WORLD TOUR 2008-2009

First Concert in Fredericton (May 11, 2008)

Report by Steve Wilcox
Concert photos by Charles Saindon


Dance Me To The End Of Love
The Future
Ain't No Cure For Love
Bird On The Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire


Tower Of Song
Gypsy Wife
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
Take This Waltz


Heart With No Companion
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
Closing Time

More about this concert
on the Forum
There are not many things that one can say they actually waited 17 years for (and I do appreciate that many have waited longer). But what can I say now? - except it was worth the wait.

I have been to many shows at this venue. I have never witnessed such an extensive stage-scape; the amount of equipment was incredible. Remember, each band member is a multi-instrumentalist. Leonard and band are touring with their own sound system and light show - not using the house equipment.

The house lights went down and the band members - all nine of them! - took to the stage. They'd practised every night and they were ready! All were wonderfully dressed with 7 of the nine wearing hats. The three ladies to the left, Neil Larsen (keyboards) on a riser behind them, Rafael Gayol (drums) center, Roscoe Beck (bass) slightly left of the drums, Bob Metzger right of the drums, Dino Soldo & Javier Mas on the right hand side of the stage.

With the band on stage, and tension and excitement building all the while - people knew the wait was almost over. Then Leonard walked on stage - dressed in a suit and the hat we have seen him wearing in photos of late. He displayed physical vigour and confidence and a certainty about his mission - the audience immediately rose to its feet and began a 2 minute ovation. Leonard - who remarked in an interview a few short years ago that he didn't know if he would tour again because he didn't have a sense of there being enough interest in him or his career - looked like he felt justified. There was no longer any question about whether or not to tour.

Leonard spoke to the audience about recent flooding in the area and how nicely he has been received here. The band riffed quietly in the back ground. Leonard introduced the song, as he often does, by reciting a verse - this time in French - and the band broke into "Dance Me To The End Of Love".

The show was incredible. Leonard's voice was very very strong - rich and deep as usual but with a strength and power that showed complete command. As a reference point, I have been a professional musician for 30 years, and I can tell you these guys were bang on the money - no mistakes - no uncertainties in the arrangements. Roscoe Beck's position as musical director again resulted in the beautiful musical sparseness that Leonard's music requires such that vocals and lyrics are placed front-and-center. All band members' performances were notable even if their individual virtuosity was easily understated by the apparent ease with which they were doing it. But, through the evening, each member got their chance to shine and shine they did.

The Webb Sisters sang beautifully, their voices are well suited to the songs. Sharon was wonderful (no surprise there). Her voice is so powerful - as she demonstrated on the opening lines of "Boogie Street". The ladies formed 2 and 3 part harmonies amongst themselves, and each shared lines with just Leonard. Sharon got a greater share of that, especially on the songs she co-wrote with Leonard. Having three female backing vocalists, plus at least two of the guys singing, gave enough of a full choir effect to pull off the likes of "Anthem" and "Hallelujah".

Neil Larsen's Hammond B3 organ playing was an anchor for the entire evening. It gave many songs, like "Bird On A Wire" a southern gospel feel - and it worked. Javier Mas covered the oud and mandolin parts with his vast array of instruments. Bob Metzger switched to pedal steel for "Everybody Knows" and "Heart With No Companion".

"Gypsy Wife" was a real nice surprise (one of my favourites) and again Javier's flamenco playing, like on "Who By Fire", made the song.

Leonard opened the second set with just the three vocalists and organist Neil Larsen. Leonard pushed "start" on his Techniques keyboard and the five of them did "Tower Of Song". Leonard then picked up his nylon string guitar and, with the same members, did "Suzanne".

I was very impressed by the arrangement on "First We Take Manhattan" - Beck played the synthesizer bass line on bass guitar(!) maintaining the Euro-dance feel while the Hammond B3 gave the song an edgier heavier rock sound. The backing vocals formed a strong 3-part harmony on the chorus.

Audience participation was great throughout for an audience that ranged in age from 16-76. They laughed, screamed and rose to their feet on many an occasion. Leonard spoke eloquently (as usual) while also showing his infamous sense of humour.

Nothing was left to chance - look, clothing, lighting, instruments, arrangements, nothing. Roscoe deserves a lot of credit for his work as musical director. And I must comment also on the sound man's contribution - the mix was incredibly clear and clean, it was literally like listening to a CD recording on a massive stereo.

Report & Playhouse photo © Steve Wilcox
Concert photos from Leonard Cohen fan pages
at FaceBook, added by Charles Saindon.
More audience reports here on the Forum
Marie's media report on Speaking Cohen website
Link to audience videos on YouTube