Attending a Leonard Cohen soundcheck1 is enlightening, instructive, and inspiring, but most of all, it’s fun. The Joys Of The Leonard Cohen Soundcheck series is a collection of individual instances that manifest this principle.
#6. Leonard Cohen & Crew Doing Goofy Stuff
Now, Leonard Cohen does goofy stuff in concert. Consider, for example, Everybody Wants A Long Stem – Leonard Cohen’s Floral Fandango In Amsterdam
At a 2012 Amsterdam concert, Leonard Cohen chose to enhance So Long, Marianne, one of his most heartbreaking songs by introducing into the staging a single, long stem, blossom-free rose.
And, not content with simply selecting and holding that stage prop, he proceeds to fix his deepest, most soulful gaze – the one he reserves to signal moments of intensity during songs of depth such as “Hallelujah” – upon that green peduncle, never missing a beat as he performs the song.
This and similarly wacky concert incidents notwithstanding, soundcheck is the primary setting for performances featuring acts of sheer exuberance and offbeat behavior by Leonard Cohen and, especially, the other musicians
As exemplars, I have chosen, from the relatively few soundcheck videos available online, two dance numbers that fall somewhere between high-spirited and zany.
The May 9, 1993 Flanders Soundcheck Conga Line
In this instance a soundcheck video captures Leonard Cohen leading Perla Batalla & Julie Christensen in a Conga Line.
Note: The full video and the associated interview are glorious and amply repay the time spent watching them in their entirety at Leonard Cohen Performs Soundcheck Conga And Speaks On The Summoning Of Courage.
The Conga sequence begins at about 16:10
Note: The embedded video may or may not work on a given day depending on the whims of the folks at Cobra.be. If the embedded video is nonfunctional, try the version at Cobra.be: Leonard Cohen Repeteert
Bring On The Dancing Girls
The 2010 production of “Heart With No Companion” included a few seconds of Sharon Robinson and Charley and Hattie Web dancing that crack me up every time.
This video from the Grand Odense Opry should automatically start just before the pertinent part of the performance.
Leonard Cohen – Heart With No Companion (Odense 8/14/2010)
Video from FrostbiteZ1
That is a rather sedate version of the backup singers dancing, choreography I suspect was originally inserted to stylishly move the singers, usually stationed directly in front of Neil Larsen, aside to unveil the usually (and lamentably) hidden keyboardist.
To grasp the full potential however, of this dance sequence, one had to be privy to the goings on at the soundchecks. While access of that sort is not typically available to the public, Maarten Massa has generously allowed Heck Of A Guy to post his unlisted video of the August 21, 2010 Ghent soundcheck (which also includes a notable hand whistle solo by Leonard Cohen).
Leonard Cohen – Heart With No Companion (Ghent soundcheck 8/21/2010)
Video from MaartenLC
Now, that’s soundcheck fun.
- The technical definition of soundcheck from Wikipedia follows: A soundcheck is the preparation that takes place before a concert, speech, or similar performance, when the performer and the sound crew run through a small portion of the upcoming show on the venue’s sound system to make sure that the sound in the venue’s “Front Of House” and stage monitor sound systems is clear and at the right volume and tonal frequencies. [↩]