John Gallagher & John Noordanus

SEPTEMBER 23, 2000

by Andrew Darbyshire

Our 8th Leonard Cohen Birthday Tribute night had special potential, right from its planning outset, for a couple of reasons: firstly, it was our first Cohen tribute night in our new venue; and secondly, it was our first such night to be promoted internationally through Jarkko‘s wonderful Cohen web-site!

The evening started with a festive feeling, as it coincides with our annual spring carnival (“Carnival of Flowers“). In fact a fireworks display in the nearby park helped get the early arrivers into the spirit of the occasion! We eased into the night with some of Leonard’s recorded music wafting out into the mall – a ‘guiding beacon‘ for those who were lost and a warm welcome at the same time. As “one by one, the guests arrived“, folk soon settled into the celebration with drinks and whetted their appetite with some tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Andrew Darbyshire
Andrew Darbyshire, who was MC for the night, welcomed everyone to the tribute night, with a special welcome being extended to Richard Clancy from distant Newcastle (who “came so far for beauty“ and “left so much behind“) as well as the half dozen or more guests from Brisbane. There was a bit of movement in and out of the venue on the night , with up to fifty people present at times. John Gallagher (on acoustic guitar) kicked off proceedings in a serious way by playing a bracket of three songs: “Is This What You Wanted“; “Dress Rehearsal Rag“ & “Hallelujah“. John’s superb voice infused the room with strong rich sounds, which I’m sure would have been heard right throughout the mall. This segment was followed by more recorded music and some poetry/prose readings by Andrew from “Death of a Lady’s Man“. John Gallagher and John Noordanus then performed a more subdued duet, covering “Suzanne“, “Sisters of Mercy“ and “Who By Fire“. Meanwhile on the food front the main courses were being served up (choice of vegetarian lasagne, spicy lamb, and chicken or vegetarian couscous; all served with a scrumptious fresh garden salad).

Between the various recorded Cohen tracks and live performances, Richard Clancy, Andrew and Tim Darbyshire as well as Pauline Gallagher read out various poems and song lyrics from “Stranger Music“. Pauline’s ‘random selections‘ added a touch of true unpredictability to this aspect of the night! John Gallagher performed another live bracket, in his inimitable style, doing undeniable justice to: “Lover Lover Lover“; “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong“; “Famous Blue Raincoat“; “Chelsea Hotel 2“; and the“Master Song“. There were three lucky door prizes on the night, all gratefully received: two Cohen CD’s and the excellent Jim Devlin biographic chronology of Cohen and his music, “In Every Style of Passion“.

Michelle Alroe
Desserts included baklava and other ambrosias, accompanied (of course) by fine brewed coffee. The other main performer for the night was Michelle Alroe who did two spellbinding guitar solos: “Suzanne“ and an obligatory encore “Hey That’s No way To Say Goodbye“. The combination of the interesting arrangements and her unique vocal style will be a lasting impression from the night.

Another highlight of the night was our first viewing of Armelle Brusq’s engrossing video “Leonard Cohen – Portrait“. This was well received, though naturally slowing the pace of the evening a little. So there was then a much needed, energising, bracket of songs from John Gallagher: “Joan of Arc“; “Humbled in Love“; “A Singer Must Die“; “Last Year’s Man“; and “Avalanche“.

The “Dancing Bear Café“ catering and waiting crew of Sandy, Jane, Meg, Shaun and Leon were hardworking and always cheerful – a vital ingredient for the success of the night. This was also the first night we had had sound amplification and so Dylan Boyle is to be applauded for his work on the sound system which worked so well for the venue and the range of performers. Of course our whole evening‘s proceedings were also photographically recorded by our “in-house photographer“ – of significant repute – Gerard Saide.

In summary, not only were celebrant‘s appetites for Cohen and good food/wine sated, but more than that, the night was filled with that now characteristic feeling of goodwill, comraderie and emotional connectedness – these feelings leaving most, I‘m sure, quite elated at “closing time“. For some there was also the motivation to continue on celebrating (until “four in the morning“ – but not until the “end of December“). For those of you considering making the effort next year (and I know there are a few of you in Sydney and Melbourne), Richard Clancy from Newcastle (some 800 km away) summed up his feelings about his venture by saying, “It was well worth the effort to be there and everyone was so hospitable“.

Graham , Kevin, Sandy , Jenny & John


Toowoomba is a provincial city of 80,000 plus people, 130 kilometres west of Brisbane, on an escarpment of the Great Dividing Range, some 622 metres above sea level. It is the service centre for one of the countries richest agricultural areas, the Darling Downs. It is known as the “Garden City“ and has its annual “Carnival of Flowers“each September, a time when the city really comes to life! It is a significant educational centre, with a University and many boarding schools which cater for children from the rural (and particularly western) areas of the state.

For more info write to Andrew Derbyshire.
Photos © 2000 by Gerard Saide. Used with permission.