Hal Willner and Dublin Theatre Festival Presented:


At The Point Theatre,
Dublin, October 4 and 5, 2006

Four hours of Cohen songs - the setlist:

1. Avalanche - Nick Cave
2. Seems so long ago, Nancy - Robin Holcomb
3. One of us cannot be wrong - Lou Reed
4. A thousand kisses deep - Handsome Family
5. The guests - Antony
6. Dear Heather - Laurie Anderson
7. In my secret life - Laurie Anderson
8. Who by fire - Gavin Friday
9. Hallelujah - Gavin Friday & Mary Margaret O'Hara
10. Blue Alert - Anjani
11. Dress rehearsal rag - Nick Cave
12. Stranger song - Lou Reed
13. So long, Marianne - Beth Orton
14. Tonight will be fine - Teddy Thompson
15. Death of a ladies' man - Jarvis Cocker & Beth Orton
16. Because of - Mary Margaret O'Hara
17. The window - Mary Margaret O'Hara
18. I can't forget - Jarvis Cocker
19. Sisters of Mercy - Beth Orton
20. Joan of Arc - Julie Christensen & Lou Reed
21. Closing time - Robin Holcomb
22. Bird on the wire - Perla Batalla
23. Chelsea Hotel - Jarvis Cocker
24. Waiting for the miracle - Teddy & Kami Thompson
25. If it be your will - Antony
26. Famous blue raincoat - Handsome Family
27. Suzanne - Nick Cave & Perla and Julie
28. Never got to love you - Anjani
29. Everybody knows - Gavin Friday
30. You know who I am - Laurie Anderson & Antony
31. Anthem - Perla Batalla & Julie Christensen
32. The future - Teddy Thompson
33. Memories - Jarvis Cocker & cast
34. Winter lady - the ladies
(On Wednesday also: Heart with no companion - Handsome Family)

Concert review by Dick Straub

There were only slight differences between Wednesday and Thursday show – but Thursday in general was more fun and enjoyable. The stars seemed more relaxed and I was no longer shocked by anything. The only Thursday down items were the omission of Heart with No Companion by The Handsome Family, and the awareness that this was the seventh and last Came so Far for Beauty. (I still hope that somehow that conclusion will change sometime.) These are Dick Straub’s personal opinions -- other views should be expected from an undertaking as huge as this mix of stars and songs.

Nick Cave nailed Avalanche to start the show on a very high note. Nick is very talented and obviously loves Cohen material. I also loved his bitter Dress Rehersal Rag. His performances of Suzanne, as he echoes the lyrics sung first by Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla were the best I’ve heard (better than Brooklyn or in the movie or on the soundtrack album in my opinion). Nick is a true pro and it was a treat to see and hear him.

Robin Holcomb sang an ok version of Seems So Long Ago, Nancy. She plays the piano well. Her classical connections seem to influence her interpretations. She also performed an unusual version of Closing Time which I didn’t appreciate, but which I liked a little better the second listening on Thursday.

The controversial Lou Reed – he transformed Stranger Song into metal rock. He had a little better acoustic control the second night – but I really liked his version both times. I will always hear Stranger a little differently after this show. I also liked Lou’s One Of Us Cannot be Wrong and was pleased that this rarely covered song was included. I could not help but recall Friedemann’s sweet Berlin interpretation. This was different of course, but I enjoyed it. Lou also paired with Julie Christensen on Joan of Arc and with Anjani in the finale (Memories). All pleased me.

The Handsome Family were great on their songs. They did A Thousand Kisses Deep in set one, and Famous Blue Raincoat after intermission. The Irish audience seemed to recognize them as easily as Cave and Friday. Brett’s deep voice works wonderfully on Cohen covers and his lovely wife is a solid angel. A Dublin newspaper review credited them with the best performance, but misnamed them as the Hansom Family.

The Handsome Family - Brett and Rennie Sparks

Laurie Anderson paired with Antony for a spectacular rendering of The Guests. She then did very quirky cover of Dear Heather that irritated me the first night, but once the shock was over, I rather liked it the second night. Filter on her mike made her sound masculine. She immediately followed with a nice take on Secret Life, and was effective on Winter Lady. In the second set, her You Know Who I Am was again very good. Her small violin adds interesting accompaniment.

Gavin Friday did Who by Fire with passion and great voice range. It met my approval but I heard many say they didn’t like any of his material. I also enjoyed his Everybody Knows, more testosterone than the campy Rufus version, which I also like. Additionally he covered Hallelujah with Mary Margaret O’Hara. I got to chat with Gavin after the Wednesday show and he said he had been very reluctant to perform the song because he couldn’t approach the Rufus and Buckley versions – but Hal insisted that he and Mary Margaret do it with a different slant. Gavin said the band timing was off the first night and that Wednesday was not what they wanted. Mary Margaret’s over the top Saturday Night Live skit movements and mutterings were also disconcerting. I hated them the first night. On Thursday the timing was in fact much better, and I saw both Gavin and Mary Margaret doing a gospel interpretation – hers as a comic mimic. Not a Hallelujah we’ll hear on soundtracks, but I thought it was actually kind of fun.
Anjani finally came out for the 10th song - Blue Alert. Piano, voice, and extraordinary warmth and beauty hushed the huge crowd and held all in suspension. In the second set her Never Got to Love You was awesome. This time she was center stage and not on piano. She again proved her quiet lush material works wonderfully even in a huge arena. On Thursday she told the audience she had spoken with Leonard in the morning and that “he sends his regards.” Crowd appreciated it.
She also greeted many of the traveling Cohen Event and Forum fans after Thursday’s show. If it were up to me, I would have placed her with her new songs closer to the beginning of both sets rather than after so many old hits. She was not at all fazed, however, and the bottom line is that she is an incredible talent and a most gracious lady!

A very pregnant Beth Orton gave solid performances. She did So Long Marianne and a duet on DOLM with Jarvis Cocker in the first set. In the second it was Sisters of Mercy and then she joined other ladies for Winter Lady. Beth offered respectful takes on good songs with very pleasant voice. And she is still quite sexy despite more curves than usual.

Jarvis Cocker closed the first set with Death of a Ladies Man, joined by Beth Orton. Very illuminating version. Jarvis was also wonderful on I Can’t Forget , did a very credible Chelsea Hotel, and was an effective performer and cast leader on Memories. DOLM and Memories at this concert make me think the Phil Sector album has been inappropriately maligned and neglected. Jarvis also seems to have natural comedic talent to complement his strong voice and stage presence. Memories was a good choice for the finale and made a good vehicle for introducing the entire cast. As in the other shows, very few names had been mentioned anywhere during in the concert.

Teddy Thomson did very effective renditions of Tonight Will Be Fine and The Future. I’ve enjoyed these from Brooklyn and every other time I’ve heard him do them. He was joined by his lovely sister Kami (Kamila) for a very unique reggae version of one of my favorite songs, Waiting for the Miracle. News reports call it a “ska” treatment but I am not familiar with that term. It was somewhat uncomfortable for me on the first listen, because it was so unusual. But, perhaps for that reason, I kept hearing it in my head after the show and during the day on Thursday. When they did it the second time on Thursday it became probably the most brilliant interpretation of the whole trip for me. I really hope he gets it on a record. I think Teddy’s versions of Future and Tonight Will be Fine also are good candidates for an album.

Antony took the stage again in the second set for his beauteous If it be Your Will. Those around me were thrilled to see him again – in addition to The Guests he did several backup stints. His version of Will works very well for me. Effective lighting changes were made, with his stage surroundings becoming brighter and brighter as the song advanced – God was in the House. I liked him in the film and soundtrack, but now seeing him live I’ve become a real fan.

Mary Margaret O’Hara bravely opened set two while the house lights were still on and the audience was not yet seated. Because Of was almost unrecognizable, but she did a service by getting the crowd to notice that the show had started.
Her version of The Window was quite comical – intentionally I’ll assume. It is shocking for a fan of the lyrics and beauty of the song, but again doing unique and brave things is what the show is supposed to be about. Many of the backups on stage were laughing, and Hal Willner said after the show that Mary Margaret was a favorite of his – “put her on stage and you never know what you’re going to get.”

Perla Batalla was totally captivating on her solo of Bird on a Wire. She and Julie Christensen again got many comments of “highlight” for their wonderful version of Anthem. Their Anthem continues to make emotions well up in me each time I hear them. I’m sure Julie will never forget being Joan for Lou Reed on Joan of Arc He refused to do La, La, La, but his wails worked ok for me.
Perla and Julie also deserve high praise for the incredible amount of time they had to be on stage. They worked backup roles on all but seven songs. Without doubt, they improved the performance of every artist that they accompanied.

Like the movie, and every cover I have ever heard, one could always ask for more. Who wouldn’t prefer to hear Leonard live than anyone cover his material? But I can still recall the wonderful high I felt after the 2003 Brooklyn premier of this brilliant concert. It is sheer joy from my perspective to listen to 3 to 4 hours of unique, and sometimes great, musicians do nothing but Cohen songs. I don’t expect them to try to imitate Cohen treatments, and believe they would usually come up way short if they did. It’s ok to me for them to put totally different spins on the songs, and it causes me to appreciate each song in a different way, whether I like the particular treatment or not. Perhaps my highest praise for the Dublin gigs – I feel that same wonderful high this Sunday, October 8 that I felt for days after Brooklyn.

Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Julie Christensen (rehearsal photo)

From left: Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, Antony, Nick Cave, Julie Christensen, Gavin Friday

Hal Willner

More about this production on The Leonard Cohen Files:

Reviews and comments posted on the Forum
The first show in Brooklyn (2003)
Two shows in Sydney (2005)
The soundtrack album
I'm Your Man documentary film

Photos © Eija Arjatsalo, Linda Straub and Pauline Mulligan
Used with permission. All rights reserved. Any other use forbidden.