Before sharing my impressions of the first tour of LC’s NZ/Aus tour, I should probably say that the last time I saw one of the World Tour shows was about 18 months ago, in Australia. So lots of things that are ‘new’ to me might have been part of the band’s retinue for some time. In preparation for the coming shows, I did manage to listen to a few recordings from some of the later European shows (from I think sometime in September), so I’m slightly aware of what has been performed recently.
Overall, comparing last nights Auckland shows to all of these previous performance, I would have to say that Leonard and the band remain in fine form. Musically, it’s clear that the group has continued to refine the more subtle nuances of their performances and arrangements to bring (in some cases) a new and slightly different slant onto the songs that they have now been performing for some time. At last night’s show, the whole group seemed to be energised … I think the general vibe could be summed up by LC’s spoken words after Dance Me To The End Of Love: “Thanks for inviting us back to NZ; we don’t know when we’ll be passing this way again, but I assure you that tonight we’ll give you everything we’ve got.”
If I had to pick the single biggest difference I noticed in last night’s performance (compared to the 2009 shows), it would be the obvious increase in Leonard’s confidence as an on-stage performer. I don’t mean to suggest that previously he lacked confidence … but having seen several shows in 2009, it’s clear that he approached his vocal delivery very much by keeping things fairly much the same each performance. It was almost like the songs were a kind a kind of mantra, to be recited as closely as possible each night. In the more recent performances, however, he seems very much more at ease with the material and is willing to experiment with the delivery of a line, or the articulation of a melody, varying it from previous renditions.
The band as well has continued to improve in terms of its integration into a tighter and tighter knit unit. If I had to single out one example of this, it would be Dino’s playing — he has always been excellent, but when watching his performances on the 2009 tour, I had the feeling that the technical genius of his solos was sometimes working a little at odds with the overall vibe of the band’s performance (although others doubtless would disagree). Hearing recent performances, and witnessing the show last night, I think his playing at these shows entirely meshes.
Some specific points I noted about the show:
- Sharon: Sharon was back on deck … and gave a powerful and flawless performance. So whatever ills plagued her in Europe, she seems fully recovered
- Everybody Knows: this song seems to be one where LC is at his most playful in varying his performance from previous delivery. Last night he playfully sang some variant lyrics in the chorus, while holding the mic away from his mouth so as to be barely audible. He also sang the outro in a very deep baritone, and when singing about the “cross on top of Calvary” he held his hand up in a little cross shape.
- Who By Fire: Javier’s intro seems to have somewhere along the line grown to become pretty much a complete song in itself … I have mixed feelings about this but either way it’s definitely a fantastic performance
- Chelsea Hotel #2: In some of the European recordings I heard, the tempo of this song had been reduced to the point where it was almost a funereal recitation by LC. Last night’s rendition was closer to the previous tempo, and I think the better for it.
- Waiting For The Miracle: I guess it changed quite a while ago, but it was still a novelty to hear the drums on this track played mostly by a drum machine (with hi-hats ably added live by Rafael)
- The Three New Songs: I think the inclusion of the new songs definitely adds new life to the set. Some I like more than others, but after having heard several versions of each it’s obvious that each is incrementally gaining a character of its own.
- Anthem: In the intro to this song, LC referred to the “wisdom and sanity of your government” when talking about how rare it was to gather like this when the world is filled with conflict. “It is indeed a priveleged place.”
- Tower of Song: As on the previous “down under” tour, LC joked about his keyboard, saying that “this things’s pretty sophisticated .. you probably haven’t seen anything like this down here.”
- Avalanche: There was a lyric substitution (compared to the original version) — I never knew how much I wanted you / O love beyond belief
- The Eigenharp: After recent discussion on the board, I was keeping an eye out for this nifty device. Dino only seemed to play it on two songs, one of which was Chelsea Hotel he used it to play some violin type strings. When he’s playing it, that thing lights up like a Xmas tree!
- The Partisan: I can’t really put my finger on why, but the performance of this song last night seemed ‘punchier’ than other times I heard it. Maybe a bit of a rearrangement?
- Hallelujah: There was the obligatory namecheck — last night it was “I didn’t come to Auckland to fool ya”
- I’m Your Man: “if you want to try another kind of love, I’ll wear an old man’s mask for you”
- A Thousand Kisses Deep: Before reciting the poem, LC spoke briefly about having recently read a blog on the topic “can a man of 76 be sexy”. He said he particularly liked one comment which said “yes, but in a repulsive way”. During the poem, towards the end, there were some different stanzas (compared to what I’ve previously heard) … they started “Well that’s my story, I admit it’s broken and it’s bleak”.
- If It Be Your Will: During LC’s spoken recitation at the beginning, just after he said “I will speak no more” a kiwi woman from the audience loudly yelled out “NEVER!”
- Take This Waltz: As with some of the European performances, LC replaced “I want you, I want you, I want you” with “Te Caro, Te Caro, Te Caro” which he sang to Javier
- Closing Time: After the last verse, LC gave a longish spoken outro with words I hadn’t previously heard. The basic gist was that he’s like to drink with us the whole night through, but they’re wiping down the bar and all the drunks are getting into their cars … I never got to tell you how beautiful you are. Or something like that.
Back for to Vector Arena for the second show in an hour or two!