The 1970 Leonard Cohen Champagne & Crazy Guy Concert At UCLA: A First Person Account

outlawuclaThis personal report of the 19701 UCLA Leonard Cohen performance by Dan Fuehring, published in its entirety here for the first time,2 is intriguing – and supports my contention that the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour was distinctly weird.

It was in Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. First, someone had a bottle of champagne on the stage and they were passing it around. Cohen took it and poured a bit on the windscreen of his mike. It did not appear to hurt the mike.

But the extraordinary thing was when a crazy guy started yelling random incoherent things from the audience. Everyone tried to ignore him until he jumped up on stage, still spouting gibberish. (For the identity of the “crazy guy,” see Michelle Phillips’ Gig As A Leonard Cohen Backup Singer)

The cops came to get him but Cohen waved them off, and then sat on the edge of the stage talking quietly to him, eventually holding hands with him.

After a bit, Cohen went back to the mike and said, “Why doesn’t everyone come up here?” and so the stage filled with as many people as it would hold, and they went on with the concert.

I was there with my sister. We were towards the back, so we stayed in our seats.

Pretty special night, though.

Dan clarifies and adds a few details:

I think that it was 1970, as there is some mention of him playing Royce Hall that year.3 That would also match with the phase of me playing Cohen in the house and my mom getting worried about me.

It was sold out or near-sold out. I would guess 1500 – 2000 or so.4

The band was typical of one of his bands. I do remember that Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas was one of the two female singers (see Michelle Phillips’ Gig As A Leonard Cohen Backup Singer). There was a writeup in Rolling Stone about it, which also included a mention of his guitar being lost for a time during loadout, but then found in another case.

It was maybe about the time of Songs From a Room,5 but I am not sure. I don’t remember what he played other than it was very very good and typical of the style he played when I saw him in subsequent years.6

I have seen Cohen every chance I have gotten. It’s just a magical experience. The last was the I’m Your Man tour, which I caught at the Schnitzer Hall in Portland. Of course I bought my tickets (here in Eugene) the minute that I heard, but then it was only about one third full. Cohen alluded to that but still played a great, long, generous set.

Credit Due Department: The ad atop this post is from the November 13, 1970 Highlights Of Week End Entertainment In The Southland section of The Valley News (Van Nuys, California).

Note: Originally posted Feb 16, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. For context, it was also in 1970 that a jury found the Chicago Seven defendants not guilty, the first Earth Day was celebrated in the U.S., President Richard Nixon signed a measure lowering the voting age to 18, Jimi Hendrix died due to a barbiturate overdose, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose, the Beatles gave their last studio performance, and Rhodesia became independent, declaring itself a racially-segregated republic. []
  2. A portion of Dan Fuehing’s description was first published in a Metachat comment. []
  3. According to LeonardCohenLive , Cohen played UCLA’s Royce Hall 14 November 1970. []
  4. According to the LA City Guide, Royce Hall has a capacity of 1800. []
  5. Songs From A Room was released April 1969 []
  6. LeonardCohenLive lists a partial setlist from the November 15, 1970 Leonard Cohen Berkeley Community Theatre concert, which was performed the day after the Royce Hall concert:
    1. Bird On The Wire
    2. Suzanne – solo (aborted)
    3. The Stranger Song – solo
    4. (unknown song) – solo
    5. It’s Forbidden To Sit In The Aisles (improvisation)
    6. (short poem)
    7. (short poem)
    (…)
    Encore:
    Seems So Long Ago, Nancy []