“Avalanche” Is #1 On Stereogum’s List Of Leonard Cohen’s 10 Best Songs


Leonard Cohen’s 10 Best Songs by James Jackson Toth was posted Oct 19, 2012 at Stereogum. All of the songs on the list are accompanied by a brief, helpful discussion and a video, some of which (including “Avalanche”) are audio only. As is true of most such articles, the selections are largely arbitrary and the list itself is more useful as a starting point of debate than as a reference.

Most of the list consists of safe picks, well known and popular songs from Cohen’s early albums (none of the selections are from albums released after 1988’s I’m Your Man). The #1 song, however, might raise some controversy. “Avalanche” from Songs Of Love And Hate (1971) is certainly a Cohen classic but is not a universal favorite. The excerpt below offers the text and video for Avalanche as a sampling:

1. “Avalanche” from Songs Of Love And Hate (1971): Taken from his poem “I Stepped Into An Avalanche” (though altered and edited considerably), “Avalanche” is Cohen’s examination of self-loathing and the pain that depression inflicts on others. It is the quintessential song on the aptly titled album Songs Of Love And Hate because it passes both of those perennial checkpoints, and is also a quintessential Leonard Cohen song for this same reason. “Avalanche” is not a song you hear so much as feel. The cataleptic narrator — at once the personification and caricature of disorder — writhes and wonders at the suffocating dread he sees as he simultaneously destroys everything around him. This one should come with a warning label. Morrissey, Robert Smith, Trent Reznor, Nick Cave — eat your cold, cold hearts out.

Leonard Cohen – Avalanche
From Songs Of Love And Hate

To compare the studio version with a live rendition, I’ve added the video of Leonard Cohen performing Avalanche at the Sept 27, 2010 Hannover concert.

Leonard Cohen – Avalanche
Hannover: Sept 27, 2010
Video from anniesnake

Note: Originally posted October 19, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Gripping Black & White Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Avalanche & Suzanne – Hannover 2010


Video Technique And Stage Presentation Meet In Recording Of Suzanne And Avalanche Performed By Leonard Cohen

As the headline indicates, this post showcases one video, Leonard Cohen performing “Suzanne” followed by “Avalanche” at the September 27, 2010 Hannover Concert.

Those two songs alone would make this video significant. “Suzanne”  is arguably the most representative work in Leonard Cohen’s repertoire, dating back to the beginning of his career as a singer-songwriter, and “Avalanche” is a favorite of many fans, especially those who have admired Cohen over the years, but has been rarely played during the World Tour although it has been featured recently.

The video of this performance set is from anniesnake, who  has contributed, by my count, seven videos from the Hannover show,  two shot in color and five, including the “Suzanne” – “Avalanche” sequence, in black and white.

The stark clarity of the black and white recording fits seamlessly with the tone, lyrical content, lighting,1 and the staging, which revolves around Cohen accompanying himself on guitar.

From my perspective, the  black and white videography significantly enhances the focus of and emotional impact on the viewer.

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne and Avalanche
Hannover: Sept 27, 2010
Video from anniesnake

The same technique, equally well executed, is, however, less successful on a number like “I’m Your Man” in which the other musicians play an important role and mood shifts from somber to satyric. The difference in the two videos is less that “I’m Your Man” is somehow flawed than that it lacks the profound resonance of “Suzanne” and “Avalanche.”

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Hannover: Sept 27, 2010
Video from anniesnake

Continue Reading →

  1. The lighting for the Cohen Concerts is an often overlooked aspect of the presentation. In this context, it is particularly notable because the same dramatic effects that are most compelling for the live audience can prove insurmountable obstacles to still photographers and videographers. []

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Understated, Poignant Performance Of Avalanche – Victoria 2010

avaWell I stepped into an avalanche,
It covered up my soul;
When I am not this hunchback that you see,
I sleep beneath the golden hill.
You who wish to conquer pain,
You must learn, learn to serve me well.

Leonard Cohen – Avalanche
Victoria: Nov 30, 2010
Video by IrishMar (aka Marie Noonan) via albertnoonan

Note: Originally posted Dec 5, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The Ascetic Beauty Of Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche Captured By An Immaculately Austere Video – Sydney 2010


You who wish to conquer pain,
You must learn what makes me kind;
The crumbs of love that you offer me,
They’re the crumbs I’ve left behind.
Your pain is no credential here,
It’s just the shadow, shadow of my wound.

The Right Fit Of Video & Song

The recent posting of Discreet Video Captures Leonard Cohen’s Intimate Performance Of Suzanne – Bercy, Paris 2013 called to mind another instance in which a recording of a Leonard Cohen performance employing a nearly stationary camera view and austerely understated visuals constitutes a “perfect match of song and video technique.”

The majority of videos spotlighted on this site feature multiple camera movements, closeups, and other maneuvers. The video selection is skewed toward songs such as “The Future,” which involves a number of activities on stage (e.g., Leonard Cohen or Roscoe Beck dancing, the Webb Sisters cartwheeling) or the song used to introduce the band members (currently “Anthem”). A well-executed video of these performances  may require several transitions from one performer to another, adjusting to shifts in stage lighting, and catching any nuanced variations from the typical rendition of the song.

In the case of “Avalanche,” on the other hand, the key is maintaining a rock-steady focus on Leonard Cohen himself while simultaneously recording a clear audio track, a theoretically simpler assignment for the videographer but one all too rarely accomplished. The recording embedded below, however, is an excellent example of the well-executed video of a well-performed song – a species that deserves attention and appreciation.

Leonard Cohen – Avalanche
Sydney: 11/8/2010
Video by alanm5049

Note: Originally posted June 25, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Nick Cave’s "Avalanche" Cover Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox


The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Leonard Cohen Likes How Nick Cave Tears Apart Avalanche


I never got over that thrill that someone else has chosen a song [of mine] and wants to do it. I think Nick Cave’s instinct in choosing that song [Avalanche] to cover was very good because that’s just the kind of song that is made to be torn apart and I like the way he tore it apart. I like the way he went out with it. 

Leonard Cohen1

The Nick Cave cover of “Avalanche” on which Cohen commented was the one that led off the track list of From Her To Eternity, the debut album released by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1984.

nickcavefhteNick Cave –  Avalanche
From Her To Eternity: 1984

Bonus: Nick Cave’s 2006 Tribute To Leonard Cohen

Nick Cave also covered Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche,” albeit more as homage than as deconstructionist reinterpretation, at Came So Far For Beauty, the Leonard Cohen tribute concert held at the Point Theatre, Dublin, Ireland on October 5, 2006.

Nick Cave – Avalanche
Dublin: Oct 5, 2006
Video from caro8680


Bonus 2: Nick Cave’s Re-Recording Of Avalanche For Black Sails, Season 2 (2015)

Credit Due Department: Photo “Nick Cave 1986” by Yves Lorson – originally posted to Flickr as Nick Cave. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Note: Originally posted Dec 13, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. Some material has been updated.


  1. Leonard Cohen: The Classic Interviews (Chrome Dreams, 2009), quoted in Leonard Cohen Hallelujah by Tim Footman, Chrome Dreams, 2009. p 130 []

Best Videos Of 2013 Leonard Cohen Tour: Avalanche – Zurich



Well I stepped into an avalanche,
it covered up my soul

Leonard Cohen – Avalanche
Zurich: August 24, 2013
Video by albertnoonan

Best 2013 Leonard Cohen Videos: Cohencentric.com is featuring selections from the current Best Of 2013 Leonard Cohen Tour Video Setlist, which comprises the best available video of each of the songs performed during the 2013 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour