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König-Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen, Germany
2nd November 2008
Leonard Cohen

On short notice we got the accreditation for this concert and couldn’t believe that it actually worked out. That it wouldn’t become any ordinary concert was clear right from the start; however we couldn’t divine what an evening it would become, when LEONARD COHEN visited Oberhausen…

LEONARD’s first musical experiences date back to the late 1940s and early 1950s when he was playing in cafés and later with a Country Folk band named BUCKSKIN BOYS, then he focussed on being a writer for some years before he returned to America in 1967 to start a career as Folk singer. He had his first time appearance as singer on the Newport Folk Festival in 1967. Producer John Hammond discovered him. The debut ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ emerged out of this collaboration and became a great success in the folk and songwriter scene, comprising three of his most famous songs to date ‘Sisters of Mercy’, ‘So long, Marianne’ and especially ‘Suzanne’. With the following ‘Songs from a Room’ he cemented his standing among songwriters and with ‘Songs of Love and Hate’ (1971) he delivered his saddest album to date. His 1984 release ‘Various Positions’ one of his more religious albums comprises the often covered ‘Hallelujah’. After his most political album ‘The Future’ (1992) Cohen retreated to the Mount Baldy Zen Centre near Los Angeles, beginning what would become five years of seclusion at the centre. In 1996, Cohen was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk and took the Dharma name JIKHAN, meaning 'silence'. He left Mount Baldy in 1999. ‘Ten New Songs’ (2001) was his first album in almost ten years. Until now he’s released 12 studio albums and a new one is expected before the end of 2008.

Music & Performance
It might sound a little strange to you but when I took my seat in the venue I had a peculiar feeling. I mean, LEONARD COHEN is not anybody and now I was sitting there waiting to see an artist who already made music long before anyone thought of me. But the stage decoration soon took my attention and distracted me from those thoughts. They had hung up huge curtains with spotlight shining multiple colours on them and already creating a wonderful atmosphere. In the middle of the stage various instruments like keys, a Hammond B3 and lots of other stuff had been built up already. Short after eight, quite punctual, the lights went down and Leonard’s live band came on stage to take on their respective position, however the one everyone’s waiting for took his time with coming on stage but when he eventually walked onto the stage dressed in a dark grey suit with hat, he was warmly welcomed by the audience.

And the set began right away with the dark blues-tinted song ‘Dance me to the End of Love’ from his 1984 release ‘Various Positions’ and as soon as his emphatic bass or baritone voice sounded through the hall, everyone’s just holding their breath and mesmerized they fixed their eyes on the stage. “Magical” was a word that crossed my mind this very moment. This man doesn’t have to make any extensive movements or anything else. He just needs to stand there in the middle of a live band of excellent musicians and sing and one’s both deeply impressed and touched. He has an aura which is elusive and honestly, barely another band comes even near this. One of the next songs was ‘The Future’, “I’ve seen the future and it is murder” he says and he was right when the song was released and he still is. The set went on with ‘Ain’t no Cure for Love’ and the utterly calm ‘Bird on the Wire’. During ‘In my Secret Life’ I was already close, but ‘Ring The Bell’, the last song before a little break drove tears in my eyes, carried by strings, gentle drums and guitar; and I guess I wasn’t the only one in the hall this night.

After the break he revealed another talent. The entertainer when he said “It’s about 14 years ago when I stood on a stage here, I was about 60 years old, a crazy kid with a golden dream, since then I’ve taken a lot of Prozac…”, causing hearty laughter everywhere. After we climbed the ‘Tower of Song’ together with him, followed one of his greatest hits to date ‘Suzanne’ sang along by many people around me. For ‘Boogie Street’ he retreated into the shadows and left the stage to his long time companion Sharon Robinson, who greatly intonated the song with sonorous, bluesy voice. One song I and apparently several others have anticipated came earlier than thought. It was the largely covered ‘Hallelujah’ and as the song is widely influenced by gospel it was no wonder Leonard’s acting like a preacher, however it never felt like overacting and this mimic. Brilliant and d received standing ovations like some other songs too. He’s someone who still feels his songs with every pore. He kneels down or closes his eyes; fully takes the mood in and reflects it with his voice.

Of course you can’t let somebody like him just leave the stage without an encore and he rather jumped than walked back on stage. ‘So long Marianne’ followed, but it was clearly topped by the prayer ‘If it be your Will’. Leonard gave the first few lines and then stepped back again to let someone else do the rest. The two Webb sisters who’re providing great backing vocals and some acrobatics continued from there on with harp and guitar, just heavenly. Only one thing’s left to say now. It was an overwhelming evening and I’m still moon while I’m writing this little text here. At one point during the concert he said “It’s an honour to play for you.” Mr. Cohen, it was an honour for us to be allowed to listen to you.

01. Dance me to the end of love
02. The Future
03. Ain't no cure for love
04. Bird on a wire
05. Everybody knows
06. In my secret life
07. Who by fire
08. Hey, that's no way to say goodbye
09. Heart with no Companion
10. Anthem
11. Tower of song
12. Suzanne
13. Gypsy wife
14. The Partisan
15. Boogie Street
16. Hallelujah
17. Democracy
18. I'm your man
19. Take this waltz
20. So long Marianne
21. First we take Manhattan
22. Famous blue raincoat
23. If it be your will
24. Closing time
25. I tried to leave you
26. Whither thou goest

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Sound: 10
Light: 10
Total: 10 / 10

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