A 9pm start? You mean the top of the hour — the actual top of the hour? Well, this is a thing near-unheard; and before we had a chance to bathe in the glorious beam of punctuality, they went and changed it on us. We started at 9.10; I’m not entirely sure why, but the place was packed and we began. The set lists were printed the same as they were (excepting the migratory parentheses) for the first Montreux show, and on tender hooks (I should say tenterhooks, thanks Vicki) we watched the skies as reports threatened a larger deluge than witnessed earlier in the day.
The environment was, it can be said, partially influential on the first set, but perhaps in ways not immediately imagined; whether it was police, fire, or ambulance, the screams of sirens drowned out what Leonard would call the “angelic harmonies” of the Webb Sisters’ voices on Come Healing. To follow was Lover Lover Lover, and nearing the end of the song, Leonard began to introduce the band — hang on a minute, he doesn’t that in this song, he does it in Anthem, what’s going on? Who knows, but he omitted the usual set-closing song and we went into the mid-show break.
As was the fashion in Rome, Tower of Song was out the window and the second set began with Suzanne; to follow were Chelsea Hotel, Sisters of Mercy, and Heart With no Companion, in which the Lucca audience, although enthusiastic, really showed they needed a refresher in clapping lessons — what tempo was that? Up next was The Partisan, and the usual Alexandra Leaving, tonight garnering a standing ovation for Sharon’s voice. Rounding off the main set were the immovable I’m Your Man, Hallelujah, and Take This Waltz; the interesting thing about tonight’s waltzers (those who leap from their seats to gather at the foot of the stage) was their timing. Usually we see the emergence of such a throng toward the end of the song, but tonight they rushed the pit early, causing anyone seated on the ground level, who didn’t initially wish to stand, to do so anyway in order to enjoy the encores.
So Long Marianne was joined by the many happy voices in singalong, and Leonard complimented them on their pretty voices (a lot better than their clapping, oy vey) and after a further string of hits, at 12.10am the show came down.
It’s interesting to me, the evolution of a set list. When Leonard decided to oust Tower of Song in Rome, we wondered what was going on. Silly really, to become so engrained into a (pardon the term) funk that the slightest bit of change yields confusion. But tonight’s set was pretty similar to Rome, even with the omission of another ubiquitous set-staple, Anthem. It highlights the reality of a changing everything, even those comfortable things on which we rely as cues to the future. But the set has gone through many mutations over the last five years (yes it’s been that long, longer still, since Fredericton in 2008) and that’s what evolution is, just a series of micro-mutations.
To us, a three-hour Leonard Cohen show these days is a shorty. If it means we scratch our heads and wonder what triggers and targets of neurones are thrusting themselves to an inevitability in a man’s mind, then… fuck it! I’ll take the short set and get out of the sticky, oppressive, headache-inducing heat any day of the week.