Bird on a Wire (1974) – Tony Palmer

Leonard Cohen tour documentary in much the same vain as Dylan’s earlier Dont Look Back. Filmed during laughing Len’s ’72 European tour this is as much about what goes on behind the scenes as what happens on stage. Thought lost for the past thirty years, it’s an absolute joy to finally be able to watch it. The soundtrack is obviously wall to wall Cohen, who’s in good form with a great band that included Jennifer Warnes on backing vocals and legendary producer Bob Johnston on organ. Cohen himself is in fine voice, and not at all the bringer of doom that people tend to think he was. He smiles (a lot) and even cracks a fair few jokes.

There’s plenty of fly on the wall footage, you’ll see Cohen being chatted up by a variety of ladies, talking typical ’70s nonsense, crying backstage and best of all smoking but not inhaling. There are arguments with promoters over faulty monitors, disgruntled fans in Denmark getting all riled up over bad sound and a never ending flow of journalists, none of whom dare to take Len up on any of the gubbins that escapes his mouth at various times. Weirdest of all is the final gig in Tel Aviv, everything (including Cohen) falls apart and things get very strange indeed. If you’re a fan of the great man then this is without doubt something you should get your mitts on as soon as possible.

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