WORLD TOUR 2008-2009

Concerts at Sony Centre For The Performing Arts
Toronto, Ontario, June 6-9, 2008

Concert photos by Ken Kurzweil
Texts by Linda Straub & Joe Way

Friday’s show was awesome and not because it was my first ever Leonard Cohen concert. It truly was an experience to behold. But that was yesterday and I have a short term memory. Saturday was even better. Differences – Friday-- sounded great but Cohen seemed a bit tentative in stage movements. Was it nervousness? Saturday - subtle dancing to much more than just “white man dancing” lyrics. Confidently slithering around the stage with two movements to his knees before Javier Mas’ masterful strumming. I think I caught a third kneel but not sure if that was in queue to the song or a gesture to my friend front and center who, to add to my jealousy ended up with a setlist.

Dino Soldo
Aside -- The recent concerts I’ve been privy to spy set lists all appeared to be hastily printed and scribbled upon with changes. Cohen’s setlist was not only printed on heavy stock, it was in color with the new unified heart vulcan hand logo, pristine, and with no scribbles. This is just another bit of attention to detail evident on this extraordinary tour.

I also noticed, besides three kneels, the vulcan hand salute but can't say during which song. I figure that in a week or two, based on the change from one day to the next he’ll be dancing like Astaire across the stage. Not only does he look like he's having fun. He makes it all look so easy.

One can't talk about these shows without also talking about and praising the musicians and singers as Cohen so often does during the show. Just the best.

Being at this Cohen show is more like being at a Broadway show rather than a rock concert -- expertly scripted, soundboarded, choreographed, and masterfully sung by our MAN.

What can one say about this performance that hasn’t already been written? He sounds wonderful. He looks wonderful. He was joking with audience. Someone shouted marry me Leonard and he replied OK. Then said, “but you don’t know what you are getting yourself in for.” ... Many standing ovations.

Rafael Bernardo Goyol

I, for one, was happy to have an added song on Saturday.. “Whither Thou Goest” as the very last song even though I missed hearing Heart With No Companion. It appeared that Cohen was having such a good time that he could have and probably would have sung a few more songs. It was possible they needed to be off stage no later than 11.00pm to avoid overtime payments at the venue. I remember Rufus commenting on that at Radio City. “I can't talk, I have to keep singing. It will cost me a fortune if I go past 11pm.”

Bob Metzger

I was thinking about how wonderful the show was and was comparing it to other shows. Rufus -- a more casual show as if in his living room. Willie Nelson - no way near the intensity of performance. Eric Clapton - seems more about the guitar playing. Hendrix - definitely the guitar. Joplin - that was about the songs but not about the audience. Sinatra - well he sure had a devoted audience. Perhaps Cohen could be compared to Sinatra as far as keeping the audience enthralled. Sinatra always had top musicians, top female vocalists, belted out near-flawless songs. But compare Cohen to Sinatra – no, not in the same league.

I have personally never experienced anything quite like Saturday’s performance in terms of pure enjoyment of the show itself. The songs, the singing, the music, the emotion Cohen put into every word he sang or recited. He connected with each person in the audience and they in turn connected back. It was almost like completing a circuit. At times a three-way circuit could be seen as couples sat and smiled and nodded at each other as the first few notes of a song began or as a favorite lyric was sung. Similar same smiles, nods and applause were seen after solo performances by the master musicians and singers. Tears were shed by more than a few people I spoke to afterward. I can’t recall that I've ever had tears at any other concert I've attended.

Humble and gracious have been used, reused and will continue to be used to describe Cohen during this tour. In my opinion, his show is all about the enjoyment of his audience. He appeared energized by the audience appreciation of his songs and performance. The more the audience responded to the songs, the bigger the smile on his face and the deeper he appeared to reach within himself to deliver even more emotion back to the audience and keep that connection alive. Do most performers seek that connection? I don't think I've ever felt such a connection before. Is it a connection when I see Rufus live..think,think, think...no, nope, no real connection -- enjoyment, the same love adoration, respect, but, no real connection.

Perhaps the best way to say it is as Cohen himself does, “I tried to leave you. I really did. I’m just a man working for your smile.” And, work he did for almost three hours.
The audience certainly appeared satisfied. I experienced my first two Cohen concerts and magic was afoot.

Linda Straub

From left: Neil Larsen, Charley Webb, Hattie Webb, Sharon Robinson, Roscoe Beck

I just have to add a little bit about the band and singers. Dino Soldo is simply a bundle of energetic talent-I'm still wondering what several of those instruments were that he played. One was a woodwind that sounded like a trumpet.

Bob Metzger is, of course, one of my favorites (being from Wisconsin and a Badger and Packer fan!) and his guitar skills are so understated-he really never showboats and only adds to the musical accompaniment to advance the song.
Javier Mas (on the left) must be close to Leonard's age and I think is equal to or surpassing John Belizikian in skills. I wish I knew more about the instruments like Bandurria and Archilaud.

Neil Larsen is quite simply, a true virtuouso keyboard player. The Hammond B3 adds such a rich sound to so many of the songs. For example-during "Hallelujah" there is that big break where all the singers pause and suddenly the organ fills the space with an extremely rich crescendo. Some people also said that "Whither Thou Goest" was a cappella, but it really wasn't with Neil playing behind it. Also, his accompaniment to the recitations was so rich and moving.
Rafael Bernardo Gayol is, again, a tremendously understated and talented musician who never tried to bring attention to himself, but advanced the songs with an artful ear and a steady hand. His offbeat musings on some of the songs brought a new freshness to the numbers.

Roscoe Beck is probably one of the most talented bass players in this country and his musical sense is precise. Of course, his fretless bass work on "Gypsy Wife" speaks for itself, but I thought that on a couple of occasions he was able to alter the tempo (and influence Goyol) to create some truly dramatic moments.

Sharon Robinson is even more beautiful & gracious in person, but she has such a flair for both adding to Leonard's lines and taking the solo moment when it is offered. The songs from "Ten New Songs" were some of the highlights for me-"That Don't Make It Junk" just jumped into my top ten favorites after the concerts.

The Webb Sisters are destined to be stars in their own right, I predict. I would suspect that they won the audition due to their version of "If It Be Your Will" and with their beautiful voices and tender harmonies they blended so well into the great songs.

Joe Way

Tower of Song

Photos © 2008 Ken Kurzweil. Texts © 2008 Linda Straub & Joe Way. Used by permission.
More photos from Toronto by Ken Kurzweil, and his wonderful photo book
More audience reports here on the Forum
Marie's media report on Speaking Cohen website