CONCERT REPORT: Birmingham, November 22

September 21 - November 30, 2008. Concert reports, set lists, photos, media coverage, multimedia links, recollections...
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CONCERT REPORT: Birmingham, November 22

Post by hydriot » Sun Nov 23, 2008 2:44 am

The audience was warm, with full standing ovations at the end of the first and second sets, at the end of the first encore and at the end of I Tried To leave You (no Wither Thou Goest tonight as we were running out of time). Some members of the audience even stood after Famous Blue Raincoat and after Hallelujah. With one exception, everyone was respectful, with no sing-along, but plenty of swaying-in-time and mouthing of lyrics, which was nice. The exception was some moron on the right who managed to issue the most piercing whistles I have ever heard, even in the middle of the most poignant section of FBR.

I thought the sound mixing was not as good as usual, particularly in the first set where some of Leonard's words and Javier Mas's playing were not broadcast as crisply as at other venues. And in Democracy, for some reason the bass drum was excessively dominant.

Perhaps the most unique moment, though, was at the end of the 'do-do-dums' when Leonard managed to make Sharon corpse, much to everyone's delight. ("Don't smile" Leonard cautioned her, but it was far too late...)

We also had some new homilies. "One word of wisdom for the young: 'Duck!'" And he'd obviously had a bad experience at his hotel, for after describing one of those circular shaving mirrors with a distorting surface that magnifies your face, he said: "I want to caution you: under no circumstances look into it!"

There was also a strange change to Suzanne, which I noticed at another venue too. The whole point of the song is that at the start the singer has touched her perfect body with his mind, but by the end she has touched his perfect body with her mind, so that the teacher has become the taught. Yet tonight Leonard ended the song with essentially the same refrain as he began it ("And you know that you will find her for you've touched her perfect body with your mind"), I do think this weakens the power of the song significantly and I hope Leonard can be prevailed upon to revert to the original subtle reversal.

Hallelujah was sung at a somewhat subdued, thoughtful volume, which I thought made an interesting change: this gave it more of the feeling of resigned stoicism than loud despair.

In Sharon's solo of Boogie Street, I saw that Leonard was singing along with her quietly (without microphone) which was somehow touching, as if the whole band was a family just singing together for fun.

I also noticed that after Leonard thanked them the Webb Sisters, unlike Sharon, curtseyed to him rather than bowed ... a charmingly old-fashioned and very English gesture (well, Leonard is royalty after all). Someone put a small bouquet of long-stem roses on the edge of the stage, and Charley thoughtfully collected them and put them centre-stage where Leonard could pick them up.

Leonard ended the concert with a particularly touching valediction: "May the blessings find you in your solitude."

Yes, I could certainly use some of those blessings right now.
Last edited by hydriot on Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:25 am, edited 4 times in total.
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by brokenhill » Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:04 am

Magnificent - Chelsea Hotel, The Partisan, A Thousand Kisses Deep and Famous Blue raincoat all in the same programme. Tomorrow I'll work out what was missed out, today I'm just, just, there are no words. Thank you Leonard, Roscoe, sound crew, et al and Thank you again.
Still reliving every second of:1970 Isle of Wight, 1985 Birmingham, 2008 Manchester OH , Edinburgh, Cardiff, Bournemouth, Birmingham, 2009 Liverpool and ................ :o)
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Habie » Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:40 am

Hydriot beat me to it, I wanted to write the first review of tonight's concert... but I'm glad I don't have to because he's covered all the technical points... so I can just be a 'girl' and describe my emotional highlights from this one...

First of all, it was my last concert of the tour, so potentially, my last ever LC concert ... yikes. Could this be? So basically, I'm now just a heaving lump of jelly, already suffering Premonitions of Flashbacks (to borrow a phrase from comedian Steve Wright) and Leonard-withdrawal... but that's my problem, not yours, so I'll stick to tonight's concert.
- overall, an amazing flow, it somehow felt like one long song
- exceptionally good filming, so we saw things I'd never seen before (or maybe didn't look properly) : the expression on Neil Larsen's face when he plays his solos, extraordinary look in his eyes, mouth open, almost in pain, as if he was drawing the music from his very blood
- the close ups on Hattie and Leonard when they duetted during Take This Waltz; somehow I felt the comunion between this older man and this young woman was very touching; a reminder of earlier blondes in his musical life, a reminder of what you gain, not lose, by getting older
- my companion, Simon, weeping during Anthem, now his favourite ever song despite having only discovered it for the first time in Manchester - the words seemed to him, as to many others no doubt, completely perfect
- the sweetness of Rafael Gayol's expressions, like an impish child playing with the grown ups, but what a gifted child!
- the way Leonard (or was it just me, because it's my last concert) seemed to feel every word of Bird on a Wire as if he'd just written it this afternoon - actually, as Simon pointed out, it felt that way with every song... Leonard, how do you do it? To surprise me even after seven concerts, with a similar setlist each time, by providing a completely different experience for each concert? How is this possible? Oh yes, I remember, Leonard makes everything possible. Poets are good that way. Gentlemen Poets, even more so. The woman next to me went to Cardiff on a whim, was so blown away she spent her holiday money to come again tonight. I loved that we were all 'oldies' reliving our youth, but feeling simultaneously feeling younger and more energetic than we did before.

That's all folks, I look forward to hearing more of other people's impressions. For me, another sublime evening of that which can't be described. Perfection, though, is never monotonous. You can never have too much. Thank you, Leonard, and thank you Jarkko for giving us somewhere to express our emotion (and begging your forgiveness for having expressed rather a lot of mine lately). (I'm crap at pithy one liners). (Is being Jewish enough excuse?) (Oh, Leonard is Jewish, and he can say everything in a single line...)
Yikes. I'm still here. Thank you and good night.
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Habie » Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:59 am

PS to previous post :

Forgot to mention my other highlight from tonight - and it was a big one : when audience members shouted, 'We love you Leoanard!', the first time Leonard doffed his hat and said, 'thank you' in the usual way, but the second time, when several more people shouted their love, he mused, 'I'm fond of you, too... you can't imagine how fond... in fact, I get fonder with each passing year...'

Truly a case of reciprocation.

(And the final highlight: coming back to the country where I'm staying just outside B'ham, the brightest starry I ever saw in England).

And now to bed, to transform a year of highlights into highlighted dreams... x
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Habie » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:00 am

Er, brightest starry NIGHT I ever saw in England.
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by ladydi » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:21 am

Hi Habie...

Wow....what a presentation! Both your remarks from deep inside your soul....and your description of the concert! Sometimes fate brings all things together, and I feel that last night with the combination of possibly your "last" Leonard concert and the incredibly starry night, perhaps the heavens were cooperating and reaching out to touch your soul even deeper. A moment in time you will never forget. It DOES happen...not often, but it does. Hold all that safe within.

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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Undertow » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:29 am

That was a fantastic night. Me and my friends were up in Block 15, row X so not the best of seats. But it was still one of the greatest nights of my (short) life. We were all 18/19 and thats the youngest I saw in the crowd.

It was a great concert, Cohen so very playful with the crowd, skipping on and off the stage, I forgot about his age when he showed such youthful energy. With only a 15 minute break between 8 and 11, I definitely felt like I got my moneys worth too. Thank you Cohen, thank you so very much. This is the first time Ive seen him and most probably the last too.

Highlights for me were the spoken Thousand Kisses Deep, Famous Blue Raincoat, I Tried To Leave You (During which I smiled and laughed throughout the song) and I'm Your Man. Im a completely heterosexual male...but Cohen just oozes sexuality during Im Your Man and wow, its even more potent live.

I really enjoyed Tower of Song too, especially when dear Lenny made Sharon laugh.

Thank you so much Leonard, your loss of your retirement fund is truly our gain. But I felt that he too was happy to be performing onstage again and I may be wrong in saying this, but crowds like these and the O2 Arena are probably the largest that he has played to. My friend who has seen Dylan, U2 & now Cohen easily placed Cohen as the best of all his gig experiences.

A fantastic way to spend 3 hours.
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by stargazer61 » Sun Nov 23, 2008 7:19 am

It's 4 in the morning and I've just got home after a 200 mile drive. Haven't seen Leonard in 40 years...last time was at the IOW!!!!

Will try and write a review tomorrow but, at the moment I am just blown away! Magnificent!!!! And echoing an above post, the most beautiful starry night with one extra special star in the firmament!
1970 IOW
2008 Birmingham
2009 Liverpool. Weybridge. Paris. Barcelona
2012 Paris.The Hop Farm.
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Dutt » Sun Nov 23, 2008 12:19 pm

What a night!!!!! I was the one who eventually managed to throw a long stemmed rose stage right. This was after quite a lengthy discussion with a security man who threatened to throw me out if I threw anything onto the stage. Although the conversation was in muted tones, Charley had obviously picked up on the fact that there was a problem. He did eventually agree to 'look the other way' if I promised to throw it towards the wings. I am eternally grateful to her for retrieving the rose and taking it centre stage. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness.
I was sitting in the fifth row, pretty central and the experience was completely different to being in the circle at the MOH. Last night they all appeared more relaxed and at ease with each other. The way Leonard trembles with emotion while singing is just awesome. I've been a fan for over 40 years and MOH was the first time I've seen him perform. It was the most exciting day of my life (coupled with meeting him & having the obligatory photo by chance at the stage door before the event).
Javier Maas is unbelievably talented and I am also amazed that Leonard is still playing guitar in the original key after all of these years. Most artists have to adjust their playing to a lower range as the years progress.
Still in a dream world, so not totally coherent!
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by honeyrose » Sun Nov 23, 2008 12:47 pm

We were at Birmingham last night - our third Leonard show this year - and it was another wonderful show. We had great "fan" seats (thanks Jarkko). The introduction of side screens with tv coverage is welcome but it does raise the question, if Leonard did not want to be filmed at Glasto because it impairs his communication with the audience, isn't the same true with 3 CCTV cameras doing it in the pit in front of the stage? I thought the film coverage was better at the RAH earlier this week but that maybe because the stage was higher at Birmingham and so less easy to film although it gave a better view for the audience.

We also saw him on the first night at Manchester earlier this year and I think that is still my favourite show of the three. The audience was ecstatic and the acoustics there were amazing but then it is an opera house. The sound was very good at the RAH and at Birmingham (only Democracy at Birmingham was a bit muffled). But hats off to the sound guys, the RAH and arenas in general are notoriously difficult acoustics and I though they did a wonderful job (especially when I recall the really dreadful sound at Wembley Arena at the Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris concert there).

One thing - photography we were stopped from taking flash photos in Manchester earlier this year (we sat in the stalls there). Before the show started at the RAH on Tuesday I took a photo of the stage and an attendant approached me said politely no flash photos during the performance please. I wish that rule had applied at Birmingham. A man in front of me last night and a woman across the aisle took almost continuous flash photos, so much so that they could hardly have seen the performance. The woman also tried to stand in the aisle and film it but at least they stopped that. Maybe they should do what they do with professional photographers, and say you can take flash photos during the first say 10 minutes, but after that not. Most of Leonard's fans are respectful enough to accept that.

But we have seen three wonderful concerts this year and it has been marvellous and worth every penny. I agree by the way that Leonard and the band seemed a lot more relaxed in Birmingham but I think maybe the slight nervousness on the first night in Manchester - both for the band and fans - none of us knew then if he was going to pull it off, which of course he did triumphantly - gave that show an extra edge. Halleluljah was the highlight of Manchester for me. Just unbelievable as Leonard reclaimed the song as his own. Even my notoriously taciturn husband was moist eyed there.

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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by j9sunny » Sun Nov 23, 2008 2:07 pm! I've been reading the comments about last night's Birmingham concert and all I can do agree with everything that's been written and said.

Saw LC in Bournemouth so when I first walked into the somewhat cavernous NEC last night I was slightly concerned about what sort of atmosphere would be generated.

I shouldn't have worried. It was spine-tingling, hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck special from the moment he skipped on to the stage. The average age of the audience was significantly younger than Bournemouth so maybe that was the reason.

Anway, LC obviously fed off the buzz as he seemed far more relaxed and humorous than Bournemouth - more jokes and great moment when he made Sharon Robinson laugh! Also, did anyone notice that he forgot the starting lyrics to Everybody Knows?

Worst part of the night - that appalling whistler. He (ok, maybe she) sounded like something from One Man and His Dog.

Best part - the rest!

This time last year I didn't have a clue who Leonard Cohen was. Then I discovered his poetry and his music. Now I'm hoping to win the lottery so I can jump on a plane and watch him Down Under!

Oh, and for all those bowled over by Sharon Robinson's singing too, her new cd is excellent.

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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by aqadir » Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:09 pm

An amazing and enchantng evening spent listening to Master. It was my third time (Manchester and London O2 before). The first time was a delight, I had been waiting with excitement for the day of the concert, and on the day of the concert I discovered that I was to be a father again - someting that I thought would bever happen again - my wife and i were so excited - seeing LC for the first time and being parents again. At least my about to be born son can say that he went to hear Leonard twice. In fact were giving him the middle name Leonard. He also has a t-shirt, waiting for his arrival is imminent... December 14th or earlier

Yesterday, I took my eldest son Jamie (13), his first concert and a Leonard Cohen one at that. He was mesmerised, he was tunned by the adoration, he listened to every single word that was uttered - some songs were familar and some quite new to him, but he did comment that his voice has changed from his recordings - it was much deeper. I enjoyed watching the Master through the eyes of my young son it was a completely different experince for that alone. He so enjoyed his eveing with Leonard.

We got home late missing the last train, but it was worth it all - a father and son experience that will be cherished forever,

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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by honeyrose » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:17 pm

I am glad to hear someone else say he either forgot or changed around the lyrics to the first verse of Everybody Knows. My husband disagrees, or says he did it on purpose. Anyone else notice?
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Neville 45 » Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:26 pm

just a perfect night! Leonards humour and warmth supporting us on the way home on a very chilly starry, special night!
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Re: Birmingham NEC, 22 November 2008

Post by Undertow » Sun Nov 23, 2008 5:03 pm

He definitely forgot the opening lyrics to Everybody Knows, I thougth the ame when he started it, it was pretty obvious really. And he also started Tower of Song at the wrong time, halfway through the beat rather than at the beginning, but he clawed it back and stuff like this only makes his concert more unique.

I loved his intro to Tower of Song, and his warning about the sophistication of his keyboard that plays itself :D Not sure if he did that at every concert, but it was very funny eitherway.

Im going to disagree with some of you here and wish that maybe we had had a singalong. Not to all the songs, that would be ridiculous, but just to So Long Marianne...I fully respect that some of you paid extraodinary amounts of money to be there, but I dont think it ruined the experience at all and I enjoyed it. Audience participation in a song like that is welcomed by me.
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