Best Leonard Cohen Performance Of The Partisan: Reykjavik – 1988

Leonard Cohen – The Partisan
Reykjavik: June 24, 1988

This recording of The Partisan has appeared on and disappeared from YouTube several times. It’s available again – which is a good thing because Leonard Cohen, his musicians, and the song’s arrangement combine to offer the best presentation of  “The Partisan” I’ve found. (Other worthy candidates can be found at Searching For The Best Online Video Of The Partisan By Leonard Cohen.)

The elements of the performance I find most impressive follow:

  • While John Bilezikjian on the oud is featured, his passages, including even the first 45 seconds, during which Bilezikjian is literally spotlighted, are clearly integrated into the song rather than the song serving as a podium (or worse, an excuse)  for an exhibition of a soloist talents.
  • Similarly, the music produced by the oud fits and flavors the mood and lyrics of “The Partisan.” An all too real problem with instruments not often heard by audiences is the risk they may be perceived as novelties rather than contributors to the overall sound of the music.
  • Cohen’s voice, which has significantly shifted over the years, has, at the time of this performance,  deepened in comparison to the beginning of his career but hasn’t become as harsh (at least in this instance) as it does later – making it spot on for the romanticized story of bravery and loss told in the words of the song.
  • The backup singers, Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, provide strong and needed  support for Cohen without becoming overwhelming or competing for the audience’s attention. They also  seem especially well attuned to Cohen’s timing and completely in sync with each other.
  • Likewise, the band is faultless, never missing a note or extending one too long or cutting one off too soon.
  • A simple but effective device, that unceasing drumbeat, sustains the pace and drive of the song.

This content was first posted May 28, 2009 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Concert Tickets Collection: Cologne – April 10, 1988 & July 1, 2009

The first time I saw Leonard Cohen and the enchanting Perla Batalla on April 10, 1988 in the Kölner Philharmonie I had a seat right in front of the stage in the first row. After the concert, I waited for Leonard for an hour to ask for an autograph. I got it and was happy. The second ticket is from the World Tour 2009. Both concerts are unforgotten.

Angelika Menzen

Leonard Cohen Concert Tickets Collection

Angelika’s tickets along with her accompanying memory are an early contribution to the Leonard Cohen Concert Tickets Collection. The concept is that such a collection would prove valuable and enlightening. Toward that end, we’re inviting readers to send in scans or photos of their Leonard Cohen concert tickets to Please enter “Leonard Cohen Tickets” in the Subject Line. We also invite you to add a brief note if the tickets or the show itself holds special meaning.

The goal is to put together a collection for posting and possibly publication.

Be aware that any tickets and information you send may be posted at or published elsewhere. Each ticket will include a credit; if you do not wish your real name used, please indicate an acceptable alias. The credits will not include other identifying data, such as email or postal addresses.

“I always felt I invented Dylan” Hear 1988 Leonard Cohen Ritz Concert + Pete Fornatale Interview

“I’ve studied all the theologies and all the philosophies, but cheerfulness keeps breaking through.”

This recording includes the July 5, 1988 Leonard Cohen concert at the Ritz in New York and, beginning at 1:39:23, an interview by Pete Fornatale broadcast on Mixed Bag on July 31, 1988 (WNEW FM New York).

Mr. Cohen sang songs that ranged across the breadth of his career, from ”Suzanne” to ”Everybody Knows,” to two versions of his recent song, ”First We Take Manhattan,” in which the fashion world and drugs are held up as symbols of the terminal decay of New York. But the turning point of the evening was Mr. Cohen’s spare voice-and-guitar rendition of ”If It Be Your Will,” one of his two or three finest meditations. A prayer for mercy murmured to the void by a world wearing ”rags of light all dressed to kill,” it received a haunting interpretation in Mr. Cohen’s sepulchral bass-baritone growl.1

The interview includes Leonard Cohen discussing the influence of Bob Dylan and the assistance lent by Judy Collins and Jennifer Warnes, his “cheerfulness keeps breaking through” reference (erroneously attributed to Jonson), his multiple revisions that dramatically changed I Can’t Forget, his first public appearance as a singer, his “If I knew where good songs came from, I go there more often” comment, his religious symbolism and the notion of being punished for sin, the difference between a Ladies’ Man and a Romantic, and saying goodbye.

Update: This video has been removed

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  1. Review/Pop; Leonard Cohen Reflects Darkly On the World by Stephen Holden. New York Times: July 9, 1988 []

Leonard Cohen’s 1988 Halloween Austin City Limits Show – Scary Concept, Eh?

The impending holiday prompted me to re-publish this Halloween tidbit as a reminder that an official version of Leonard Cohen’s 1988 appearance on Austin City Limits is now available online.

Halloween In Austin

In 2013, I pondered the sight displayed above in the screen capture and posted this plea:

Would someone (maybe someone like Roscoe Beck or Mitch Watkins who understands how Austin operates) explain to me why the gentleman in the middle of this screenshot, taken when the camera pans the audience just prior to the start of Take This Waltz during the 1988 Leonard Cohen Austin City Limits Show, seems to be wearing a watermelon helmet on his head? I realize there are some odd images in Take This Waltz (you’ve got your “chair with a dead magazine” and that “bed where the moon has been sweating,” for example) but I don’t recall “I’ll applaud with a watermelon for a hat” in the lyrics.

And, sure enough, a reader wise in the ways of Austin, Leorstef, responded:

So, why is the guy wearing a Watermelon Hat? Why is one lady dressed as a Nun? I asked that question myself the first time I saw the concert 24 years ago.

That concert was actually filmed on Halloween night in 1988, then aired on PBS in April 1989. So simply, many of the folks were just in Halloween costumes. Since Austin has always been a good place to party, I assume they were just getting ready ahead of time for the rest of the night.

Here’s the sad part: I was at the Leonard Cohen concert in Austin on Oct 31, 2012, and I recall seeing only one person that might have been wearing a Halloween costume (and I suspect it could have been the sort of thing she wore every day). So, is Austin getting less weird?

Note: More Halloween-related Leonard Cohen posts can be found at

Leonard Cohen On The Air In Austin

Leonard Cohen’s performance on the October 31, 1988 episode of Austin City Limits, which has become routinely designated as his “first major performance on American television,” is strong musically and a treat to watch. As ongoing readers know, this show has been intermittently available on various sites and then lost to copyright restrictions.

Now, however, it’s back – in an official version uploaded by AustinCityLimitsTV

The Intros

The 1988 Austin City Limits show1 is notable for Leonard Cohen’s idiosyncratic preludes to certain songs, including a description of the crucifixion of Christ that invokes the application of shaving lotion as an introduction to “Ain’t No Cure For Love” and a lead-in to “If It Be Your Will” that consists of Cohen’s complaint that his “hands are all sweaty with Tequila juice. It’s an impermeable oil that seeps through the membrane,” a scientifically baffling declaration that nonetheless seems to work in context as suggestive language to set the mood.2

Video: Leonard Cohen – Austin City Limits 1988


Set List

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  1. Cohen also performed on Austin City Limits in 1993 []
  2. For a poet-novelist-sing-songwriter-icon, one supposes, poetic license trumps scientific principle. Still, “an impermeable oil that seeps through the membrane” does dispel the Leonard Cohen is a Renaissance Man cliche. []

Video: Leonard Cohen & The Lip-synching Lennettes Perform Take This Waltz – Norwegian TV, Feb 13, 1988

This is another iteration of the 1988 promotions Leonard Cohen made with backup singers, usually anonymous stand-ins, lip-synching his songs on TV in France, Germany, Belgium, and other European countries. Other videos of thee promotions can be viewed at

Thanks to Maria Cohen Viana, who alerted me to this video