CONCERT REPORT: Yarra Valley, January 24

New Zealand and Australia (January 20 - February 10, 2009). Concert reports, set lists, photos, media coverage, multimedia links, recollections...
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Re: Yarra Valley (Rochford Winery), Jan 24

Post by proftournesol » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:22 pm

latest review from the erudite and thoughtful Stephen Walker at The Age's Noise Pollution blog:

The Man

Leonard Cohen DownUnder

He was a published poet and novelist before he released his first album at the age of 34 in 1967, since then he has released only 14 albums, the last five years ago. He spent five years in seclusion at a zen monastery before retiring from live performance for 15 years until last year when at the age of 74 he returned to the concert stage; certainly the most eccentric career path in modern music.

So, when Leonard Cohen took to the stage in the Elysian splendour of Day On the Green in front of 7000 patient and devoted fans on Saturday afternoon, anticipation was understandably high; he has not visited Australia for 24 years.

And for the next three hours, including a brief interval, Leonard and his nine piece band not only fulfilled expectations but exceeded them.

The production was perfect, the sound pristine, the video screen mixed as if it were a high quality concert movie, while his band of virtuoso veterans including 12 string acoustic guitar, upright and five string electric bass, swirling Hammond organ, elegant electric guitar, breathtaking wind instruments, precision drums and a trio of celestial backing singers, his "angels" as he referred to them, spun their subtle low volume magic around Leonard's modulated murmur. Perhaps because he gave up his daily multi bottles of wine and packets of cigarettes regime five years ago, his voice, unlike Dylan's cracked wheeze has actually gone up an octave and become an even more supple and expressive instrument with age. There's as much listening as playing going on amongst the players on stage, he sings amongst rather than in front of his musicians, with lots of smiles and eye contact happening between singer and players. A delight to be part of an audience being played to rather than at by all involved in the ensemble.

The sartorially elegant man himself moves with a fluid dignity that matches his material and belies his age, using his hat as an expressive prop to punctuate the songs with a flourish or bow. The repertoire, drawn from across his lengthy career, subtly re-arranged and interpreted, was like his greatest (non) hits, needing no introduction, instantly familiar and recognisable at the first bar.

And it was a show. Leonard's carefully crafted jokes and between song patter, although apparently repeated on every show were perfectly delivered like a seasoned actor with absolute conviction and style, his backing singers performing cartwheels on cue; calculated spontaneity for maximum entertainment.

In the early days people who were intimidated by his intensity disparagingly dismissed Cohen ironically as "Laughing Lenny" but now he does laugh and so does his audience and his delivery brings out the implicit humour that was always in his lyrics and world view but obscured by his darkness. Live almost all of the new arrangements are superior to the original recordings, particular the I'm Your Man material, more finely nuanced, the complexity of his verses and the deceptive simplicity of his choruses perfectly balanced.

The attentive audience listened and watched with reverent rapture, couples of all ages, shapes and sizes quietly cuddled, snuggled and waltzed in the aisles- there was a lot of love in the vineyard. The music created a romantic intimacy that in spite of the show's generous length and multiple encores never became tedious, Leonard dancing off stage at it's conclusion with a joyous spirit and surprising energy.

They toured Canada and Europe for eight months last year and will continue this year through Asia and America until October, when we can only hope that he and his remarkable band will record new material. Leonard Cohen was and remains our man.
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Re: Yarra Valley (Rochford Winery), Jan 24

Post by jarkko » Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:58 pm
LEONARD Cohen seduced 7000 people at Rochford Winery on Saturday night, the majority long-time fans of the now 74-year-old, but others newly annointed - teenagers, families and 30-somethings.

Some came for Australia’s own poet-songwriter Paul Kelly, others cited the Choir of Hard Knocks’ cover of Cohen’s Hallelujah as their introduction.

If Rochford were looking for support for its argument that its serves a cultural and economic purpose to the region, they found it in the Canadian. While the majority of the audience came from out of the valley, there were still a substantial number of local faces among the huge crowd.

Cohen skipped onto the stage to massive applause, and it didn’t stop all night.

In a dark suit, pencil tie and Fedora, he was on stage for three hours, including an eight-song encore.

With the parched hills and green vineyards as a backdrop, people simply couldn’t get enough of the music and words that can bring tears to many an eye – Suzanne, Everybody Knows, the seductive I’m Your Man, Bird on a Wire, his masterpiece Hallelujah, delivered with aching passion, and the spoken Thousand Kisses Deep ... among his best.

“It’s a great honour to play for you this afternoon,” he said, but clearly, the honour was with the audience likely appreciating that as it was Cohen’s first tour in 24 years, it was a life-time opportunity.

“It’s a privilege to gather in a place like this,” he continued “ ... in a peaceful country when so much of the world is lost in chaos and suffering.

“So ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Cohen skipped off stage to a prolonged standing ovation ... and that was just interval.

His music reflects in profound terms on war, sex, politics and life in general at its most complex, but there were also lighter moments from the man who talks of his younger days - at 60 - when “I was just a kid with a crazy dream”.

Suzanne Halliday, founder of the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group and co-founder of Coldstream Hills Wines, was one who spoke out in support of the concert series after complaints last year from nearby residents about noise and disruption to traffic.

“We should all be really proud that Rochford can host such a world-class event,” Ms Halliday said. “Their concerts cater for people of all walks of life and they do it brilliantly. Anybody who came from anywhere in the world would be impressed. “I’m just so proud to be in the Yarra Valley and see this carried off so well.”
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Re: Yarra Valley (Rochford Winery), Jan 24

Post by Fontana » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:04 pm

Leonard Cohen spreads a handsome sermon of hope

By Kathleen Noonan

January 30, 2009 11:00pm

IT WAS Chateau Latour, a beautiful and expensive wine vintners had worked on for 1000 years, that proved the downfall of Leonard Cohen when he last toured 15 years ago.

Then, he was drinking three bottles a day before every concert, to drown nerves and bring to heel, temporarily, the black dog of depression.

"I only drank professionally," was how he described the habit. Problem was, it was a long tour, 60 to 70 concerts. It wrecked his health.

So, there's a strange irony to be sitting in the Rochford Winery in Victoria's Yarra Valley last Saturday, waiting for Cohen to come on stage for his first concert on Australian soil in more than 20 years. Surrounded by grape vines, we sit drinking pinot noir, and let the sun warm our backs – all 7000 of us – and wait.

Our interview with Leonard CohenCohen skips on stage. "Goddamn, he looks good!"' This from one of the 20-something women sitting behind me, when the legendary Montreal-born poet, songwriter and performer appears. They know all the words to his songs.

The 74-year-old is a chick magnet. That long face, dark eyes, those wonderful wicked words. No wonder Bono called him our Lord Byron. For three hours with a brief break, he produced a precisely honed performance that comes from a year of touring.

Cat in a hat

There's no denying Cohen, in an elegant dark-three-piece suit and his silvery hair under his signature dark fedora, has aged well. His handsome Easter Island statue profile suits a hat like no man I know. His father was an engineer who ended up in the clothing trade, thus the sharp Armani suits.

On stage, this ladies man is gracious and humble, flirts with courtly dignity. He gets away with lines like this, from A Thousands Kisses Deep: You came to me this morning/And you handled me like meat./You'd have to be a man to know how good that feels, how sweet. And women still think he's a gentleman.

Last Saturday, as dusk falls on the vineyard, after a strangely subdued performance by Paul Kelly, fingers of light creep westward and the cool wind of evening comes in. Yet the moon doesn't rise. The stars stay hidden. It is as if they know not to bother.

There is only one source of light. Cohen shines, on stage and on two big screens, eyes shut, on one knee, long preacher hands grasping at the microphone.

It is a joyful Cohen on stage with Dance Me To The End of Love, even breaking into a "white man's dance". When he swings like Sinatra, someone yells: "The cat in the hat is back."


For a man long dubbed morose, his chat is ruefully funny. "It's been a long time, about 15 years since I was on stage – when I was 60, a young kid with a crazy dream."

Even the most ordinary of sentences are phrased like poetry. After each song, it's a modest, smiling Cohen who acknowledges the wild applause, hat humbly on heart.

He introduces with great passion his nine-piece band, led by long-time musical director Roscoe Beck.

English sisters Charley and Hattie Webb pull off some neat acrobatics and If It Be Your Will and long-time musical collaborator, Sharon Robinson delivers a mesmerising Boogie Street.

Javier Mas of Barcelona, who learnt rock 'n roll from records of The Kinks and The Who, captures new fans on a 12-string bandurria and guitar. Cohen cleverly slips Hallelujah halfway through, stopping anyone calling for it as the night went on. On his knees, he proves, despite covers by Jeff Buckley to Rufus Wainwright, it belongs to his rough baritone, that's become deeper with the years.

I could write about the many encores and the nine standing ovations. But I won't tell you any more of what's in store if you're planning the drive to the Entertainment Centre on February 3 for his Brisbane concert.

Church of Cohen

As the departing crowd walks from the vineyard into the cold navy dark, someone breaks the silence, says it felt like being part of a spiritual experience. It did. We were worshipping at the Church of Cohen. No, the Church of Life. He represents hope.

His songs tell us that no matter how much regret, and stuffed relationships, and failed finances, and wrestling with alcohol and depression, no matter how many failings and weaknesses we have, we can find redemption or at least, peace.

In a recent interview, he said even he has somehow righted the shipwreck.

Elsewhere in the vineyard that night are three brothers, Don, Keith and Bill, who have been trying like madmen to right a shipwreck too.

Don, a big Cohen fan, was diagnosed with lung cancer last year during a low ebb after his wife left. He wasn't close to his family. He was alone, floundering, clutching handfuls of darkness.

Finally, he tells Bill and Keith. And the Brisbane brothers, surprising him and themselves, swing into action, taking over his care, home, finances and recovery.

"They even, when needed, wiped my arse," says Don, laughing with a youngest child's delight. And they organised his Cohen tickets.

Boy's Own

I wrote about this Boy's Own Adventure back in November. Bill rang Don and said: "There are three tickets. We're not going without you, come hell or high water. Even if we have to carry you, holding you aloft like some prince."

They didn't have to carry him. Chemo finished, he's still got, in Cohen's words, a second-hand physique, but he's shaken off the yellow sheen of cancer.

Late in the vineyard, when the cold takes grip, they give up their upfront seats to throw down a picnic blanket up the back, so Don can stretch out and Keith and Bill can huddle close to keep him warm.

After the show, the bloke nearby says: "Now I've seen Cohen I can die happy."

Don says: "Bugger that. Cohen sang 'I ache in the places where I used to play'. So do I, but I'm planning on doing a lot more playing yet."

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Re: Yarra Valley (Rochford Winery), Jan 24

Post by dstratton » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:10 am

Thank you for a wonderfully written evocation of a day that I will always remember.
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