How good is Live in London?

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
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How good is Live in London?

Post by commonweal » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:43 pm

We know that in Leonard's dystopian future there is nothing that can be measured anymore. As a public-sector worker in the UK it might, from my perspective, have been more dystopian if he'd suggested a future in which there is nothing than cannot be measured any more. Audit, league tables, and all that ...

In this spirit, two questions:

(1) who would put Live in London in their top 5 LC albums?

(2) what ranking would you give to his four [official] live albums?

I know it's too soon tell, but it would be interesting to see what the immediate reaction is.

My answers, at least today, are (1), yes, I would; and (2) I think it's his second best live album, after Field Commander Cohen. But by tomorrow I may well have changed my fickle mind.
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by somewhat_nifty » Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:55 pm

I really enjoyed Live in London but:

1) No I wouldn't (though possibly Field Commander Cohen would be)

2) The order would be Field Commander Cohen, joint second Live Songs and Live in London, then Cohen Live. A bit of a cheat, but then it's so hard to rank things, and I end up changing my mind anyway!
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2008: London O2 14th Nov, RAH 18th Nov; 2009: NY RCMH 16th May, Weybridge MBW 11th July, Barcelona 21st Sept; 2010: Sligo 31st July, Lille 25th Sept, Las Vegas 11th Dec; 2012: Wembley Arena 8th Sept, Dublin 11th Sept 2013: London O2 21st June, London O2 14th Sept
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by Quasand » Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:35 pm

Leonard Cohen Live In London is # 10 right now on ... QH5Q32JVZ6

# 48 at Barnes&Noble ... 2Pid=17589

I have a feeling that the Live In London CD will become Leonard Cohen's first Top 40 Album in the U.S., thanks to the Tour and the Rock Hall.

We will have to wait until the April 10th edition of Billboard Magazine to see the first week's results.

# 83 Songs Of Leonard Cohen
# 63 Songs From A Room
# 145 Songs Of Love And Hate
# 156 Live Songs
# 143 Ten New Songs
# 131 Dear Heather

# 198 Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
# 176 Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man - Motion Picture Soundtrack
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by John Etherington » Wed Apr 01, 2009 4:16 am

Hi Commonweal,

A bizarre question considering the live CD was only released yesterday and most of us have probably only heard the live show once, but here's my personal view. "Live Songs" will always be the ultimate Leonard live CD, and possibly the greatest live CD ever. I say this because it elevated the concept of live CD into artistic statement. It included the Minute Prologue, (a new song) Passing Through, Bird on a Wire and Story of Isaac with slightly revised lyrics, the Improvisation, another new song - Please Don't Pass Me By (which I experienced live at the Royal Albert Hall), the extended Tonight Will Be Fine and a new song-poem Queen Victoria. In an interview around this time, Leonard said that the crucifixion would once again become a valid symbol for mankind, because that's exactly where we were at - on the cross. The album came out at Easter and seemed to capture that exact moment, especially with it's opening words "I saw Jesus on the cross on a hill called calvary, do you hate mankind for what he's done to you etc...".

In 1976, I had a fully formed idea of a second Live Songs that I thought Leonard should record, which as I recall included Sisters of Mercy and Chelsea Hotel with the Janis Joplin rap. Ironically, when I first met Leonard in the summer of that year, I meant to mention the idea, but forgot! Surprisingly, there was then not another live album for almost twenty years.

Cohen Live was very good, especially as it included the new version of Hallelujah that Leonard had been singing. However, it somehow did not fully capture the live shows that we had experienced in the UK, and the sequence of songs did not seem quite right.

Although many rate Field Commander Cohen as Leonard's greatest live album, I have never given it enough plays to assess it properly. It seemed to have appeared out of some kind of time warp, and I didn't wish to repeatedly hear a selection of tracks from my most treasured Leonard album "Recent Songs" (until that point in time, I had always played a Leonard album from start to finish).

Now, the new live CD is here and I will no doubt listen to it for the experience. However, for me, the DVD is the real thing - a full concert that I actually attended, featuring songs that I know word for word. Furthermore, I will be seeing Leonard live in the summer at what will presumably be a very similar concert. Therefore it would not be possible to rate the new CD in the way that you suggest.

All the best, John E
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by CatMac » Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:48 pm

Up to now Field Commander Cohen was No 1 for me. I bought Live in London on Saturday and have played it non stop since. It's like being back in Kilmainham at the concert. It's just wonderful.
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by commonweal » Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:18 pm

John E -- I know it's bizarre. But bizarre questions can be fun. I agree that Recent Songs is Leonard's most special studio album. I think we've talked about that before. What I like about Field Commander Cohen are the rich variations in the musicianship in (eg) The Window, This Smokey Life and The Gypsy's Wife. For me the sound is mellower and deeper in these songs on FCC than it is on RS. It is for the same reason that I find myself listening over and again to Live in London, or at least to bits of it. Unlike the studio albums, which, like you, I like to listen to from end to end, with the Live albums I tend to skip around. What I get a kick out of is listening to the way the band manipulate and add variation to these great songs on LiL. Of course, we may know these songs word for word, but such wonderful performances as we have on FCC and LiL of even the most familiar of these songs offers so much that is new. Equally fascinating, for me at any rate, are the differences one can hear between LiL, from the early stages of the tour, and the more recent 12 songs from the NYC Beacon Theater gig that NPR recently made available as a podcast (and which I strongly recommend). Which concert(s) are you going to in the summer? I have a ticket for Liverpool but am holding off on others, for the time being.
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by Zimmer » Thu Apr 02, 2009 11:25 pm

Haven't got around to listening to it yet, only got it today, but I was there on 17 July and if it transfers to cd, what I believe I heard that night then its got to be brilliant.
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by John Etherington » Sun Apr 05, 2009 11:59 pm

Hi Commonweal,

At present, I'm only going to the Liverpool concert. I heard the Beacon Theatre show the other day, and really enjoyed it. I'm sorry that "Famous Blue Raincoat" wasn't included, as we'd then have all of the main songs that Leonard sang live in 2008.

All the best, John E
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by commonweal » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:22 pm

I agree about FBR. Glad that you're also going to Liverpool. I'll be there too and I hope we can meet up for a beer. I'm also going to Dublin on 20 July. All good things.
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by proftournesol » Thu May 21, 2009 4:02 am

I thought that it was terrible!
I've been going to live concerts since 1973 (The Rolling Stones) and the concert sound I heard at LC's show at Rochford Winery in the Yarra Valley (Australia) was the best concert sound I've ever heard. The performace was full of life and passion and humanity. I was very excited to hear the London CD as I was expecting something similar, but this recording is so compressed and lifeless that it's just sucked the life and passion from what was an almost miraculous experience. I was very disappointed that Leonard has been recruited by Sony Music as a shock trooper for the loudness wars' :(

The DVD has inextricably been edited in 4:3 rather than wide-screen - is this someone's idea of a joke?
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by meurglys0 » Sun May 31, 2009 12:46 pm

Unaware of this thread, I created another thread on this topic just the other day. Here is my opinion on Live In London along with Tom Sakic and donalagata's responses...

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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by JudasPriest » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:04 pm

I'm not convinced by the sound of Live in London either. Doesn't seem to quite capture the wonder of Leonard's sound live. Not sure if it is the mix they used or the mastering. It's ok (and better than Live in Dublin) but Songs From the Road is a more rewarding listen for me, largely down to the superior sq.
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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by Robocop » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:26 am

I concur with you Judas Priest except to add my bit:

This relates to only Live DVD's and Blueray's.

Live in London, DVD only has the best cross section of Cohen songs and was done with what I think was his best live band.

I would love for this to be remastered and released in Blueray with highres sound even 24/48 or better 24/96. I don't mind the picture(4.3 image) as its about the sound for me.

Songs from the Road, Blueray is the best quality in both sound(24/96) and picture(16.9) and with his best band. This was made at the end of the Live in London tour which I saw. On a good sound system played back at 24/96 pcm stereo, its the closest to his live sound you will ever get with the visuals. One of my favorite live music Bluerays and rare as few concerts are released in this format with this quality sound.

Live in Dublin, Blueray is also very good quality in both sound(24/44) and picture(16.9) but with Dino Soldo and Bob Metzger missing just not in the same camp as the other two musically. I didn't mind the violinist but Bob's replacement was not up to it and really missed the Dino sax and other wind instruments.

Interesting the Webb sisters(Let it be your Will) are the best on Live in London and when I saw them live they were incredible. Certainly the next big tour(Live in Dublin) the Webb sisters were somewhat reduced in their efforts with Let it be your Will(I also saw this concert). Their backing as always is superb along with Sharon, best overall on Songs from the Road. Great to see again live no less.

I would put "Old Ideas" as his best album and if you can buy the Hires 24/44 version is the best. Its a download from HD Tracks USA, they have a number of other Cohen albums also in hi res sound. This includes his latest "You want it Darker" 24/44.

Update 16/9/2017 Now he's gone, buy them all. They are all we have, his live video recordings.

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Re: How good is Live in London?

Post by its4inthemorning » Mon Nov 15, 2021 12:15 am

I stumbled across this very old thread today.

Certainly "Live in London" could be remastered and improved, perhaps even to include the songs that were omitted, and I hope it will be.

But with respect to the question, "How Good is Live in London?," IMO one should consider its contribution to the final stage of Leonard's career--the final two tours and last four albums. Now of course I am not suggesting that the tours would have been unsuccessful without "Live in London," but I do think this album made many younger folks aware of his music or, as in my own case, made old fans who had lost touch with his music and career aware that he was alive and kicking, and that unlike some aging artists, he was able to use his intelligence and charm to become an even more endearing performer than his old self. The boost to Leonard's popularity from "Live in London" may have been small in Europe and Australia, but I speculate that it might have played a larger role in the huge success of his United States concerts, especially after our Public Broadcasting channel showcased it in their winter 2009 fundraising specials.

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