Somehow, the May 11, 2009 Leonard Cohen show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD escaped my notice at the time. In researching this concert, I serendipitously came across an outstanding set of photos by Avi Elkoni, who not only agreed to their posting but also provided background information:
Some interesting facts about that particular concert, my first Leonard Cohen concert ever: The venue is what’s known in the industry as “a shed”. Make no mistake, it’s an excellent, award-winning amphitheater that was designed by Frank Gehry in the 60s and has seen its share of world-class musical acts. But it is an outdoor venue, with a roof that covers the stage and the seating area and additional uncovered lawn seating in the back. While the concert was in the “merry merry month of May” it was unseasonably cold. You will notice in the pictures that all of the vocalists put on scarves for the second half of the show and Leonard wore an overcoat. Mid-way through the second set it started to rain but the brave souls on the lawn opened a massive forest of umbrellas and stayed put. With Leonard’s music to warm the hearts everyone stuck it out until the end of the last encore.
The show was also reviewed by various outlets – although it’s not clear from those write-ups if the authors actually saw the same concert. The links are listed below with an excerpt fro each:
- Leonard Cohen, in concert (Le Tartout : An Art Outlet: August 5, 2009): The most striking thing, and the first thing that grabbed my attention, was that what was going on was something different from the concerts we know, from what we usually expect. It was the sudden awareness and remembering of the fact that he is a poet, first and foremost. Thus he addressed us – talked to us, recited, told, caressed us; his meaning, the meaning of him being there, on the stage, was to talk to us. As he himself affirmed, many times, Leonard Cohen is, first and foremost, a poet; then, a composer; then, a singer – in descending order of adeptness and comfort. I would add that his poetry is made for, and in, music; that he is a wonderful composer; that his poetic mode of expression, although based on words, is through music. He is, thus, a troubadour, in mind, in spirit, and in voice; this is the type of poetry he writes, this is the type of music he writes; as he writes on love, on things above and below, on loneliness, on encounters. And he doth travel the world. Therefore the night was one of a troubadour, who addressed us, who talked to us, sang to and with us.
- Leonard Cohen: Greatest Concert Of All Time by Timaeus (Daily Kos: May 12, 2009): He has put together the absolutely most amazing concert performance anybody has ever seen! At 74 he is in great shape and full of energy. He has an incredible 10-person band featuring some of the world’s very greatest musicians. And they’re performing the same set at every show (with minor variations). I just saw them at Merriweather Post Pavillion outside D.C. last night. It was a 3 hour and 20 minute show, with 3 encores! It turned out to be a cold and rainy night, but everybody was transported.
- Leonard Cohen: Live Last Night by Chris Klimek (Washington Post: May 12, 2009): At Merriweather Monday night, under skies that might be called “Coheneque” — cold, rainy, despairing, but not without a solitary beauty — the spry 74-year-old songwriter’s songwriter glided on-stage at 7:35, and sang for 65 minutes. Yes, sang. Save your jokes. He’s heard them all, and written some of the better ones himself. After a half-hour’s intermission, he returned to perform for another hour-forty, a headliner’s set in its own right. All told, he offered more than two dozen impeccable numbers from a tower of song that reaches back four decades. But the arrangements? Peccable, alas. With nine musicians joining him onstage, the temptation to drown Cohen’s meticulous language in flaccid lite-jazz instrumentation was constant. Too often, it was irresistible: The “Dance Me to the End of Love” that opened the show didn’t need one sax solo, much less two.
OK, actually the best line from the Washington Post review follows:
Cohen observed “We’re so privileged to gather like this, with so much of the world plunged in chaos and suffering.” Which is, roughly translated, Canadian poet-turned-monk-speak for “Throw your hands up and make some noy-oiiiise, Maryland!”
Only a few videos from this show are online. This is the best I could locate.
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD: May 11, 2009