The 2010 Leonard Cohen Phnom Penh, Cambodia Concert That Never Took Place

Introduction:

A Leonard Cohen concert that would have been his first in Southeast Asia was scheduled for Nov 27, 2010 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In early Nov 2010 (five months after the initial announcement of the show), however, the Phnom Penh concert was “postponed” and never took place. In addition, the consequent explanation provided the first evidence that the then oft repeated avowal that there were no plans for another tour after the December 11, 2010 Las Vegas show was inoperative – i.e., the Leonard Cohen tour would continue in 2011. The story is told in these posts first published on 1HeckOfAGuy.com (a predecessor of Cohencentric & AllanShowalter.com).

Leonard Cohen To Perform In Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Posted June 4, 2010

I just found this reference to a possible performance by Leonard Cohen in Cambodia in today’s Andy’s Cambodia post, “Revelations:”

The new edition of AsiaLife came into my possession today and it confirms that the first of the Mekong Sessions acts to perform in Phnom Penh will be Leonard Cohen, the ‘godfather of gloom,’ indoors at the Olympic Stadium on 27 November. Cohen is on a world tour and Phnom Penh will be his only SEAsia date.

It’s Official – Leonard Cohen To Perform In Phnom Penh
Posted June 16, 2010

Ongoing readers may recall the June 4, 2010 Heck Of A Guy post, Leonard Cohen To Perform In Phnom Penh, Cambodia.Some readers may have even doubted the accuracy of the original Heck Of A Guy announcement. More than a few viewers assumed it was a joke (which, given some of the less Cohen-reverent posts published here, is admittedly an easy mistake to make).

Well, those doubting Thomas sorts need doubt no longer. Today, the following AEG press release, along with the above photo, appeared at The Mekong Sessions:

LEONARD COHEN TO PLAY PHNOM PENH ON NOV. 27, 2010
A LEGENDARY ARTIST – A LEGENDARY CITY

(For Immediate Release – June 17, 2010) – To celebrate and contribute to the restoration of the majestic city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Leonard Cohen will perform at the Olympic Stadium on November 27, 2010. To aid victims of Cambodia’s recent tragic past, proceeds from this concert will benefit the Cambodian Red Cross and Cambodian persons with a disability. Tickets available online on July 15, 2010.

Leonard Cohen’s November 27th concert will be held under the patronage of His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia and Lok Chumtuev Bun Rany Hun Sen, President of the Cambodian Red Cross. The performance is produced by The Mekong Sessions in conjunction with Robert Kory Management and AEG Live and is exclusive to the South-East Asian region.

Cohen’s legendary artistry and his performance, referred to by many as a “spiritual experience,” at the architecturally significant Stadium in one of the world’s most intriguing and reemerging cities is intended to be more than just a unique evening of music. As an ordained Buddhist monk, Cohen is known for his affinity for the culture and his commitments to assist those who have suffered from conflict.

“Leonard is deeply honored by this invitation, and we hope that in our small way, we can both assist in cultural restoration and personal healing,” said Robert Kory, Manager to Leonard Cohen. “The world is aware that Phnom Penh, once a cultural Mecca, and its people, suffered a brutal genocide thirty five years ago which ended lives and altered that magnificent city. We are hopeful that the concert may become a first step in celebration of the city’s rebirth as a vibrant cultural centre and serve to aid those who have suffered.”

“This is a landmark event for AEG Live as well as a significant international milestone where Phnom Penh announces its objective to become a premiere performance destination,” said Rob Hallett, President, AEG Live.

Chris Minko, Founder of the Mekong Sessions Concert Series stated, “We wish to convey our gratitude to Mr. Cohen for this epic event that demonstrates that Cambodia has emerged from tragic civil conflict and its tradition of cultural excellence is reborn.”

Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium is a rare example of the work of famous Khmer architect Vann Molyvan, whose designs are the current subject of international interest. His distinctive designs combine High Modernism with elements of classical Khmer design and are a reminder of the days of Phnom Penh’s former cultural stature.

ABOUT LEONARD COHEN: Leonard Cohen is a master songwriter, musician and poet whose stunning body of original work has touched the lives of millions with a career spanning five decades. He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2006) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2008) for outstanding work. Cohen’s world tour, which inaugurated in May 2008, is still playing to sold-out crowds.

MEDIA CONTACT:
For Leonard Cohen:
Sunshine, Sachs & Associates
Ken Sunshine / Tiffany Shipp

For AEG Live: Rob Hallett

For Mekong Sessions Concerts Series: Christopher Minko

Leonard Cohen Phnom Penh, Cambodia Concert Postponed Until After The End Of The 2010 Tour
Posted Nov 2, 2010

The Official Announcement

This morning [at time of original Nov 2, 2010 post], Mekong Sessions, the web site of the organizers of the Leonard Cohen Cambodia concert scheduled to take place November 27, 2010 displayed the following announcement:

Leonard Cohen 27 November Phnom Penh concert postponed

Leonard Cohen, Robert Kory Management, AEG Live and the Mekong Sessions regret to inform ticket holders and fans that the 27 November Phnom Penh concert has been postponed to a date to be announced due to logistical issues insurmountable in the given time prior to the performance.

Leonard Cohen, Robert Kory Management and the Mekong Sessions thank all ticket holders, fans and sponsors for their support and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Leonard Cohen remains committed to performing in Cambodia and Cohen, Robert Kory Management and AEG Live retain their full confidence in the local promoter, the Mekong Sessions, and will continue to work with the local promoter to ensure the concert goes ahead following the end of the 2010 World Tour.

In recognition of the aspirations and achievements of the persons with a disability of Cambodia and the important ongoing work in their support, Leonard Cohen will be making a significant humanitarian donation reflecting his immense goodwill to the nation of Cambodia.

All ticket holders will receive full refunds. Ticket holders who purchased by cash from the Mekong Sessions should visit the Mekong Sessions office in Phnom Penh from Wednesday 10th November.

The Unofficial Pronouncements

To avoid misleading readers, I must issue my usual disclaimer: I know nothing about why the concert has been postponed. I’m making inquires, but given that the Heck Of A Guy Cambodian correspondent desk remains empty and that neither the local promoters nor those organizing the World Tour responded to my emails sent when all was well in hopes this blog could spotlight the event, I wouldn’t count on hearing from them now. Nonetheless, in adherence to my eighth grade class motto, Onward Ever.

The Dec 11, 2010 Final Las Vegas Concert Not So Final Now?

The most interesting implication garnered from the postponement is, of course, that the oft repeated avowal that there are no plans for another tour after the December 11, 2010 Las Vegas show is now apparently inoperative.

Leonard Cohen remains committed to performing in Cambodia and Cohen, Robert Kory Management and AEG Live retain their full confidence in the local promoter, the Mekong Sessions, and will continue to work with the local promoter to ensure the concert goes ahead following the end of the 2010 World Tour. [emphasis mine]

While one could argue that this is technically a commitment to only a single concert and, indeed, one concert doth not a tour make, it is difficult to imagine regrouping the entire troupe employed in such a concert, reorganizing the transport of equipment and personnel, rescheduling the venue, promoting ticket sales, and taking on the myriad logistical requirements of this production in order to perform one concert at one site, pack up, and go home.

Again, however, I know nothing about the business of putting on concerts and tours. Maybe this is how it’s done all the time.

What Happened?

Logistical issues are given as the reason for the postponement:

Leonard Cohen, Robert Kory Management, AEG Live and the Mekong Sessions regret to inform ticket holders and fans that the 27 November Phnom Penh concert has been postponed to a date to be announced due to logistical issues insurmountable in the given time prior to the performance. [emphasis mine]

Ongoing readers may recall similar language was used to explain the elimination of the Hawaiian show. An excerpt from the pertinent press release follows:

Regrettably, AEG Live has announced the cancellation of Leonard Cohen’s previously scheduled December 4th performance in Honolulu, Hawaii due to prohibitive and insurmountable logistical issues.1 [emphasis mine]

The Cambodia concert, which featured the highest ticket prices of the World Tour, was not a last minute affair. It was advertised by June 4, 2010 and officially announced by June 16, 2010.  Further, the Cambodian government was openly involved and supportive, as noted in this excerpt from the Bangkok Post Entertainment Section:

This major entertainment showcase will be held under the patronage of Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia, and wife Bun Rany, president of the Cambodian Red Cross.

So, with about six months lead time and the support of the government, what was the logistic hurdle that couldn’t be cleared?

Well, as before, I dunno, but here’s a wacky speculation – based solely on my innate cynicism and unsupported by any hard evidence: maybe the logistical problem in Hawaii and/or Cambodia was the failure to sell enough tickets.

Yep, I think it is possible that there are two (and perhaps even more) locations on this planet where the the intersection of the graphs of the mass popularity of the Canadian singer-songwriter-icon I personally adore and ticket sales economics falls below the threshold of profitability.

If that is the case, I am sympathetic to those who invested time, money, and effort in hopes of attending a Cohen concert at that specific venue, and I am perplexed, as always, by the existence anywhere of individuals, some of whom seem to be otherwise cogent, decent, civilized, tasteful folks, who are are immune to the enchantments of Leonard Cohen’s music, but otherwise … well, you know, onward ever.

Robert Kory On Cambodian Concert Cancellation And Plans For 2011 Leonard Cohen Tour
Posted Nov 10, 2010

Robert Kory (left) with Heck Of A Guy correspondent baotzebao (right) at Tel Aviv Concert in 2009

Robert Kory Offers Perspective As Leonard Cohen’s Manager On Cambodian Concert – And What’s Next For Leonard Cohen

Since the cancellation of the Leonard Cohen Cambodia Concert (originally scheduled for November 27, 2010) was announced November 2, 2010, heated debates about responsibility for the cancellation and speculations about the roles played by the local promoters, AEG, Leonard Cohen’s organization, and Leonard Cohen himself have not only persisted but intensified at LeonardCohenForum where conflicts typically have to do with differing preferences re “Best Backup Singer,” “Most Memorable Concert,” “Most Moving Song,” etc. This morning, the pertinent discussion thread, Announcement of the Nov 27 concert in Phnom Penh, had 119 posts.

The most interesting of these, published only today, is a post featuring an email purportedly from Robert Kory, Leonard Cohen’s Manager, to a Forum member who had made arrangements to attend the concert in Phnom Penh. I must point out that I have not yet been able to verify that this email is indeed from Robert Kory, but its style and content ring true and it has been posted online without refutation at LeonardCohenForum, which is internally monitored and believed to be followed by those involved in Cohen’s management. In short, I have no reason not to believe it is genuine.

The only change I have made in the post is using bold type to emphasize one point.

by Gala Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:29 am

Here is Robert Kory’s mass email reply:

First please accept my personal apologies for my failure to foresee the disasters that led to cancellation of the Cambodian concert. Second, I am planning to make a statement on the forum, but I am waiting to sort out all the damage.

In the interim, here is the simple explanation. The local promoter is inexperienced, and failed to account properly for the cost in presenting the concert in such a remote location. The technical hallmark of a Leonard Cohen concert on this tour is its sound; we do not compromise the standards, and we have a very detailed technical rider that we send to every promoter prior to signing a contract as to the technical requirements. Many less advanced countries do not have the equipment which must be shipped in by freight. Even in the famous Israel concert last year, we had to ship in truckloads of equipment from Germany. In the case of Phnom Penh, we verified, through an independent European tour manager living in Thailand, that the required equipment existed in SE Asia and could be shipped in. Over the course of the last few months, I relied on AEGLive in London to monitor progress along with our our crew. AEGLive is responsible for all promotion contracts and for verifying the financial integrity of all local promoters. About four weeks ago, I became concerned that our crew was not getting answers from the local promoter about equipment arrivals, load in schedules, etc, Ticket sales were not great, but were adequate. When I finally pressed the issue on equipment, however, it became clear that the local promoter had not anticipated either the full cost of renting equipment and not any cost of freight. Equipment production costs alone rose to over $500,000. That cost is not feasible for a 2,000 person concert, The venue only holds 3,500. In addition to the equipment production costs, you have to add air charter, security, hotels, etc for 40 people. Total show costs would reach over $800,000. In short the concert would have been a financial disaster even if every ticket were sold; there would not only be no money for charity, but the local promoter would be bankrupt and we would no doubt have incurred great travel and hotel expense for which we would not be reimbursed.

What took so long for me to discover these matters? The local promoter was less than forthcoming, and AEGLive became so emotionally committed to seeing the historic concert happen that they failed in their oversight duties. This is a very rare error of judgment. I was the final line of defense in unearthing the facts, and when I smelled a problem, I pushed until I got answers, as I am not just a manager, but a lawyer. So my due diligence efforts included personally calling the local promoter every hour for several days while I was in New Zealand and sending increasingly forceful and compelling emails demanding the truth whatever the truth might be. In AEG’s defense, the local promoter stopped returning AEG’s calls, probably as panic set in as the local promoter realized that the concert meeting our technical standards was not financially feasible.

The success of our tour over the past two and one-half years may lead some fans to believe that the whole enterprise is or has been easy to manage and coordinate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Managing and promoting a tour of this magnitude and quality is extraordinarily difficult because we absolutely never compromise quality. Some artists would say, “go ahead, rent the cheap local equipment, too bad if the audience can’t hear, they can’t hear in most concerts anyway.” That approach is anathema to us. Leonard has given me the honor and the privilege to manage a tour of unprecedented quality. Between ourselves, we call it “the no compromise tour.” That has been our premise from day one, and I take some satisfaction that the whole crew has adopted a standard of excellence. That means we turn down many offers. In retrospect, we should have declined the Phnom Penh offer.

I deeply regret the inconvenience our “no compromise” attitude has had on your plans. I can only console myself with the knowledge that I would have been even more horrified to walk the stadium and hear muddled sound that made it impossible to hear the music and lyrics.

We remain committed to playing Asia; I have explored many avenues; our technical rider is a deterrent to many Asian promoters who know their business; nevertheless, Leonard plans to tour next year after the release of his new record. I will continue to try to organize a tour in Asia.

Please let us know if there is any way we can assist you in seeing one of the remaining concerts in Australia or North America. Tickets will be our gift.

By the way, we are making a donation to charity in Cambodia from revenues earned in Australia because we told the Cambodian public that a charitable donation would be made. That donation will come directly from my pocket and from Leonard’s.

Kind regards,
Robert
Robert Kory

Leonard Cohen 2011 Tour

The points made about the Cambodian Concert are clearly stated, and I lack sufficient knowledge about this matter to comment further on it. The reference to Leonard Cohen touring next year, however, deserves elaboration.

The above announcement, like the original bulletin canceling the Cambodian concert, includes the clear pronouncement that a Leonard Cohen tour is planned for 2011. The following excerpt is from the previous Heck Of A Guy post, Leonard Cohen Phnom Penh, Cambodia Concert Postponed Until After The End Of The 2010 Tour:

The Dec 11, 2010 Final Las Vegas Concert Not So Final Now?

The most interesting implication garnered from the postponement is, of course, that the oft repeated avowal that there are no plans for another tour after the December 11, 2010 Las Vegas show is now apparently inoperative.

Leonard Cohen remains committed to performing in Cambodia and Cohen, Robert Kory Management and AEG Live retain their full confidence in the local promoter, the Mekong Sessions, and will continue to work with the local promoter to ensure the concert goes ahead following the end of the 2010 World Tour. [emphasis mine]

Once again, Robert Kory, Leonard Cohen’s Manager for the 2008-2010 World Tour, explicitly writes “Leonard plans to tour next year after the release of his new record.”

Unless one posits this message to be bogus in its origin, it is difficult to understand why there is any controversy about the likelihood of more Leonard Cohen concerts after the 2010 World Tour ends in Las Vegas next month.

Credit Due Department: The photo of Robert Kory and Heck Of A Guy correspondent baotzebao atop this post was originally posted on this site September 28th, 2009 as part of The Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Concert – A Personal Report & Perspective. Other than providing a likeness of Mr. Kory, the photo has no implications for or connection to the remainder of today’s post.The source of the photo is, of course, baotzebao

Leonard Cohen Gives $50,000 To Cambodian Pagoda After Cancellation Of 2010 Phom Penh Show
Posted Feb 11, 2011

Leonard Cohen Donates $50,000 To Cambodian Pagoda For The Construction Of A School And Sports Courts

From the media release from The Mekong Sessions,

Leonard Cohen donates US$50,000 to Cambodian Pagoda for the construction of a school and sports courts.

Media Release: Phnom Penh, Wednesday 9 February 2011

Leonard Cohen donates US$50,000 to Cambodian Pagoda for the construction of a school and sports courts.

Leonard Cohen and his manager Robert Kory announced today their intention to donate US$50,000 to be used to support a Cambodian Buddhist Pagoda in provincial Cambodia. The substantial donation generously provided following the postponement of Cohen’s 2010 Phnom Penh is to be coordinated by the CNVLD and the Global Giving project.

The $50,000 donation will be utilized to benefit:

Prek Ksay Pagoda, Neak Leaung District, Svay Rieng Province including:

1. Construction of a state of the art environmentally friendly primary school to provide education for local children and monks which will be named after ‘Pich Om’ the Matriach of the Prek Ksay Pagoda, the CNVLD and of Phnom Penh-based band Krom;

2. The provision of educational material and equipment to the Prek Ksay Pagoda school;

3. Construction of a Sports court at Prek Ksay Pagoda for the establishment of a CNVLD disability sports program in Neak Leung in line with the CNVLD stated aim of achieving full localisation and a presence in every Cambodian province within 5 years;

4. The establishment of sister school relationships between the Prek Ksay Pagoda school and schools in Australia, Canada and the USA.

The Mekong Sessions and the CNVLD wishes to extend its deepest gratitude to Leonard Cohen and Robert Kory for their generous donation and their continued support for the aspirations of disadvantaged Cambodians.

_________________________________

  1. See Leonard Cohen Is Coming To Hawaii – The Video []

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