Leonard Cohen On The Air In Austin
Leonard Cohen’s performance on the October 31, 1988 episode of Austin City Limits, which has become routinely designated as his “first major performance on American television,” is strong musically and a treat to watch. As ongoing readers know, this show has been intermittently available on various sites and then lost to copyright restrictions.
For the moment, it’s back – and in great form. A high quality version of Leonard Cohen’s Halloween performance in Austin is now online at YouTube.
The 1988 Austin City Limits show2 is notable for Leonard Cohen’s idiosyncratic preludes to certain songs, including a description of the crucifixion of Christ that invokes the application of shaving lotion as an introduction to “Ain’t No Cure For Love” and a lead-in to “If It Be Your Will” that consists of Cohen’s complaint that his “hands are all sweaty with Tequila juice. It’s an impermeable oil that seeps through the membrane,” a scientifically baffling declaration that nonetheless seems to work in context as suggestive language to set the mood.3
1. First We Take Manhattan
2. Tower Of Song
3. Everybody Knows
4. Ain’t No Cure For Love
5. The Partisan
6. Joan Of Arc
7. Jazz Police
8. If It Be Your Will
9. Take This Waltz
Backup singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen are especially prominent throughout the show, including participating in a farcical rendition of “Jazz Police.”1
Leonard Cohen–lead vocals, keyboards
Bob Metzger–guitar, pedal steel guitar
Bob Furgo–keyboards, violin
Steve Zirkel–bass, trumpet, keyboards
Julie Christensen–backup vocals
Perla Batalla–backup vocals
The 1988 Leonard Cohen Austin City Limits Video
The complete concert, uploaded by Bob Mandoki, is available, divided into four sections. My only quibble about the quality of the video is that some songs are split with a portion of the song in one part of the video and the remainder of the song in another.
- The Jazz Police routine was featured in an earlier Heck Of A Guy post, Leonard Cohen, Perla Batalla, & Julie Christensen – Singing, Dancing, And Fooling Around. [↩]