Leonard Cohen Takes Berlin But Not Without Struggle – Tour Tales 2009

But love is not a victory march,
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!

Leonard Cohen’s Battle For Berlin

As noted by concert-goers, Leonard Cohen’s July 2, 2009 Berlin concert was not an automatic triumph. This report from LeonardCohenForum by brinberlin limns the situation:

… the Webbs and Sharon Robinson came on unsmiling, stony-faced, morose, and despite the obligatory standing ovation LC looked ill at ease to say the least. One problem must have been the audience. What a lack of vibe. Mostly over 50 (as I am, but not like them!) and looking as if they just came for an evening out, provincial in the most pejorative sense of the word, they could have been watching anyone really. They marched up and down the aisles with wines and beers as he sang, talked amongst themselves, clapped and whooped each time they (wrongly) thought a song had ended… really embarrassing. … They were only waiting for Suzanne, and the rest seemed to pass them by as they hysterically took mobile phone footage of each other and the screens…

While others who attended disagree about the appearance of the performers and the extent of the philistinism rampant in the crowd, the consensus is nonetheless that the Berlin show was challenging in a way that many other stops on the World Tour have not been.

Many previous Tour concerts (including the one I attended at the Beacon Theatre) have been as much worship services of gathered Cohen  acolytes as they are entertainments.  The greatest risks posed in such circumstances has been competitions by audience members to demonstrate who is most appreciative of, knowledgeable about, and emotionally intimate with Cohen and crew.

From both the reports of those in attendance and the press, there is little doubt that, by the end of the Berlin show, Cohen had won over the audience. What is striking is that this was a victory accomplished by the overwhelming display of professionalism and grace by Leonard Cohen, the backup singers, and the band.

Keep in mind that this is the grown-up version of the Leonard Cohen who walked off the stage in frustration in a 1972 concert. Of course, this is also the Leonard Cohen who thoughtfully considers his responsibilities as a performer:

You definitely go into a concert with a prayer on your lips. There’s no question about that. I think that anything risky that you do, anything that sets you up for the possibility of humiliation like a concert does … you have to lean on something that is a little better than yourself I feel I’m always struggling with the material, whether it’s a concert or a poem or a prayer or a conversation. It’s very rarely that I find I’m in a condition of grace where there’s a kind of flow that is natural. I don’t inhabit that landscape too often. … Well, I mean this in a kind of lighthearted way. When you walk on the stage and 5,000 people have paid good money to hear you, there’s definitely a sense that you can blow it. The possibilities for disgrace are enormous.1

Leonard Cohen’s 2009 Strategy For Taking Berlin

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  1. From An Interview with Leonard Cohen” by Robert Sward. A Side. Montreal, Quebec. 1986 []

Best Of 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen Tour: Avalanche & Suzanne – Hannover 2010

Gripping Black And White Video Of “Avalanche” And “Suzanne” From 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 was rarely played during the World Tour until the 2010 leg of the Tour.

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

Note: Originally posted July 27, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  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. []

Listen To Leonard Cohen Show At The 2008 Big Chill Festival

 

Leonard Cohen | Live at the The Open Air Stage | The Big Chill Festival | Ledbury, Herefordshire United Kingdom | 03 August 2008 | Audience Recording

Setlist

1. Dance Me To The End Of Love
2. The Future
3. Ain’t No Cure For Love
4. Bird On The Wire
5. Everybody Knows
6. Who By Fire
7. Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
8. So Long Marianne
9.Tower Of Song
10.Suzanne
11.Hallelujah
12.I’m Your Man
13.Closing Time
14.First We Take Manhattan
15.Anthem

 

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Stunning Rendition Of Hallelujah – Sydney 2010

Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Comment From Original 2010 Posting:

No one has the timbre, emotional layering, and depth that Leonard does in singing his own song. Several moments after he finishes, it’s as though he begins to slowly re-emerge back into our world, having been fully present and involved where the song resides. Thank you so much for posting this on your site, Allan.

Lizzy

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Sydney Nov 8, 2010
Video by mgwfall

Note: Originally posted Nov 10, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric