WORLD TOUR 2008-2009

A concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace

Ramat Gan Stadium, Israel, September 24, 2009

Photos by Ziv Koren and Edi Israel

Click on the photos below to see them in larger size (in a new window)

"A few minutes into "Dance Me to the End of Love", people found the sticklights that were put on their seats and tens of thousands of green lights were sparkling from one end of the stadium to another, creating one of a kind scenery that lasted till the very end of the concert. I was fortunate to sit in the front, and kept on turning sideways and backwards to take it all in. The sight was so magical and unique, I kept on thinking how amazing it must look from the stage. - Sharon E. (at the Leonard Cohen Forum)
Leonard Cohen, 75, the Canadian singer-poet sometimes derided for making music to slit your wrists to, energized and transported a packed Ramat Gan stadium to a vibrant spiritual high on Thursday night. "I don't know if we will pass this way again," he told the audience early in the concert, but then promised "to give it everything tonight." And so he did, with a set list drawn from throughout the decades of his career. Live, however, and backed by a sumptuous group of musicians, his songs transcended their recorded versions. A magnificent "Who By Fire," for instance, began with an oriental flourish and featured an exquisite harp passage. The biblical basis of songs like that one have always resonated uniquely in the Israel psyche, and hearing them delivered with such poignancy and conviction, in these days ahead of Yom Kippur, made for a particularly unforgettable experience. On a warm summer evening, with a light breeze, the crowd applauded ecstatically when Cohen played favorites like "Bird on the Wire" and "Dance Me to the End of Love," but were utterly, respectfully silent in the quieter passages of songs, responding to Cohen's obvious passion and sincerity. Cohen's voice was strong, and gravelly, as ever, his delivery clear, and his eyes closed in concentration during key verses. - /Jerusalem Post
This was a memorable night indeed! Not only because of Leonard, which is a great occasion in its own right, but also because he managed to gather almost 50,000 people in one place to sing with him. Never have I felt more Israeli and more a part of humanity as I have this evening. The welcome he received, it was enormous. Thousands of green candles during and after songs, and people singing and clapping incessantly. During "Take This Waltz" Leonard thanked the audience for clapping, as we were clapping together with the waltz rhythm. I have never witnessed such enthusiastic and whole-hearted reactions to the lyrics and music of almost every song. Israelis are emotional folk, and it was surely felt tonight. The people were embracing the Master and his amazing band. One could feel the unity of the people in the celebration of this unique man, who came to sing for us despite everything. And he created this one-of-a-kind unity. "Hallelujah" was one of the super highlights of the concert, as the whole stadium was singing "Hallelujah" and Leonard thanked us for that. Certainly,this song resonates with us stronger than any other. And of course a standing ovation after it and many other songs even before the encores." - Inna at the Leonartd Cohen Forum

With such simplicity and yet in a shrewd way Leonard Cohen literally "took" Ramat Gan. Oh yes, he knows that we love him, you can see that in his eyes. It's like his team is playing football in his home town, and the crowds went literally mad with extasy. He felt at home, he was ever so relaxed and seemed to be enjoying himself. Whenever he left the stage he left it with a childish hopping and jumping, like as if he is jumping in his grandmother's bed while on a visit. - Seadove (at the Leonard Cohen Forum)

He – literally – danced off the stage before each of three encores, one of which charmed the enraptured crowd to their feet in an excited singalong, thousands waving their green glow sticks in time to "So Long Marianne". He and his gravelly bass baritone voice were at peak form, from a gloriously funky "I'm Your Man" to the dark and haunting "Famous Blue Raincoat" and, of course, "Hallelujah" (which served as a reminder that none of the many cover versions are as good). - The Independent, UK
My heart has long known the significance of this concert and I appreciate so much all of you filling in my mind with the details of why that is so, and its importance to you. It has been so moving to see how Leonard kept his commitment to perform in Tel Aviv; seeing his determination on how the proceeds would be used only for the deepest good; watching how quickly the tickets were seized; seeing the generousity of a thousand more being released; watching the heartfelt reception he received from everyone, and the awesome beauty and appreciation expressed by the thousands of green lights; seeing Leonard's emotion and listening to the truth and beauty of his words; watching the throngs depart; feeling the gratitude of Leonard and his many fans for this great event; learning here all the levels of symbolism and significance of this sharing between all of you and Leonard, together in Tel Aviv; and reading how much being at this concert meant to each and all of you. - Lizzytysh (at the Leonard Cohen Forum)
I was speechless when I got home last night .....but it was awesome...3 encores, 48000 people singing along, a heartstoppingly beautiful rendition of "If It Be Your Will" to a totally silent crowd, the most incredible birkat cohanim, amazing instrumentalists....it was so moving to be there, seeing Leonard Cohen, in Israel, during the Days of Awe...such a legend, such beautiful, deep, moving poetry and tunes... - AyalaBE (at the Leonard Cohen Forum)
"The man somehow succeeded in granting the 50,000 people that came to hear him the feeling that we were all in some intimate jazz club, and Cohen, rather than was singing to a massive stadium was in fact just sharing the evening in the company of the most intimate circle of his closest friends" - Mike Darnell of Digital Art Jerusalem

After all the songs, dances and short speeches (some of them in Hebrew....) and after being called back again and again, The Master stood in quiet in front of us, spread his arms (as per tradition) and gave us the Blessing of the Priest. Please note that 'priest' in Hebrew is... cohen..and the Great Priest was the 'cohen hagadol', translated back as "the Great Cohen"... do I need to say more? It was indeed The Great Cohen who blessed us with his songs, music and wisdom and I was just lucky enough to be there. - Siempie1956 (at the Leonard Cohen Forum)

"We must have been on the same wavelength somehow, either that, or I am psychic as all hell, because at the very end, right before he left the stage, he stood at the microphone with his hands up the way Jewish priests bless the people, and Leonard Cohen, the High Priest, blessed the audience in Hebrew with the ancient priestly blessing - 'May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.' " - Jerusalem Wanderings


First Set:
Dance me to the End of Love
The Future
Ain't No Cure for Love
Bird on the Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who by Fire
Chelsea Hotel
Lover,lover, lover
Waiting For The Miracle

Second Set:
Tower of Song
Sisters of Mercy
The Gypsy's Wife
The Partisan
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
Take This Waltz

Encore 1:
So Long Marianne
First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2:
Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will
Closing Time

Encore 3:
I Tried To Leave You
Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
Whither Thou Goest
Dear Mr. Cohen,
People say that sometimes you have an experience that changes your life.

I never shared this thought. You see, as a journalist in the Middle East I thrive on cynicism - it is the way I cope with the bloody and violent scenes I face, the suicide bombers, the wars, from evacuating settlements to failed peace negotiations.

Last night was different. Last night was the experience that would change my life and possibly others, writes Yonat Frilling, Fox News Middle East Producer .

Last night you honored me with your music and inspiration.

For more than 3 hours you shared your music and soul with us - regardless of who we are.

Me, and 50,000 people. Israelis and Palestinians. Young and old. Religious and secular. We all can say that we have met you.

We will tell our children and grandchildren that you tried and made us try and for 3 hours you succeded.

You dedicated "Hallelujah" to all the families that have lost their children in the ongoing conflict, and to all those who sometimes are considered naive, that keep on fighting for peace - that is usually all we need to hear.

You sang, and 50,000 people prayed with you, embracing and holding their loved ones.

You sang, we prayed, and all my cynicism washed away. For one moment, I thought, I felt, this could be possible.

At the end of the concert, around midnight, you blessed the audience in Hebrew, seasoned with a heavy accent and emotions, so appropriate for the holy days between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of fasting and atonement.

Your songs have always been about letting go and giving things up, but last night we all had trouble obeying your preaching.

We all wished that the night would never end. That you would sing for us forever. Rarely one or some have an experience that changes their lives even for a mere second - last night you did it for all of us - Israeli, Palestinian, Middle Eastern.

Thank you Mr. Cohen.

Source: Blogs.news.sky.com

A bigger version (2 MB) of this lightstick photo here

All the net proceeds of the concert at Ramat Gan will go to The Fund for Reconciliation Tolerance and Peace, which will in turn make grants to the qualified Palestinian and Israeli peace organizations. The Parents Circle is one such organization, and there are many more.

The Fund is a newly created public benefit corporation formed to support those Palestinian and Israeli peace organizations whose members have paid a price in the conflict and yet remain committed to peace. The Fund obtained its initial funding from Leonard Cohen’s concert.

Robert Kory, Cohen's manager, elaborates: “Leonard decided that if he was going to play in Israel, he wanted the money to stay here. We've met so many Israelis and Palestinians in doing this who are committed to peace.”

Photos of Leonard Cohen © 2009 Ziv Koren. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Lightsticks and band photos © 2009 Edi Israel. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Sharon Erde for help in creating this page.

More audience reports and video links from Tel Aviv on our Forum
Marie's comprehensive media report at Speaking Cohen website

Over 50 photos from the concert by Hen Altof in our Photo Gallery