Ziggo Dome; Amsterdam 20th September 2013

Taper : Ian Macdonald (ianmacd)

Type: Audience master, recorded from seat in the middle of row 17 on the arena floor, approximately 20 metres from the overhead PA.

Source: Factory-matched pair of Schoeps CCM 41V microphones (DINa mounted) ->
Marantz PMD661 recorder with Oade Concert Mod
(-18 dB gain/44.1 kHz/24 bit WAV)

Lineage: Audacity 2.0.3
* Applied variable amplification across recording for consistent
listening experience.
* Some attenuation of audience noise.
* Added fades.
* Split tracks.
* Converted to 16 bit.
-> FLAC (compression level 8) [libFLAC 1.3.0 20130526]

Length : 186.03

First set:

01. [05:57] Dance Me To The End Of Love
02. [01:53] [banter]
03. [06:48] The Future
04. [07:20] Bird On The Wire
05. [05:36] Everybody Knows
06. [08:46] Who By Fire
07. [04:48] Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
08. [05:58] Darkness
09. [08:07] Amen
10. [04:00] Come Healing
11. [06:58] Lover Lover Lover
12. [08:31] Anthem

Second set:

13. [01:19] [banter]
14. [07:01] Tower Of Song
15. [04:56] Suzanne
16. [03:50] Chelsea Hotel #2
17. [05:34] The Partisan
18. [05:07] In My Secret Life
19. [08:18] Alexandra Leaving╣
20. [05:44] I'm Your Man
21. [07:31] Hallelujah
22. [07:23] Take This Waltz
23. [01:04] [encore break]
24. [05:35] So Long, Marianne
25. [04:03] Going Home
26. [06:46] First We Take Manhattan
27. [00:46] [encore break]
28. [04:58] Famous Blue Raincoat
29. [05:03] If It Be Your Will▓
30. [07:16] Closing Time
31. [00:40] [encore break]
32. [07:46] I Tried To Leave You
33. [05:46] I've Got A Little Secret
34. [04:40] Save The Last Dance For Me

╣ = sung by Sharon Robinson
▓ = sung by The Webb Sisters

Audio Sample :
Leonard Cohen - Famous Blue Raincoat - Amsterdam 20th September 2013 [ianmacd]


Tonight is the climax of Leonard Cohen's 2013 European tour in Amsterdam.

We're at the Ziggo Dome, a soulless, modern monument to crass, capitalistic naming. There's no such thing on this Earth as a ziggo and the building itself is not a dome. Apart from that, though, the name makes perfect sense.

The venue opened in 2012 and was built to compete with Rotterdam's Ahoy for the circa 15,000 seater market. The Ziggo Dome can actually accommodate 17,000 people and the hope is that the larger artists will no longer pass over the nation's capital in favour of Rotterdam. So far, practice seems to be vindicating whoever's brainchild this was.

Leonard Cohen is one of the very few artists with a big enough draw to fill both venues, separated by a mere 75km, with shows just 48 hours apart: an impressive feat.

The Ziggo Dome is unappealing to me. Besides my preference for small, intimate venues, this is an American-style arena that makes you feel as if you've come to a sporting event, rather than a concert.

Food and beverages can be obtained only by exchanging euros for plastic tokens and then exchanging those tokens for something you can actually eat. Of course, the exchange rate of euros to tokens has been set to obscure the fact that everything is very expensive. 2 tokens sounds cheaper than 5 euros.

Naturally, you have to queue for a machine from which to purchase these tokens and while you do so, your mind ponders what useful purpose this artificial currency could possibly serve. Given that we already have the perfectly good currency of hard cash, these tokens seem superfluous at best, malicious at worst.

And while I'm venting my spleen on an anti-token rant, let me just call out the heinous practice of annually rendering the old token currency null and void, and replacing it with a new one, identical in all but the colour of the tokens.

There's a three month grace period during which you can exchange the old colour tokens for the new ones, but if you don't come here very often, you could find yourself left holding a bunch of tokens that will be as much use to you in the Ziggo Dome in a few months as Dutch guilders are now in the local supermarket. You have been warned.

There's a 23:00 curfew around these parts, so doors this evening are at 18:00 for a 19:30 start. I'm here in plenty of time, so I get myself some token food from the La Place concession and then head to the gents' loos to set up my gear.

Can anyone tell me why the toilet bowls in the Ziggo Dome (and elsewhere, you bastards: you know who you are) are lidless? A tip for the irretrievably clueless: the Earth is inhabited by many different creeds and colours, but no-one -- and I do mean no-one -- likes the smell of another man's shit.

Personally, I like to sit on the lid while I set up my gear, rather than balance it on the toilet-roll holder or my raised knee, but I do fully understand that the humble taper is the last kind of customer that the Ziggo Dome cares about. It's a minor detail.

I take my seat in the auditorium, the first time I have attended a fully seated concert in the six times I have been here. The older I get, the more I appreciate having a seat, especially a comfortable one, although anything will do when we're talking concerts of the Leonard Cohen duration.

To my immeasurable delight, however, the seat is a comfortable one. The floor isn't staggered, though, so I, like everyone else not seated in the front row, keep my fingers crossed that the seat in front of me hasn't been purchased by a basketball player with an afro.

This show wasn't actually added to the tour itinerary until the end of June. Ahoy was already almost sold out at that point, but my theory is that the logistics of touring meant that the band and/or their equipment would need to spend a few extra days in the country after the final gig in Rotterdam, before being sent on to Australia for the tour down under.

Why not stage an extra concert in those last couple of days? After all, Rotterdam had demonstrated that the demand was clearly there.

This is all just speculation on my part, but the fact is that Amsterdam was added late enough in the day that it didn't even make it into the tour programme.

I'm looking forward to hearing what the Ziggo Dome can do for Cohen's sound. This place might be low on character, but it has a state-of-the-art sound-system. In spite of the aircraft hangar-like appearance, a lot of money was spent getting the acoustics right. I know from my five previous experiences that concerts in here can sound astoundingly good.

I'm thus hoping that this evening's show will sound significantly better than the one in the decidedly average Ahoy two nights ago. Not that Cohen sounded bad there by any means, but if he can sound good in that place, he has the potential to sound pretty much perfect in here.

The start time is stretched to 19:40, but then the familiar suits and trilbies make their entrance.

There has been some variation in the set-list this tour, so I'm hoping that tonight won't merely be a carbon copy of Rotterdam. As the set unfolds, however, it becomes clear that it's almost identical to the one from two nights ago. The only difference is that the new and unreleased 'I've Got A Little Secret' is aired during the third encore, making for a total of 9 songs played after the main set. Cohen's encores are as long as some bands' entire performance.

There are four other notable details tonight.

Firstly, it's Cohen's birthday tomorrow, so when he arrives back on stage for the second set and thanks the crowd for not having gone home during the intermission, he's treated to an impromptu, if predictable, rendition of 'Happy Birthday'.

Secondly, during the aforementioned 'I've Got A Little Secret', Cohen invites his entire entourage onto the stage, AAA passes dangling from neck, to receive some public recognition for their vital, yet largely punter-imperceptible contributions to the smooth running of the tour.

I'm surprised by the size of Cohen's entourage. Between managers, instrument techs, wardrobe staff, personal assistants, roadies and God knows what else, there must be 30 or 40 extra people on stage. It's a nice gesture from the man and strongly indicative of what a gentleman he is.

Thirdly, the audience are better-behaved tonight than in Rotterdam. There's no-one wandering in with an ice-cream after the second set has started and everyone stays put in the auditorium until the end of the show. It never ceases to amaze me that some people are willing to miss the final song to be the first in line for the cloakroom or to leave the car-park.

The fourth noteworthy detail about this show is that the sound in here tonight is, indeed, simply magnificent. The volume is relatively low, as it always is with Cohen, but the richness of the sound is beyond compare. I only hope that I can capture it in this quality for posterity.

There's seemingly no stopping this man. He starts singing at 19:40, takes a 20 minute break between sets, but otherwise doesn't stop until the imposed curfew literally forces him offstage. The band perform right up until the stroke of eleven.

At three hours and six minutes, it's the longest gig I've ever attended. By a considerable margin, it's also the most expensive (EUR 130 including fees), but having just been entertained for over three hours by musicians of the calibre assembled here (and witnessed how many people are employed behind the scenes), I feel that value for money has been given. Judging from the faces of those around me, the feeling is unanimous.

Speaking of money, let's not forget that Cohen had actually hung up his gloves in the nineties. He came out of retirement only after discovering that his fortune had been misappropriated by his manager.

So, as much as we're enjoying Cohen's presence here tonight, he'd probably rather be at home with his feet up and a glass of good wine in his hand. With the man entering his 80th year tomorrow, who can blame him? It's ironic that Cohen's misfortune is indirectly responsible for so many people's joy this evening.

There thus exists the very real possibility that we have just witnessed the final Leonard Cohen concert ever to take place on European soil. It's a poignancy acutely felt by his legions of devout fans and one that makes the task of coming away with a good recording of the evening seem just that little bit more important.

Well, it gives me great pleasure to be able to report that the recording is every bit as good as I had hoped it would be. Every detail, every nuance is captured here in vibrant colour. In particular, the solos of Javier Mas on Spanish guitars, Alexandru Bublitchi on violin, and Neil Larsen on keyboards have a rich, full-bodied quality to them.

The audience on this occasion were more raucous than in Rotterdam, necessitating a significant amount of work to reduce their presence. All told, I have applied no fewer than 1,465 separate edits to the three hours of audio here, attenuating jarring hand-claps, neutralising whooping and hollering, and bringing the music as far up in the mix as I could without introducing clipping.

What you are about to listen to is the result of a good ten hours of intensive, mostly tedious labour in software, plus however much time it took to compose these notes, prepare samples, etc.

If you should feel the urge to thank me, please also thank my pregnant wife, who not only had to pick up our eldest son from a birthday party in Broek in Waterland so that I could arrive in time for the show, but also single-handedly dealt with our three boisterous children during the hours that I sat on my arse in the study and mastered the recording.

If you feel you need only one of my two recordings of Leonard Cohen in the Netherlands this year, this is the one to get. The sound is superior to that of Rotterdam and an extra song was performed.

Samples are provided in the comments to help your determine whether this is worth your time and share ratio depletion.

Some fan photos of the concert can be found here: