Ancient venue a fitting setting for a soulful voice
November 21, 2010
An evening descends on a perfect spring day with Hanging Rock as the backdrop, a crowd of 12, 000
awaits Canadian singer-poet Leonard Cohen. Photo: Ken Irwin
THE 6-million-year-old rock formation and natural amphitheatre has been a home to Wurundjeri initiation rites, horse races and a haunting film credited with launching Australian cinema.
It's even served as a lookout for notorious bushranger, Dan ''Mad Dog'' Morgan.
Last night, though, Hanging Rock was transformed into that most modern of facilities, an outdoor concert venue, as the surrounding hills echoed to the soulful bass voice of Leonard Cohen.
The sun set behind the rock and the moon rose behind the crowd, Cohen's inspiring brand of melancholy warming a crowd braced against a chill spring night.
''I was born with the gift of a golden voice,'' the 76-year-old Canadian sang in Tower of Song, to cheers of approval from the crowd.
Clare Bowditch, Dan Sultan and Paul Kelly primed the 12,000-strong soldout crowd that had descended on Woodend for its first big concert, fulfilling a long-time dream of Melbourne music promoter, Svengali and local resident, Michael Gudinski, to turn the bowl into a major venue, in the spirit of the famous Red Rocks in Colorado.
Gudinski has permission for a number of concerts, as long as they are wrapped up before the April nesting season of the powerful owl.
A ring road and fencing had been constructed around the rock, as well as mood lighting for when the sun went down.
A logjam of traffic was inching into the car park as Paul Kelly, who also supported Cohen last year, delighted the crowd with a string of favourites including Deeper Water, To Her Door and How to Make Gravy. Vika Bull helped out on Kelly's Sweet Guy.
Gudinski said Cohen jumped at the chance to play Hanging Rock, remembering the eerie atmosphere of Peter Weir's film, but as the crowd settled in for an evening of fine music, the prehistoric lava formation towering up behind the stage was a reassuring presence.
In contrast with the brightly regaled audience, the singer-poet cut a dapper figure in grey as he opened the set with Dance Me to the End of Love.
''Thanks so much friends,'' he greeted his fans. ''Thanks for inviting us to this sacred place. It's a great honour. I promise we'll give you everything we've got tonight.''
Cohen's concerts are usually described in reverential tones; for this one night the setting was almost as memorable as the performance.
http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/mus ... 181wz.html