|Issue 4 - April 1972|
Hall was booked out well in advance for this Leonard Cohen concert
and tickets were even sold for the platform behind the stage to enable
more people to be crammed in to see the performance. We heard the stage
bell ring in the silence that awaited his arrival. Leonard Cohen, guitar
in hand, walked nonchalantly to the centre of the stage followed by
I think he played exactly what we wanted to hear, starting off with 'Birds on the Wire' then on to 'Marianne', 'Lady Midnight', 'Suzanne', 'One of us can't be Wrong' and so, seeming to cover our growth with his music gradually progressing and bringing us to the recent 'Songs of Love and Hate' album. Throughout the performance he was given some excellent backing by his touring band. Trouble came in the fact that a mike Cohen was using packed up but after Cohen called the 'electronic gods' to his aid somehow the mike came to life again (clever roadies or was there something really in it folks?).
After about one and a half hours of really beautiful music, Cohen left the stage followed by tumultuous cries of 'More', to which he replied with 'Tonight will be Fine'. Cohen attempted to leave again only to be arrested by the crowd's pleas. Back he came and gave 'Bird on the Wire' and 'Marianne' once more. Still the crowd insisted on hearing more, but with a seemingly humble 'thank you' Leonard Cohen left and now a silence reigned as people asked themselves 'can we let him go now?', and then decided that Cohen had given his utmost and no more could be given. Well, if you want more, you can have it in your very own room with his three LP releases (still expensive for groovy plastic but now thanks to the incredibly generous Budget (sic) they are about 10p cheaper) - 'Songs of Leonard Cohen', 'Songs from a Room' and 'Songs of Love and Hate'.
Leonard Cohen off-stage is not the morose, introverted character that one might expect from listening to his songs and reading his poetry. A very self-assured, wary human being is what I met backstage at the City Hall. He is perhaps a good advertisement for unburdening one's troubles by way of writing and singing.
The majority of his songs are heart-searching expositions of his life and times and I asked him his intentions in making these public: "When I perform I'm trying to present me - and us - in the hope that my audience can relate to me and perhaps sort out their own troubles. I suppose also it's a case of music soothing the savage breast."
It can be an unnerving experience appearing in front of 2,500 people and I asked him how he reacts to an audience, especially in view of the fact that he has done comparatively few concerts: "I don't get too nervous on stage - I see how the audience is reacting to the first couple of numbers and I can adjust to this OK. They were a very good audience tonight and we got in there pretty quickly apart from equipment hassles."
I asked him if his choice of the song 'Kevin Barry' in his repertoire had that effect in Dublin where he performed recently (KB is an IRA song with the chorus 'shoot me like an Irish soldier do not hang me like a dog' addressed to the British Army): "I presented this song without bias to provoke people to think - it was well received in Dublin."
His performance on stage is so similar to that on record that I asked him what were his motives behind touring - other than commercial pressures: "This is probably my last tour and I wanted to go round and say goodbye to people quietly. I have ten to fifteen unfinished songs and when I finish the tour I'll go back to Montreal and get round to finishing them off. I will also finish a book I have been writing for two years."