Following reports of the 2008-2009 Leonard Cohen World Tour has led me to consider the impact the venue has on the performer and, perhaps even more significantly, on the audience. I was most recently made aware of this issue by reading Amanda’s posts at Flop Eared Mule (Update: no longer online. Fair Warning: Amanda does not write what one would define as “balanced reviews” of Leonard Cohen performances so much as – oh, let’s call them “appreciations.” Consider, for example, her description of the opening of the Sydney performance:
In fact, the first highlight came even before the song when Leonard (Leonard Freaking Cohen) bounded, literally bounded, on stage and was greeted by a standing ovation. Excited as I was, I may not have thought of that myself but there was a great release in going up with the masses and I evidently felt sufficiently unrestrained that I couldn’t help but tear up. And I squealed like I’d just seen a Bay City Roller.
Amanda compares the Leonard Cohen concerts she attended at the Sydney Entertainment Center, which is most frequently described as a “big box” although Amanda favors “barn,” with the show she attended at the Centennial Vineyards in Bowral.
I can’t add much to my ramblings about the Sydney show. Bowral was a bit different in being a semi-festival event and outdoors, it’s a bit without the environmental intensity of even a barn like the SEC. There’s more to distract you, a bit of rain, sundry insects, the darkening skies, the people around you sitting crossed-armed the whole time without even clapping who you suspect are there because they are southern highland worthies and this is An Event To Be At (there was some dancing from this quarter towards the end but that may have just been the chards kicking in. OR THE POWER OF LEONARD. YOU DECIDE.) But we were in the second row centre this time so any hothouse atmosphere which fizzled off into the eucalypts was more than made up for with the golden halo of PROXIMITY to the authentic object which is the dragon I keep desperately chasing. (that is a really terrible sentence, but conveys ultimate truthiness and do I look like a poet?)
In this tour alone, Cohen has performed at intimate playhouses in Eastern Canada, huge stadiums in Europe, large theaters in Britain and Eastern Europe, festivals in England, France, Italy, and Switzerland, and, now, four vineyards in Australia.
He has played outdoors in the rain and in oppressively high temperatures, he has played for audiences who sang along even though the local language of choice was something other than English, he has played in halls renowned for their acoustics and in arenas in which acoustics were, at best, an intriguing theory, he has played for royalty, heads of state, entertainment superstars, intense fans who have studied his set lists searching for patterns to predict the songs to be played at that concert, and, no doubt, folks who had never heard of him until a friend, spouse, or (cringe) parent who was a fan dragged them along – for their own good.
And, now, thanks to Amanda, I realize he has played in places where the list of potential distractions includes insects.
This variety of settings makes Cohen’s unbroken chain of successful appearances during this tour even more impressive. From reports in newspaper, magazine, and blogs, each concert has been not just a fine performance but a transcendent experience.
So I guess I have to say,
Pretty good so far, Leonard
Credit Due Department: The Sydney Entertainment photo by Kathy Trelease – Eeles Trelease, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link. All other photos were taken by Amanda at Flop Eared Mule, who graciously allowed them to be displayed here.