Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Leonard Cohen at Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, 11/5/12 Concert Review

I've said it before: Seeing Leonard Cohen in concert is as close as I'll get to a religious experience. Except not in Los Angeles.  As much as I love Leonard Cohen, I really hate the Nokia Theatre, and the incredible amount of assholes who attend shows there.  Though it says clearly on the tickets and the web site that the concert will start promptly at 8 p.m., many people arrived late. There was a constant stream of people walking in front of me for several songs. And then people were getting up throughout the show to get drinks or whatever.  I've seen Leonard Cohen in several cities, and it's only Los Angeles where people are rude like that.  It definitely takes away from the enjoyment of the show.  He did two shows at this venue back in 2009, and they were my least favorite shows of that tour.  I thought it might be in part because I was more than halfway back. So this time we decided to spend the money and get seats down near the front. I thought that would eliminate the asshole factor.  But no, I think there were more assholes down in the front than toward the back.

That aside, the concert itself was excellent, though short (short for Leonard Cohen, that is). 

At 7:50 p.m., there was an announcement that the show would start in ten minutes, and sure enough the show started exactly at 8 p.m.  And with that, came Leonard Cohen's first standing ovation.  "Thanks, friends," he said. "Please sit down." And he went into "Dance Me To The End Of Love."  Right away the presence of the fiddle had a positive impact.  For this tour, there were two additions since last time: Mitch Watkins on guitar and Alexandru Bublitchi on violin.  After "Dance Me To The End Of Love," Leonard said he wants to keep touring, and joked that he's planning on starting smoking again when he's eighty (he turned 78 just two months ago).  There were a lot of changes in the show since the last tour, including a lack of cartwheels from the Webb sisters during "The Future."

Folks were still coming in, and after "The Future" Leonard Cohen asked that the lights be turned on so folks could find their seats. "Sorry, folks, that we started on time," he said.  That should have been a clear message to all the inconsiderate bastards who came in late, though I think they might still have missed it. Leonard then turned to the band and said, "We'll play the last chorus of the last song."  And yes, they went into "The Future" again, while the lights remained on.

During "Bird On The Wire," he sang, "Come on, Leonard, you just can't ask for all that much."  Then during "Everybody Knows," people were still coming in.  I say close the doors at 8 p.m. and don't let any of them in until intermission.  That's the only way they'll learn. (Yes, there are times when I truly despise Los Angeles.)  But Leonard Cohen sounded incredible. His voice sounded even better than on the previous tour, and he did lots of variations in phrasing on many of the songs.  "Everybody Knows" was particularly good.

The band went into "Who By Fire," with that great intro by Javier Mas.  Amazing.  The Webb sisters played harp and clarinet on this one.  And then they did a few songs from the new album - "The Darkness," "Amen" and "Come Healing."  Of course, "The Darkness" had been played the previous tour, but this was my first time seeing him perform the other two songs.  "Come Healing" was beautiful, particularly the women's vocals and the violin section.  He did a couple of tunes from Ten New Songs, then finished the first set with "Waiting For The Miracle" and "Anthem."

The first set ended at 9:22 p.m.

At 9:35 p.m., there was a ten-minute warning.  But the second set didn't start until 9:52 p.m., making it the longest set break of any Leonard Cohen concert I've attended.  When he returned to the stage, Leonard said, "Thank you for not going home," and then went into "Tower Of Song." "Suzanne" had a really nice violin part after the second verse.  And then came one of the show's highlights, "The Guests" (from his 1979 release, Recent Songs).  I absolutely love that song, and I hadn't seen him perform it before.  It was one of the most magical moments for me.

He then did another song from the new album, "Anyhow," and then one of my personal favorites, "Heart With No Companion" (from Various Positions). Someone sat in on harmonica during the song. "Democracy" had a fresh feel to it, because of the violin, and also because Leonard Cohen played a jaw harp at the beginning and then a few more times throughout the song.

"Coming Back To You" is another of my favorites, and Leonard Cohen recited the first several lines, and then the Webb sisters performed the song, with backing by Roscoe Beck on bass and Neil Larsen on keyboard.  Their rendition was absolutely gorgeous.  Leonard Cohen then recited the first few lines of "Alexandra Leaving," before leaving the song to Sharon Robinson to perform, with the entire band backing her.

After "I'm Your Man," the crowd gave him another standing ovation. He joked, "Please sit down because I want to start the concert again." But then he actually did start the concert again. He talked about how people arrived late, and so he played the first song again - "Dance Me To The End Of Love."  In a way, it was kind of amusing. But on the other hand, I was wondering what song we were going to miss as a result.  And also, the hell with all those people who arrived late. Don't change the show for them.  After "Dance Me To The End Of Love," he played "Hallelujah" and "Take This Waltz," and that was the end of the second set (and people began leaving during "Take This Waltz," which I can't for the life of me understand).  A short second set, as it ended at 11:05 p.m.

The encores were even shorter - exactly a half hour.  The first encore was a fantastic version of "So Long, Marianne" and then "First We Take Manhattan."  The second encore was "Famous Blue Raincoat" (in which he ended with the line, "Sincerely, a friend" instead of "Sincerely, L. Cohen"), "Going Home" (a wonderful song from the new CD) and "Closing Time."  The encores were rushed, and Leonard Cohen held up a clock at the end. And that was that. The show ended at 11:36 p.m. So no "I Tried To Leave You," which I'd been looking forward to because that's when each band member gets a solo (and I wanted to hear a violin solo).  And also, no "Save The Last Dance," a song he'd been ending shows with on this tour, a song I've never seen him perform.

Other songs we didn't get that he'd been doing on this tour: "Night Comes On," "Sisters Of Mercy," "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye," "Banjo," "Gypsy's Wife," "The Partisan," "If It Be Your Will," "I Can't Forget," "Crazy To Love You," "Different Sides" and "Light As The Breeze." So even though the show was excellent (Leonard Cohen is always excellent), I had really mixed feelings on my way out.  I felt in some way that we'd been cheated. Not only was the show shorter than usual, but two songs were played twice, and because of all the rude L.A. flakes who can't be bothered to be on time anywhere.  And I decided then that, though I'm completely broke, this could not and would not be my last Leonard Cohen concert.  I need to travel to some other city.  I can't let a Los Angeles show be my last Leonard Cohen show.  The Nokia Theatre is a bad venue.  It's poorly designed.  The sound is okay, but not great.  I talked with Leonard Cohen's sound guy the last time he was here, and he told me that they have to keep the volume low or there's an echo.  And tonight I heard the echo, particularly during "A Thousand Kisses Deep."  And they really need to add more bathrooms, like on the sides, so that not everyone has to file into the one bathroom in the back.  Whoever designed this place is an idiot.

Set List

Set I
  1. Dance Me To The End Of Love
  2. The Future
  3. The Future
  4. Bird On The Wire
  5. Everybody Knows
  6. Who By Fire
  7. The Darkness
  8. Amen
  9. Come Healing
  10. In My Secret Life
  11. A Thousand Kisses Deep
  12. Waiting For The Miracle
  13. The Flood >
  14. Anthem
Set II
  1. Tower Of Song
  2. Suzanne
  3. The Guests
  4. Anyhow
  5. Heart With No Companion
  6. Democracy
  7. Coming Back To You
  8. Alexandra Leaving
  9. I'm Your Man
  10. Dance Me To The End Of Love
  11. Hallelujah
  12. Take This Waltz
First Encore
  1. So Long, Marianne
  2. First We Take Manhattan
Second Encore
  1. Famous Blue Raincoat
  2. Going Home
  3. Closing Time


  1. Wow Michael your review made me sad. I thoroughly enjoyed the show at the Nokia Theater. I would say that you have anger issues you need to deal with so you can enjoy your concerts more. For one, since it was a Monday night, most people have to WORK and so arrived later than they usually would to a show. The Nokia theater personnel did not help by allowing this huge crowd to gather outside and opening only a few doors. Finally someone arrived and gathered more folks to another entrance. And I agree about the bathrooms. More, please!

    However, I didn't find the audience full of "flakes" or whatever you think of the people there. I was sitting in the pit in the 5th row. Yes, some people left here and there during the show but Cohen was so AMAZING that these trifles did not distract me in the least.

    I had never seen Cohen in person and actually wasn't too sure who he was. I just knew he wrote the songs that a lot of people I really like have covered. And I was not disappointed by the show. I LOVED IT. Cohen was incredible. His little asides to the audience who missed his first song because we were all stuck outside were touching. And that clock thing was really funny. Must be a time they have to stop the show at the Nokia Theater. An abbreviated show?? The show went on for HOURS!

    What more do you want, Michael? Don't let people or whatever bother you and enjoy the show! I love the Nokia Theater and have always had great seats. And if you stay next door at the Marriott, you don't have to drive.

    I drove 4 hours to see Cohen and would do it again. Enjoy life more, Michael. That was an incredible show!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I'm glad you had a great time. And you're right - Leonard Cohen was amazing, as always. Maybe if this had been my first show, my expectations wouldn't have been as high, and I wouldn't have been as distracted by all the people arriving late and getting up during the show. But my expectations were very high, as some of his other concerts were among the best experiences of my life (not just best concerts, mind you, but best nights I'd ever experienced). It's frustrating that the folks around you definitely do have an impact on your enjoyment of the show (I wish it were otherwise). Keep in mind also that your seats were in front of that walkway, so most of the distractions were behind you. Again, I'm glad you had a great time. And thank you for your comment. Sorry my review made you sad.

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