Leonard Cohen at Liverpool Arena

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill…

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will…

I walked into this empty church I had no place else to go…
There ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure for love

Eighteen months on the road, performing to adoring thousands in halls in every land, at the top of his form and with musicians of the highest calibre: Leonard Cohen has more than earned back his stolen pension.

Last night, for the second time in six months, we saw Leonard Cohen give another magnificent show at the Liverpool Echo Arena. ‘Transcendent’ is how my friend Joe put it – and he was spot on.

This was basically the same well-rehearsed show as the one I saw in Manchester last November, though Leonard spoke much less, particularly during the first set, in which he motored through a succession of spine-tingling versions of more recent songs. But the warmth of his singing and the excellence of the musicianship – especially of Javier Mas, whose introduction to Who By Fire on the laud – was sublime.

Cohen skipped onto the Echo Arena stage and hit the ground running with an emotional  Dance Me to the End of Love:

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Wearing his signature dark suit and fedora, Cohen several times  dropped to his knees, singing with eyes closed, seeming to be overcome by the intensity of his lyrics. He demonstrated his usual warmth and humility towards his musicians and backing singers, introducing his band twice in his inimitable style: ‘prince of precision’ for drummer Rafael Gayol and the ‘maestro of breath’  for saxophonist player Dino Soldo. His collaborator Sharon Robinson took centre stage for Boogie Street and the Webb Sisters gave a haunting rendition of If It Be Your Will, which, as usual, Cohen began by reciting before handing over to the Webbs to ‘unfold the song’ .

Song after song flowed until  Closing Time seemed to have brought the night to an end, only for him to jokingly follow it up with I Tried to Leave You:  ‘And here’s a man still working for your smile’.

I tried to leave you, I don’t deny
I closed the book on us, at least a hundred times.
I’d wake up every morning by your side.
The years go by, you lose your pride.
The baby’s crying, so you do not go outside,
and all your work it’s right before your eyes.
Goodnight, my darling, I hope you’re satisfied,
the bed is kind of narrow, but my arms are open wide.
And here’s a man still working for your smile.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Set list

First set

  • Dance Me to the End of Love
  • The Future
  • Ain’t No Cure for Love
  • Bird on a Wire
  • Everybody Knows
  • In My Secret Life
  • Who By Fire?
  • Waiting for the Miracle
  • Anthem

Second set

  • Tower of Song
  • Suzanne
  • Sisters of Mercy
  • The Partisan
  • Boogie Street
  • Hallelujah
  • I’m Your Man
  • Take This Waltz

First encore

  • So Long, Marianne
  • First We Take Manhattan

Second encore

  • Famous Blue Raincoat
  • If It Be Your Will
  • Closing Time

Third encore

  • I Tried To Leave You


  • Roscoe Beck: Musical Director, Bass, background Vocals
  • Bob Metzger: Guitar, steel guitar & vocal
  • Javier Mas: Bandurria, laud, archilaud and 12 string guitar
  • Rafael Gayol: Drums & percussion
  • Dino Soldo: Keyboard, saxophone, wind instruments & vocal
  • Sharon Robinson: Vocals
  • The Webb Sisters: Vocals

Dance Me to the End of Love: Liverpool July 2009

Advice about Life: Liverpool July 14th, 2009

Tower of Song: Liverpool July 2009

Standing ovation for Leonard Cohen: Liverpool, July 14th 2009


3 thoughts on “Leonard Cohen at Liverpool Arena

    1. Thanks, Barbara. I enjoyed reading your lengthy post about seeing him in 1988 and then again on last year’s tour. Lots of great photos!

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