Review: Leonard Cohen live at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

At 74 years of age, Cohen is still a man working for our smile. Last night there were more than ten thousand of them looking back at him. It was a joyous transaction.


Cohen stood as a beacon of beauty, hope, humility. Every word, every movement (that now famous shuffle) infused with a commitment to delivering his life’s work.

From opener Dance Me To The End Of Love, Cohen’s voice sat somewhere deep inside me, resonating. His lyrical legacy laid bare in a show that spanned more than 3-hours. For the most part, the audience sat hushed, each of them a pilgrim, there to be transformed by the music, poetry and spirituality of Cohen’s words. And although the music is stunning, each of the players in this 9-piece ensemble brimming with passion, it is the words that hold us.

His well-worn baritone beguiles as he strips back the opening of ‘Anthem’, speaking the words:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Later in the show, he gives a solo reading of  the first verses of ‘If It Be Your Will’:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

before standing back, hat held over heart as the angelic Webb sisters, take the lead and deliver a stunning, stripped back version of this song.

And then he returns the lyric of A Thousand Kisses Deep to their poetic heart, reciting them with only a whisper of Hammond Organ to accompany him.

In these moments Cohen, the poet, holds us breathless.

There were many other standouts, in a set list that showcased every period of Cohen’s work. Some of mine were, My Secret Life, Famous Blue Raincoat, First We Take Manhattan, Who By Fire and Tower of Song, where Cohen urges the gorgeous backing vocalists Sharon Robinson and Charley & Hattie Webb to ‘keep going, keep going that’s all I want to hear…’

Yes, Cohen not only delivers a concert studded with moments of illumination, he delivers the secret of life’s suffering. And it is… Do dum dum dum, de do dum dum.

After numerous standing ovations, he stands before us one last time. The audience on their feet, united, waiting for Cohen’s final sermon.

He thanks us for keeping his songs alive for so long, hopes we are all surrounded by love, family and friends, but if not, he hopes that happiness finds us in solitude.

The lights come up for the final time and I am left with one hand on my chest clutching the sonorous rumble of his voice. A voice I will never let out…


Filed under discussions, who listens to the radio?

14 responses to “Review: Leonard Cohen live at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

  1. In a lot of ways this is simply the realization of poetry.
    Yes, it be held on a page or bound in the cover of a book but to fully understand its true nature it must be released upon hungry ears.
    We all needmore of this.

  2. thank you for your review, for the moments i was reading, i was transported to a place and an experience that i would not have chosen, and it has left me wanting more.. the quote from ‘anthem’ is sublime. For the first time i understand why i hear this mans name so often mentioned.

  3. mr oCean

    Thank-you so much, Graham, for giving the memories of his Berlin concert a fresh coat of paint. Beautiful.

  4. Tony

    I liked your review, and recollection of his parting phrase. The Brisbane show was great.

    From a newspaper review in Wellington NZ,

    It is hard work having to put this concert in to words so I’ll just say something I have never said in a review before and will never say again: this was the best show I have ever seen.

  5. Andy

    Hear hear. ‘Breathless’ is the word. Thanks for paraphrasing Leonard’s comments on stage, the repartee was incredible and the depth of his commitment inspiring. Doo dum dum dum dum-dee doo dum dum. Maybe every one of us would have a different slant on the secret of life’s suffering.

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  8. I want to know the name of the organ player on Hallelujah please!

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