I’m a fan of Leonard Cohen’s improvisations, one-off performances, unreleased music, and all those songs often subsumed under the title “rarities.” Consequently, I approached 8 Leonard Cohen Live Rarities That Show His Onstage Evolution by Tyler Wilcox (Pitchfork: 21 September 2017) with guarded optimism.
Here’s the breakdown: The selections are interesting. If, however, you are a hardcore Cohenite, especially one that follows Cohencentric, you’ve probably already heard these selections – as well as several others. There is at least one factual error (see below). More to the point, I don’t comprehend how these eight Leonard Cohen performances “show his onstage evolution.” Of course, that may be why I post on my own blog rather than at Pitchfork. I’ve excerpted one selection to give a sense of the article (and point out an error):
“Hallelujah” at the Montreal Jazz Festival, 2008
Even its author grew tired of lukewarm “Hallelujah” covers, as the song became a soundtrack perennial and go-to vehicle for any singer in search of readymade gravitas (for this writer, John Cale’s is the only cover worth hearing). “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told the CBC with a chuckle. “But too many people sing it. I think people ought to stop singing it for a while.” Fortunately, Cohen didn’t include himself in that assessment. He performed “Hallelujah” at most of his latter-day concerts, giving the song an appropriately dramatic reading that often saw him falling to his knees, his eyes tightly shut with emotion. In his hands, it was still a song that cut to the quick, right up to the end.
First, I’m not sure how this qualities as a “live rarity.” It is one of the earliest performances of Hallelujah in the 2008 tour, but Leonard sang this classic hundreds of times during the 2008-2013 Tours. And, it was not performed live at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival, as is explained in this excerpt from Video: Leonard Cohen’s Splendid Performance Of Hallelujah – Halifax 2008 posted Nov 20, 2015 at Cohencentric:
Shot by Lian Lunson, Director of the Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man documentary, this black and white video of Leonard Cohen’s performance at Halifax early in the 2008 Tour (the video was screened at the Montreal Jazz Festival on June 23, 24, and 25, 2008) was one of the first professionally shot recordings made available on mass media (this video aired Nov 9, 2008 on CBC).
P.S. Re “Do I Have to Dance All Night?” in Paris, 1976
Do I Have To Dance All Night (1976) is a great choice for this listing, but the title does not include a question mark, and I immodestly suggest that my own video is preferable to the one employed by Pitchfork.
Note: The graphic atop this post is from Cohencentric’s own collections of Leonard Cohen rarities: