For a fleeting moment in 2009, YouTube blessed us with a live video of Leonard Cohen performing Hallelujah at the June 24, 1988 Laugardalshöll, Reykjavik, Iceland concert. It was a particularly lovely version that impressed many viewers, inducing me. As we have experienced many times, however, YouTube giveth, and YouTube taketh away. All traces of Leonard Cohen’s 1988 Icelandic concert, including the performance of Hallelujah, have disappeared from YouTube and similar sites.
I have serendipitously come across another YouTube posting of the same video, albeit of lesser quality. Although it’s described on YouTube as having taken place in 1985, this appears to be a segment from the June 24, 1988 concert in Reykjavik, Iceland, which was used in a program broadcast on Icelandic TV. Included are bits of an interview, an Icelandic cover of “Hallelujah,” and, most importantly, a version of “Hallelujah” sung by Cohen (with backup singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen) that is not only distinct from every other rendition of that song I’ve heard before but perhaps the most moving performance of “Hallelujah” by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Make no mistake – the color is distorted, the editing clumsy, and the subtitles distracting, and we don’t get our first vision of Leonard singing until just past the 2 minute mark, but the live scenes of Leonard Cohen and backup singers, Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, performing are overwhelmingly moving. (For the record, I believe my own version of this performance at Video: Leonard Cohen’s Gorgeous Performance Of Hallelujah – Reykjavik 1988 has its own merits and urge you to take a look if you haven’t seen it before.)
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Reykjavik: June 24, 1988
Note: Originally posted Dec 18, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric