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Leonard Cohen: Back in the Motherland

Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada, September 11, 1988 FM Broadcast

1988 was notable in the career of Leonard Cohen for a couple of reasons. He was still reeling from the rejuvenation of his career in the US—largely as a result of Jennifer Warnes’s covers album from the previous year, Famous Blue Raincoat. And his own, second album of the decade—I’m Your Man—was finally released. The latter was a collection of songs quite unlike anything Leonard had recorded previously. The sound, replete with fashionable 1980s synthesizers, was greeted with applause—unlike similar forays from contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

This broadcast, generally considered to be the finest of the tour, was transmitted across the airwaves from Massey Hall in Toronto. The songs played by Leonard and his band—Bob Metzger, guitar; John Bilezikjian, oud and mandolin; Bob Furgo, keyboard and violin; Tom McMorran, keyboard; Stephen Zirkel, bass, keyboard and trumpet; Steve Meador, drums, plus, backup singers Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla—include six of the eight numbers from I’m Your Man (they omit “I Can’t Forget” and “Everybody Knows”). Those half dozen are augmented by a gorgeous “Joan of Arc,” and a lengthy “I Tried to Leave You.” Other superbly performed songs include “Heart with No Companion,” “Coming Back to You,” “Whither Thou Goest,” “Bird on a Wire,” and “Suzanne.” ©2011. Running time: 79 minutes.