Photos: Leonard Cohen In Concert – Reykjavik 1988

These photos were taken by Johann Agust Hansen, then a freelance press photographer, at the June 24 1988 Leonard Cohen concert in Reykjavik, Iceland. (See 1988 Leonard Cohen Icelandic TV Documentary – Performances & Interview)

Johann Agust Hansen writes:

I was very lucky to be accepted as a press photographer for the Reykjavik 1988 concert. I had just started working as a freelance press photographer selling my photos to the local newspapers.

It was a great concert where Cohen played songs from his newly released album I’m Your Man. The playlist included songs such as First We Take Manhattan and Take This Waltz but he also played older songs such as Bird On a Wire, Sisters of Mercy, Hallelujah, Susanne, So Long Marianne and Famous Blue raincoat.

In the beginning of the concert, all the photographers, five or six of us, were ushered to the area in front of the stage. Cohen started with the song Dance Me to the End of Love, a quiet song which set the mood that I hoped to capture. We were only allowed to take photos during the first three songs so there was not much time and every photographer wanted to be as close to him as possible. My favourite photo from the show is the one where Cohen closes his eyes because I could feel his sincerity and strong emotion through my lens.

Now Online: 1988 Leonard Cohen Icelandic TV Documentary – Performances & Interview

Icelandic National Broadcasting Service’s 1988 Leonard Cohen documentary, featuring interviews and selections from Leonard Cohen’s June 24, 1988 Reykjavik concert, has been a now you see it, now you don’t online phenomenon. Gordana Stupar alerts us that we are currently in a now you see it state – but only until Sept 1, 2017.

Here’s why you need to see this video:  First of all, the 1988 Reykjavik concert was one of Leonard Cohen’s most moving performances. I was so taken with that show’s rendition of Hallelujah that I created Video: Leonard Cohen’s Gorgeous Performance Of Hallelujah – Reykjavik 1988 when an earlier online iteration evaporated. I had also ranked the recording of The Partisan from that show as my favorite live version of the song. An interview with Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, including a discussion of Leonard’s visit to the hot springs and Leonard’s secularized Hallelujah as well as an Icelandic cover of that song, is integrated alongside the performance clips.

Songs:and stage business from the concert that are featured in the documentary follow:

  • Joan Of Arc featuring Julie Christensen
  • Dance Me To The End Of Love
  • Hallelujah
  • Stranger Song
  • Like A Bird On The Wire
  • Suzanne
  • The Partisan
  • So Long Marianne
  • The Fake Stage Exit Before Encores
  • Take This Waltz with Introduction Invoking Lorca

The documentary can be viewed at Leonard Cohen 1988 Reykjavik Documentary.

Hear (Almost) Complete 1988 Leonard Cohen Royal Albert Hall Concert

On May 30, 1988, Leonard Cohen gave the first of three consecutive sold out concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. The BBC recorded the concert (from their own soundboard) but did not broadcast it. That audio-only recording later surfaced as this outstanding bootleg. Now, it has appeared on YouTube. Missing from the concert’s original set list is Avalanche” (performed before “Chelsea Hotel” in the show) and the final fragment of “Hallelujah.”

More about this bootleg recording is available at Best Bootlegs: Leonard Cohen Live At Royal Albert Hall 1988


– Dance Me To The End Of Love;
– Ain’t No Cure For Love;
– Who By Fire;
– Bird On The Wire;
– I’m Your Man;
– Sisters Of Mercy;
– Coming Back To You;
– First We Take Manhattan;
– Chelsea Hotel #2;
– Tower Of Song;
– The Stranger Song;
– If It Be Your Will;
– Everybody Knows;
– Joan Of Arc;
– Hallelujah;
– There Is A War;
– Take This Waltz;
– The Partisan;
– Suzanne;
– Passin’ Through;
– I Tried To Leave You;
– Whither Thou Goest;
– So Long, Marianne.

Leonard Cohen Toronto Radio Broadcast 1988 – Another Unauthorized CD

Dominique BOILE has spotted yet another bootleg (on the UK Amazon site & French Amazon site, among several online retail outlets) of that same November 9, 1988 concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, broadcast live on CBC radio and rebroadcast on March 11, 1990. For more information about and other bootlegs of this broadcast, see

Orphan Leonard Cohen Concerts: The October 30, 1988 Wiltern Theatre Show

The 1988 Wiltern Theatre Cohen Concert Program

And, no, the image atop this post is not the program for the Cohen concert at the Budapest Wiltern or the Paris Wiltern or the Munich Wiltern or …

It’s the program for the Cohen concert at the Los Angeles Wiltern Theatre – which, in 1988, was located in the USA.

We know this is the program for the 1988 Wiltern show because Valerie Shertzman, who contributed the program, was there on October 30, 1988. In addition to the program, Valerie, who was attending her first Leonard Cohen concert, offers these memories:

The main thing I remember was John Bilezikjian playing the oud with a feather, I had never seen anything like it, and that drew my attention every time it was played. Julie and Perla singing “Who by Fire?” was a show stopper.

I had “Songs” and “Recent Songs” so most of the playlist was new to me, though there was plenty that was familiar to me. I was impressed when he sang “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” dripping with enough irony to let the audience in on the joke. It was greeted with a great deal of laughter. There was some banter with some in the front rows, it was friendly and started by him.

Leonard Cohen – Who By Fire
San Sebastian: 1988

The only other reference to this show I find on the internet (other than a listing of the 1988 Tour venues) are these brief lines from Ali, writing at Blueprint Blue:

… October 30, 1988. My friend and roommate John and I had gone to see one of our idols – Leonard Cohen – perform at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. I still consider it one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

1988 Wiltern Theatre Cohen Concert Poster

While the signage for this concert, shown below, has been previously posted, comparing its block lettered, generic simplicity to the poster for the previous night’s concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco, is instructive.

Poster for Oct 30, 1988 Leonard Cohen Wiltern Concert – Los Angeles

Poster for Oct 29, 1988 Leonard Cohen Fillmore Concert – San Francisco

The Wiltern Theatre

For that matter, the bland poster is also in marked contrast to the brilliantly ornate venue itself.

Caring For & About The Orphan Leonard Cohen Concerts: This is the first official entry in the Orphan Cohen Concerts classification. As a Lenny-come-lately who began following Leonard Cohen’s career only a few years before his 2008-2010 World Tour, I’ve been accustomed to the internet-powered flow of information about the Canadian singer-songwriter’s concerts that renders time and geographical barriers irrelevant.

During the recent World Tour, for example, (predecessor to Cohencentric) routinely composed, on a laptop located in Durham, North Carolina, posts about Cohen’s shows concluded only hours earlier in Belfast, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Bucharest, Glace Bay, Auckland, Philadelphia, etc. that featured high quality photos and videos of the performance and first hand reports by concert-goers. In addition, articles about the shows published in foreign newspapers and magazines are available online and can easily, if not always elegantly, be translated by Google and other internet services.

It was, in fact, not uncommon to post information during concerts of special interest, such as the post, Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Concert In Progress, which published the following immediately after the statement was uttered:

After “Ain’t No Cure” and “Bird On The Wire,” Leonard Cohen addressed the audience in Hebrew, saying, “It is an honor to play here for you here in Israel (…) We are going to give you everything tonight, for peace, for you and us…

Moreover, the immediacy and ease of communication afforded by the internet encourages those attending concerts to upload more videos to YouTube, enter more concert reports in blogs and forums, and post more photos.

Consequently, cognitive dissonance results upon discovering that many Cohen concerts, unless a reporter or critic happened to be in the crowd, escaped notice except by those actually in attendance. Heck, we are still discovering concerts given by Leonard Cohen that have not been accurately memorialized as even a line on a list.

Cohencentric has already published descriptions of little remembered Cohen Concerts. Many of the posts, for example, focus on concerts about which only scattered bits of information were available. Researching those shows, in fact, turned up at least two previously unlisted concerts.

The Orphan Leonard Cohen Concerts is now an official Cohencentric project. We’re going to show a little love for these stealth performances, posting whatever can be found about the otherwise forgotten concerts – even if that’s no more than a single memory lovingly preserved in the mind of an audience member.

Note: Originally posted Apr 15, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric