice, so I’m sticking with it.

But I was a bit curious as to how many kilometres I covered in my journeying around. So I added it up — the working is in the table below (for those who want to marvel at my mathematical abilities :-)). The answer … over 19000Km. In non-metric, about 11850 miles. Or just a little under half the circumferance of the earth …

Sheesh … Australia and New Zealand are BIG places.

From To Distance (km) Note
Adelaide Sydney 1165
Sydney Auckland 2160
Auckland Napier 419 drive
Napier Wellington 350 drive
Wellington Melbourne 2579
Melbourne Adelaide 655
Adelaide Brisbane 1599
Brisbane Sydney 728
Sydney Adelaide 1165
Adelaide Melbourne 655
Melbourne Hobart 601
Hobart Melbourne 601
Melbourne Adelaide 655
Adelaide Melbourne 655
Melbourne Hanging Rock 70 drive
Hanging Rock Melbourne 70 drive
Melbourne Adelaide 655
Adelaide Perth 2138
Perth Adelaide 2138
TOTAL 19058
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Photos from Perth (24 November)

Aproaching nib Stadium … with generously overflowing merch stand in foreground:

Before the support act went on, I spotted Roscoe making a brief visit to the stage … out of uniform. I guess this was before they hit wardrobe:

Another in the Classic Black & White portrait series — Roscoe:

Not long after the sun went down, I noticed that Venus was very clear overhead thanks to a cloudless sky. This let me line up this shot with two different types of stars sharing the one photo (and before anyone corrects me, yes I know that Venus isn’t a star … it’s poetic license, ok):

I mentioned in a concert report a couple of weeks back (it might have been Brisbane) that Dino does some interesting little detail parts in Anthem. Here’s him playing a Rain Stick:

Tonight when Leonard sang “I stepped into an Avalanche”, 11000 Western Australians followed him in:

The band sing Hallelujah bathed in a halo of light:

I’ve been trying to get this shot at every single concert … finally I got lucky. Here’s an action photo of Rafael flinging his drumstick into the air at the crescendo of I Tried To Leave You:

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