Leonard Cohen’s 10 Best 2008-2013 Concert Enhancements: #6-#10

Introduction: Concert Enhancements: Stage Banter, Improvisations, Words To The Audience…

Leonard Cohen’s 2008-2013 concerts were magnificent, not only because he was a premier singer-songwriter but also because he was a consummate stage performer who enriched his shows with impromptu comments and stage business, an impressive portfolio of comic schticks, touching song introductions, and heartwarming blessings. For the purposes of this post, Concert Enhancements comprises anything Leonard did on stage other than a straightforward performance of a song. #6-#10 of the top 10 of these delights follow. #1-#5 of the top 10 can be found at the link.

 

10. The Commander Of Commendations: Leonard Cohen’s Extraordinary Band & Crew Introductions

Nobody introduced backing musicians and crew like Leonard Cohen, especially during the 2008-2013 tours. He would typically remove his hat and bow his head while offering a succinct, memorable lyrical description of each band member and backup singer. This listing is representative:

  • The Sublime Webb Sisters
  • The Impeccable Neil Larsen
  • My Collaborator, The Incomparable Sharon Robertson
  • The Sweet Shepherd Of Strings, Javier Mas
  • The Master Of Breath, Dino Soldo
  • The Signature Of Steady, Bob Metzger
  • My Musical Colleague For 35 Years, The Much-Cherished And Incurable Roscoe Beck
  • The Regent Of Restraint, The Prince Of Passionate Precision, Rafael Bernardo Gayol

This review of the 2012 Barclay’s Center show1 is pertinent and compelling [bolding mine]:

The 78-year-old Cohen showed no signs of fatigue though, dropping to his knees, skipping on and offstage for the two encores, bantering charmingly with his audience, introducing the band, the front-of-house team, the monitor guy, the guy who hung the lights even, naming their hometowns. He did this whole round of introductions twice, by the way. It was the most moving introducing-the-band routine I’ve ever seen – something that usually feels Vegas-y but this time around felt like church. It’s that reverent tone, I think, that enchanted us.

Introducing “The Master Of Musicians,” “My Old Friend,” “The Incurable Roscoe Beck” Et Al At Malmo 2010

While this video is imperfect, it does show Leonard Cohen offering a particularly effusive and expanded set of band member introductions at the end of “Anthem” at the Aug 4, 2010 Malmo Concert. (Video automatically begins with Leonard Cohen’s introductions.)

 

 

This video (self-described by the videographer as shaky) of the May 12, 2009 Philadelphia show by Linda Sturgess, Leonard thanks everyone from the lighting specialists to the caterers.

 

 

Credit Due Department: Photo by Lorca Cohen.

 

9. “Lighten Up, Cohen” – Leonard Cohen’s Hotel Mirrors Intro To Ain’t No Cure For Love: Bercy 2013

Even Leonard’s introductions to his songs were special.

 

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I heard this voice, this deep voice from the chambers of my heart, speaking to me — this voice said ‘Lighten Up, Cohen. How long are you going to pout about the way things are? And when are you going to get over the fact, the incontrovertible fact, the unassailable fact, the bewildering fact that There Ain’t No Cure For Love.’

 

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen’s “Hotel Mirrors Intro” To Ain’t No Cure For Love
Bercy: June 18, 2013
Video by MaartenLC (Maarten Massa)

8. Running & Skipping

While a number of performers sprint onstage, few of those performers begin doing so at age 74 — and, as far as I can determine, none of them exit their concerts by skipping offstage.

Leonard Cohen Runs Onstage
Oslo: July 1, 2008

And, the press noticed:

.Leonard Cohen surprised and delighted his audience at the BIC last night (Tuesday) by literally sprinting onto the stage and performing a three hour show. 2

Like a surreal gangster in double-breasted suit and trademark Fedora, Leonard Cohen skipped on to the stage to a deafening and reverential welcome at the Brighton Centre.3

After a seemingly endless string of encores (with Cohen skipping on and off stage between each) it’s obvious that Leonard Cohen has finally come to enjoy life and the songs that he has written that have touched so many.4

 

Leonard Cohen Exits, Skipping
Brussels: June 30, 2013

The Cohen Complete Curlicue Concluding Concert Closing

At the end of his remarks following the rendition of “Closing Time” at the final concert of the 2010 Tour, Leonard Cohen, for the first time ever, made his final stage right exit by executing a perfect 360 degree skipping twirl.

Leonard Cohen – Closing Time
Las Vegas: December 11, 2010
Video by albertnoonan

 

Credit Due Department: The photo of Mr Cohen skipping off the stage was taken at the April 13, 2013 Halifax concert by J.S.Carenza III.

7. “May you be surrounded by friends and family, and if this is not your lot, may the blessings find you in your solitude.” Leonard Cohen’s Long, Lovely Blessing

Leonard Cohen closed most of his shows with final words to his audience, but he moved it up a notch in the 2008-2013 Tours. For example, after an outstanding, rollicking rendition of Closing Time in his 2010 Vancouver concert, Leonard offered the long version of his goodbye blessings, reciting lines from Never Got To Love You, warning the audience not to catch a winter cold and to be sure they drive their own cars to their own homes, thanking them for keeping his “songs alive all these years,” and more.

Leonard Cohen – Final Words
Vancouver: Dec 2, 2010
Video from BillieMargaret

 

Credit Due Department: Photo by Ashley Tanasiychuk for www.guttersnipenews.com

6. The “Everybody Wants A Long Stem” Floral Fandango Version Of So Long, Marianne

 

The Amsterdam Rose – Stem

If Leonard Cohen had revised the lyrics of “Everybody Knows” to match his floral selection during “So Long, Marianne” at the August 21, 2012 Amsterdam concert, the three well known lines [emphasis mine]

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose

… would have been economically foreshortened to

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem

The video evidence follows. Pay close attention to Leonard’s employment of flowers starting about 30 seconds into the song.

Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne
Amsterdam: Aug 21, 2012
Video by

 

Yes, indeed, Leonard Cohen chooses to enhance one of his most heartbreaking songs by introducing into the staging a single, long stem, blossom-free rose.

And, not content with simply selecting and holding that stage prop, he proceeds to fix his deepest, most soulful gaze – the one he reserves to signal moments of intensity during songs of depth such as “Hallelujah” – upon that green peduncle, never missing a beat as he performs the song.

He does, however, crack up not only the audience but also the usually ultra-focused Sharon Robinson.Roscoe Beck also appears amused.

While Cohen campaign veterans Beck and Robinson seem tickled, the predominant feeling in the aspect of the initially perplexed Alex Bublitchi (then in his sixth concert backing Cohen) would seem to be relief.


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  1. Top ten experiences with music in the last year: Number One: Leonard Cohen at Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn NY. May 20th, 2012 by Will Sheff (WillSheff.com: December 24, 2012) []
  2. Cohen’s three-hour set masterpiece by Jeremy Miles. Daily Echo 12 November 2008 []
  3. Leonard Cohen at the Brighton Centre By Charlotte Taylor. Crawley Observer 22 December 2008 []
  4. Friday 14/11/08 Leonard Cohen @ The O2 Arena, London by Jon Bye. Gigwise. November 19, 2008 []

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