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EXCLUSIVE: Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel”


In 2008, Leonard Cohen made a triumphant return to the stage, performing rapturous, sold-out shows for the first time in 15 years. The singer-songwriter has documented his epic tour – which included a gig at Coachella 2009 – on the new concert DVD Songs From the Road. The set hits stores tomorrow; in the meantime has an exclusive look of Cohen performing his classic “Chelsea Hotel” at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2008. Check it out below!

Cohen’s performance of “Chelsea Hotel” – his chronicle of a sexual encounter with Janis Joplin at the famed New York hotel – is one of the most jaw-dropping on the DVD: Cohen, sporting a stylish black suit and fedora, swoops across the stage, clutching his microphone and reciting the lyrics with his eyes closed.

In liner notes accompanying the set, sound editor David Sanders reveals this night’s performance of the song was only the second full-band rendition. “Between sound check and show time, Leonard would often play his guitar in the dressing room. In the early stages of this leg I would find him practicing “Chelsea Hotel.” It came as a surprise to everyone (especially those on stage!) when, at Rotterdam, he launched into it solo after “Tower of Song.” He continued to rehearse it with the band until the arrangement was ready. The version presented here is the second full-band performance. At the time, I thought it was exceptionally compelling and I told Leonard so during intermission. He replied that he thought it went well; that he could feel the presence of a certain ‘someone’ as he sang it.”

Missed Cohen during his last tour? He returns for four U.S. dates in December, including stops in Honolulu, Portland, Oregon and two nights at Las Vegas’ The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.