Revisiting Why The 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour Opened In Fredericton

Leonard Cohen and Rob Hallet

Leonard Cohen and Rob Hallet

The following is an excerpt from an interview with AEG concert promoter Rob Hallett, who played a significant role in making the current Leonard Cohen Tour a reality:1

[Interviewer:] Leonard Cohen is finishing his UK arena tour – how did you talk him out of retirement?

[Hallett:] It took some time. Leonard was trying to make some of the money back that had been stolen. [Cohen's manager stole $9.5m (£6.2m) in the 1990s.] At first he said, ‘I don’t know if anyone wants to see me. You must be joking’. We went back and forth over a couple of years. In the end, I offered to finance the rehearsals and said, ‘we’ll do some warm-up dates in Canada, and lets see what we’ve got’. So we were about $3m (£2m) in and 16 shows in Canada and we knew that we had a monster on our hands. When I first put an O2 show on sale everyone said, ‘what? Leonard Cohen in the O2?’ And we sold out three. It’s been a fantastic success. Everyone who’s seen the show almost without fail is saying this is the best show they’ve ever seen in their lives. [emphasis mine]

Readers may recall that DrHGuy, the gracious host of Heck Of A Guy, was criticized for hazarding, in Why The 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour Is Opening In Fredericton (a post published the day before the first concert of the Tour) this guess:

… my bet is that the Cohen Tour opens in Eastern Canada for the same reason a musical comedy opens off-Broadway or in the Poconos – to work out the kinks and polish the performance before moving it to Broadway – or to bigger stadiums.

Fredericton is Leonard Cohen’s off-Broadway.

Unless it’s not.

DrHGuy suggests that “warm-up dates in Canada” and “Fredericton is Leonard Cohen’s off-Broadway” are congruent responses to “Why The 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour Opened In Fredericton.”

Fredericton - First stop on 2008 Leonard Cohen Tour

Fredericton - First stop on 2008 Leonard Cohen Tour

Ahem

Contrary to the old saying, some of us can take it and dish it out.2


  1. Rob Hallett was also, according to the article, responsible for “stag[ing] Prince’s 21-night London run, … bringing Britney Spears to Britain, and taking Damon Albarn’s Monkey opera to China.” []
  2. DrHGuy notes that his supposition about the reasons behind the decision to begin the Cohen Tour in smaller venues is hardly an insult to Fredericton or the other towns in the first leg of the Tour. DrHGuy does, on occasion, indulge in hyperbole in hopes of achieving comedic effect and apologizes if that was not evident.  In any case, given that DrHGuy resides in a town smaller than Fredericton and that he would be willing to cut off the right arms of numerous other inhabitants of this town if it would result in a Leonard Cohen concert being held here, the only negative he associates with Fredericton Canada is his own ill-concealed jealousy. []

0 Responses to Revisiting Why The 2008 Leonard Cohen World Tour Opened In Fredericton

  1. Well…
    Q: You started this tour in smaller centres in eastern Canada. Was it a warm-up leg?

    A: There’s no such thing when you’re appearing in front of an audience. It would be insulting. Our band was warmed up. We had three months of rehearsal. Neil Larsen [the keyboard player] said most bands rehearse for a couple of weeks, and then it usually takes 10 or 20 concerts for the band to jell. We jelled in the rehearsal hall. God forbid that I would walk out onto a stage and think that this is a warm up. So from the first concert which was in Fredericton, maybe the show’s tightened, and the rhythm of the show has been more accurately defined, but it was no warm up.

    (from an interview with Leonard Cohen – http://blog.macleans.ca/2008/06/12/cohen-wore-earplugs-to-a-dylan-show/)

  2. I would suggest that, in general, a fundamental difference between a successful concert promoter and a world class singer-songwriter-poet is that the latter tends to be more adept with using language in the service of graciousness – or, for that matter, in the service of redirecting a conversation or cracking wise. To interpret Leonard Cohen’s commentary only in a literal sense is to put ones own cognitive equilibrium at risk. Take, for example, this excerpt from my post, The Leonard Cohen CBC Interviews,

    Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:

    Leonard Cohen: I always thought I would change my name and get a tattoo

    Beryl Fox: Where?

    Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.

    The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.

    Cohen is provocative, claiming, for example, that Canada has no government and that any couple not in love should be divorced. Fox presses (at one point she asks how Cohen’s mother reacted to reviews calling his book pornographic) but does so politely and does not redirect her interviewee when he flares off on his tangent of choice.

    As far as I can determine, Leonard Cohen has never performed a concert without exquisite preparation. And certainly from all accounts, he and his band were especially well-rehearsed prior to the Fredericton concert. Further, the Fredericton playlist and performance were impressive and well received so there have been relatively few tweaks in production since then. That set of facts, however, is not mutually exclusive with the notion that the first round of concerts were originally conceived as an opportunity to “see what we’ve got” and tighten up any suboptimal elements. It just turned out that what they had was something wonderful and there were only a few suboptimal elements in need of adjusting.

    Finally, I am the first to agree that “warm-up dates” was not a felicitous choice of vocabulary on the part of Mr. Hallett. I prefer and stand by my own declaration:

    … my bet is that the Cohen Tour opens in Eastern Canada for the same reason a musical comedy opens off-Broadway or in the Poconos – to work out the kinks and polish the performance before moving it to Broadway – or to bigger stadiums.

    Fredericton is Leonard Cohen’s off-Broadway.

    Unless it’s not.