My Brisbane Experience (or “Sharing the Joy in Home Territory”):
I have to start my Brisbane reflections by providing some context: this city of one million people (and growing rapidly) is the capital of Queensland and is where I lived for many years and completed my university degree. It is also a place I still frequent for work, professional development and entertainment purposes, so it constitutes some sort of “home territory” for me. However, I must be honest and say that I had some mixed feelings about this Brisbane concert, as I (and many other locals) don’t think much of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, which is an aircraft-hangar-like venue that is quite soulless in architectural plus decor terms and far from intimate.
Not withstanding this, I was happy about the fact that I would know quite a number of people there, partly because of my Toowoomba LC Birthday Events (held annually for 15 consecutive years) and the mailing list related to that. For starters, I knew there was a Toowoomba contingent of at least 20 people and then quite a few other friends, work colleagues and other acquaintances from Brisbane and other parts of south east Queensland!
As a very big Leonard fan, I couldn’t wait to share the joy of one of his magnificent moving concerts with these people in my life from the last 20 plus years, many of whom had never witnessed a Cohen concert! Before the concert I connected with quite a few of them, as well as some Cohenites from interstate and overseas, so there was quite a heightened sense of excited anticipation by the time I made my way in to be seated.
When I found my seat, I was happy to put the negative aspect of the venue behind me and get into enjoying Paul Kelly’s support performance, whilst at the same time being relieved that there were the large projection screens on either side of the stage, making my somewhat distant silver ticket seat more tolerable. Demographically, the audience at this concert felt a bit older than the Hunter Valley one, with perhaps 80-85% being in the older “baby boomer” age bracket and the rest being younger ones. The atmosphere felt good from the outset and I was reassured to hear no major acoustic problems when Paul Kelly was performing his relaxed enjoyable set.
When the band and then Leonard came out right on time, the place genteelly erupted and we were off and running!
What I concentrated on in this concert (as opposed to the Bimbadgen one) was every aspect of the performances and performers, particularly Leonard himself. I really focused on Leonard’s wonderfully expressive face, hand and body movements, whilst at the same time being captivated by his gorgeous voice and hypnotic diction. Enhancing the whole performance were Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters’ vocals, which unequivocally were a heavenly complement to Leonard’s voice.
The magnificent music also transported me, so in this latter respect I also focused on the top notch musicians, especially when they were featured in solos or otherwise stood out from their colleagues (e.g. Javier Mas & Dino Soldo). To sum up the musicality, this concert represented the “total package” of professional musicianship and I couldn’t really fault the sound production either, though I’m by no means the best judge of that aspect. It’s difficult to highlight performances from this night, as they were all faultlessly fantastic, but I was particularly moved by: Bird on the Wire, Hey That’s No Way, Sisters Of Mercy, Anthem, So Long Marianne, Hallelujah, Famous Blue Raincoat, Leonard's riveting recitation of One Thousand Kisses Deep and the Webb sisters’ awe-inspiring If It Be Your Will.
In terms of unique aspects of the night, two things seem to stand out for me that I can’t recall Leonard having mentioned before (at least, not at the four previous concerts I attended in 08/09). Firstly, there was Leonard’s frank explanation of the tour in terms of his unexpected large financial loss; and secondly, was his little joke concerning his mother’s warning to him about those people in New York “who are not like us” and her being right about that!
Another nice little moment occurred when spontaneous Aussie larrikin behaviour was manifest by a man who interrupted Leonard’s statement about not knowing when he would be back this way, by yelling out from some distance “come back next year Leonard”, forcing a pause and smile of appreciation from our man.
To sum up, this concert was a very rewarding one for me in terms of getting into every aspect of the highly skilful and soulful performances, as well as the unbridled pleasure for me of sharing this wonderful experience with many folk I know.
It’s also sweet for me to know, though I would never rub it in, that some friends/acquaintances who regarded me as a bit of an eccentric obsessed Cohen stalker (even though several of my European friends have been to twice as many concerts as me), might now have a newborn appreciation of this truly amazing performer and delightful human being as well. This one concert will do more than any of my past somewhat futile verbal efforts, to convince the waverers amongst them of his merit as a performer who transcends boundaries (e.g. musical styles, age groups) like no other, by speaking to every “open-hearted” one of us in a language that touches us to the core. It will surely enable Leonard to be viewed in this far more positive light (that counters the “wrist slashing” reputation people have joked about over the years) and be given the belated acknowledgement and overdue accolades he more broadly deserves!