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Leonard Cohen Live in Brisbane

Brisbane Entertainment Centre

6th of September 2011

Photographs by Nathan Kelly


The anticipation leading up to this concert was just unbelievable especially the week before as like many others I was unable to attend last year’s shows as they were on a week night, two days off work for a concert is a hard one to swing.

Having met Mr Cohen at his hotel in the afternoon where he was very pleasant signing his book “Let Us Compare Mythologies” which was published more than 50 years ago and talking about having just arrived in Australia the day before and how he was looking forward to his first Australian show in Brisbane that night it was already turning into a pretty special day.

After leaving Cohen and his saxophonist having a coffee it was off to find my way out to Boondall, the QR staff were very friendly and helpful and I knew I was on the right train when the average age of the passengers was at least 55.

Cohen’s band looking like a group of Gypsy’s in their dark suits and hats hit the stage and the crowd cheered for this 76 year old singer who to be honest looks quite grandfatherly...He looks genuinley happy to be here refreshed and ready to sing with a wave to the crowd before he launches into “Dance Me to the End of Love” followed by one of my favourites which is quite a disturbing insight into “The Future” given that now is that future time he was speaking off when he wrote the track. This was then followed up by perennial favourite and one of Tex Perkins favourite sing along songs at 3am “Bird on a Wire” and then “Everbody Knows” what a way to start a concert with four of my favourite songs out of the way in such quick succession it left me wondering what else he was going to play.

Whilst Cohen’s voice is not the one from the original records its tenor is deeper and the range far shorter but this is made up for by the wonderful backup singers The Webb Sisters and his long time collaborator and co-writer of a few of his songs Sharon Robinson.

The show is mixed with emotion and humour with lyrics altered slightly here and there such as “ I cant keep track of each falling rubber” in Chelsea hotel and of course there is a laugh at Leonard “aching in the places where he used to play” which lightened the mood.

The Second set starts off with Cohen appearing by himself playing a wide strung acoustic guitar with he finger plucked and sang “Tower of Song” followed by “Suzanne” as slowly members of the band reappeared first the backing singers and then the rest of the band over the next few songs. This was a slower more mellow set at the outset but got moving with “The Partisan” one of his all time greatest songs “Hallelujah” that got a cheer from all the young folk up the back that got into Cohen by way of Jeff Buckley’s cover of this song and this set was finished off by dancing in Vienna with 10 pretty woman.

The first Encore was the best twenty concert going minutes of my life with “So Long Mariannne” followed by “Famous Blue Raincoat” (which was especially poignant as I got up at 4 in the morning to catch my flight down to Brisbane that morning) and finishing with an upbeat “ First We Take Manhattan”
It is a shame a lot of people left after this encore to catch the last train back to Brisbane but all in all this was the best concert I have ever been to and if you didn’t go this time around it may be something you will end up regretting unless Cohen makes a reappearance next year.

It’s a shame promoters are not more aware that Cairns is a vibrant and happening place with a venue (Cairns Convention Centre) that seats at least 5000 people that could easily be filled by a performer such as Cohen....maybe Neil Diamond will come for a visit to Cairns next year on his tour?

    1. Dance Me to the End of Love
    2. The Future
    3. Bird on the Wire
    4. Everybody Knows
    5. Who By Fire
    6. The Darkness
    7. Born In Chains
    8. Chelsea Hotel #2
    9. Waiting for the Miracle
    10. Anthem

Set 2

    1. Tower of Song
    2. Suzanne
    3. Avalanche
    4. Sisters of Mercy
    5. The Gypsy's Wife
    6. The Partisan
    7. Hallelujah
    8. I'm Your Man
    9. A Thousand Kisses Deep (Recitation)
    10. Take This Waltz


    1. So Long, Marianne
    2. Famous Blue Raincoat
    3. First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2:

    1. I Tried To Leave You
    2. Closing Time