Concert Report: Wellington, 31 October

Wellington, night 1 was an abbreviated show … and in a far smaller venue than the previous couple of shows. But the overwhelming warmth from the audience (particularly at the beginning of the show and right at the end), made for a memorable evening.

The most notable thing was the cut-back set list … 23 songs instead of the 30 songs played in Auckland on October 28. This was obviously a deliberate stripping back of the show, almost certainly as a result of a curfew by the venue. After a prompt start at 8:15PM and the obligatory 20 minute break after set one, the show was all wrapped up just a few minutes after 11:00PM. Two of the three new songs were dropped, as was a second solo song by Leonard, and the normal first and second encore sets were kind of merged together into a single “Encore 1”. The poem got moved from Set 2 to Set 1.

Here’s the full set list for the night:

Set 1

01 Dance Me To The End of Love
02 The Future
03 Bird on the Wire
04 Everybody Knows
05 Who By Fire
06 The Darkness (with a spoken intro)
07 Chelsea Hotel #2
08 Waiting For The Miracle
09 A Thousand Kisses Deep
10 Anthem

Set 2

11 Tower of Song
12 Suzanne
13 Sisters of Mercy
14 The Gypsy’s Wife
15 The Partisan
16 Hallelujah
17 I’m Your Man
18 Take This Waltz

Encore 1

19 So Long, Marianne
20 Famous Blue Raincoat
21 First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2

22 I Tried To Leave You
23 Closing Time

The TSB Arena is a much, much smaller venue than the Vector Arena in Auckland …. which in some ways gave the show a bit more of an intimate feel. I’d have to say that the venue’s arrangements for letting people in could do with some tweaking, however — funnelling several thousand people through two front doors is not a quick process, and the massive snaking lines the stretched out from these doors across the plaza out front were almost worthy of a photo in themselves!

Overall the standard of the performance offered up by Leonard and the band was, as always, very high. I did think that the time pressures caused by the (I assume) enforced curfew did seem to give Leonard’s performance a bit more of a hurried complexion in places. In a couple of places I think this added some edginess to the deliver (see my comment on Everybody Knows, below), but in others I had a slight sense that the band had switched slightly into auto-pilot, adding fewer of the more recent embellishments in favour of playing the tried-and-true deliveries that are a ‘sure thing’ from a timing perspective. But maybe that’s just me.

The crowd at this show was extremely enthusiastic, offering up bigger applause and a lot more standing ovations than either of the Auckland nights. There were even a few people up and dancing in the Aisles for parts of the second set and the encores. I was seated much further back than I was on the last few shows, so had a great opportunity to crowd-watch. I would, say, however that there were a couple of folks standing by the entry doors at the back of the floored area who looked … shall we say as though they had fought against the bottle (and lost), and whose Woodstock-era dancing through several of the numbers was a little distracting.

Some specific notes:

  • Everybody Knows: Leonard’s vocal deliver seemed a lot more ‘aggressive’ and edgy in this performance, giving the song a more menacing kind of feel. He was still singing something (deliberately) inaudible under a couple of choruses.
  • The Colossal squid: Just before he played Chelsea Hotel, LC spoke to the audience saying how great it was to be back in Wellington. He said, however, that there was one disturbing item that he hastened to relate … “The Colossal Squid”, he said, “isn’t dead. It’s just sleeping … waiting to get out.” This is a reference to the recent capture and dissection of a Colossal squid in NZ waters and a museum display (see The local reference got a LOT of audience applause and laughter.
  • The Darkness: This song got a brief spoken intro: “Sometimes it starts in the night .. and sometimes the night just don’t give up”
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep: As noted in the set list, this poem got moved to much earlier in the performance … as a result of this I think the audience response was quite different. Normally when performed somewhere after Hallelujah the audience is quite keen to laugh in a couple of spots and applaud during the recitation. Last night was one of those nights where it was almost reverentially quiet during the reading, almost like we were hearing Leonard offering up a sermon (which, in way, I guess he is).
  • Anthem: During the band intros, LC went to particular pains to point out Bob’s orange electric guitar, which Cohen said he was playing specifically for Halloween evening. Rafael is apparently no longer cutting its toenails (but doing everything else).
  • Suzanne: I thought LC’s performance of this standard was a fair bit faster than usual …
  • Hallelujah: Obligatory place name check … “I did not come to Wellington to fool ya.” There was also a minor lyrical embellishment around the line “not some pilgrim who has seen the light.”
  • Take This Waltz: There was no “Te Caro, Te Caro, Te Caro” … we’re back to “I want you”
  • Closing Time: The spoken outro to this song was similar to those delivered on previous nights. But this time it was clear that this was (deliberately) the end of the show.
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