Photos, Video, & Reviews: 2009 Leonard Cohen Merriweather Post Pavilion Show, Columbia, MD

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

Claude Gassian Talks About Photographing Leonard Cohen: “He possessed grace and class… His eyes sparkled with laughter.”


I believe Leonard Cohen was someone fundamentally human. He never put on the celebrity act. He never made a fuss when he was being photographed. He understood my way of doing things and accepted it. He let me do my thing, gave me total freedom. I really loved those sessions because I felt I could express myself fully. Once, however, he decided to pose in a certain way. I found the result interesting because he was reinventing his image. For example, there is this photograph where Leonard Cohen rests his face in his hands, his eyes closed. He possessed grace and class… His eyes sparkled with laughter. At first, he seemed to be rather reserved, but in fact he had a keen sense of humor, he was very outgoing. When I photographed him, I felt we were working towards the same thing. He was present in my silence. He was part of it.quotedown2

Claude Gassian


From Claude Gassian: “Leonard Cohen possessed grace and class” by Jean-Baptiste Gauvin (Eye of Photography: May 16, 2017). Entire interview with Claude Gassian and 20 of his Leonard Cohen photos can be accessed at the link.

6 Photos: Leonard Cohen & His Mother, Masha

From I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons

Courtesy of Leonard Cohen


All posts dealing with Leonard Cohen’s mother can be found at

Cohen Is Coming!! – Leonard Cohen’s Transition Point: Edmonton 1966

Leonard Cohen came to Edmonton a private person and left famousquotedown2

Kim Solez


Leonard Cohen’s 1966 Epiphanic Visit To Edmonton Is Coming To Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen – Edmonton 1966: In 1966, Leonard Cohen, at the invitation of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts, spent five weeks in Edmonton. At the time, Leonard was known, if he was recognized at all, as Canada’s cultural enfant terrible, the hip and trendy poet of the younger generation – or as the article, Cohen Is Coming (The Gateway:1 November 25, 1966), describes him

Present darling of the campus cognoscenti, the bohemian in-groups, English 384, the Toronto morality squad, and lots of lovers of language

Kim Solez, president of the Cohennights Arts Society, and lead organizer of the Leonard Cohen International Festival, makes the case that Leonard Cohen’s Edmonton stay was the beginning of his professional life as a pop star

The start of his feeling famous started here in Edmonton, attention that was still brand-new to him.

And, a chance meeting with two University of Alberta co-eds during that Edmonton visit was memorialized in a classic Cohen song, Sisters of Mercy.

Continue Reading →

  1. The Gateway is the student newspaper of the University of Alberta []

Leonard Cohen Hanging With The Homies At Le Bistro Chez Lou Lou In Montreal 1959


Leonard Cohen (3rd from left) at Le Bistro Chez Lou Lou in Montreal. The wall behind him would later bear Cohen’s poem:

Marita, please find me
I am almost 30

DrHGuy Note: The Contact Series through which the reading fees were paid is described in these excerpts from “this is the kind of poetry we want’: Raymond Souster’s Editorial Legacy by Cameron Anstee. 17 seconds ( : a journal of poetry and poetics) – Ottawater: Sixth Issue; Winter 2013:

The final piece of Souster’s “Contact” work … was the organization of the Contact Poetry Reading Series between 1957 and 1962. The Contact Poetry Readings were a physical manifestation … of the principles behind Direction, Contact magazine and Contact Press (as well as Combustion, a new magazine that ran parallel to the series). Souster has described the state of poetry readings in Canada prior to the Contact series: “readings previously restricted to afternoon teas, university common rooms, and the various temperate poetry societies klatched throughout the country uttering secular benedictions in appropriate drawing rooms”. Contact was the first instance of a modern, organized, sustained poetry reading series in Canada. It established a successful Canadian precedent for the explosion of poetry reading series in Canada that was shortly to take place, as well as drew Souster’s community of Canadian poets into an active dialogue with International poets sympathetic to Souster’s modernist impulses. The legacy of the series resides in both the list of those who read, and the founding p rinciples that guided its operation. The series ran for five years in Toronto, primarily at the Isaacs Gallery …To be a poet in Canada in the 1950s was, largely, an isolated project. The value of the reading series in Canada, and the value of Souster’s broader call to ‘make contact,’ is driven home in various ways. The Contact series was the first poetry reading series to receive funding from the Canada Council. To emphasize the novelty of such a series at the time, the Canada Council (though only in its third year) did not have a an adequate category to accommodate the readings. They were funded under “Opera, theatre, ballet, etc.” Many of the Canadian poets who read remarked that it was the first time they had given a public reading in Canada (among these Ralph Gustafson and Al Purdy). The series also paid its readers beginning in the third season. Poets were given $25.00 plus travel and expenses in the third season, and $50.00 by the fourth. Other readers noted the intense geographic isolation of Canada’s poets outside of major urban centres. Several poets from the Maritimes noted how rarely that had had contact with other poets in person.