Leonard Cohen was living pretty much off the grid when he stepped into a New York nightclub with U2 in May of 2005. The songwriter hadn’t performed in public since his previous tour wrapped in 1993, and he spent a great deal of that time living an incredibly spartan life at a Buddhist monastery on Mount Baldy in California. His absence only served to enhance his legacy, and all-star tribute concerts began popping up all over the world. In 2005 filmmaker Lian Lunson shot a pair of Hal Willner-produced shows featuring Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker and many others for a documentary called Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man.
Cohen didn’t attend any of the tribute shows, but for the movie he did agree to perform his 1988 classic “Tower of Song” with U2 at the Slipper Room in New York. The performance wasn’t open to the public, but it was the beginning of Cohen’s gradual return to the stage. The following year he was coaxed onstage at a book signing in Toronto to sing “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” with the Barenaked Ladies and Ron Sexsmith. Two years later he finally announced a tour. It ran for well over two years, circling the globe many times over. Much to everyone’s surprise, the tour dates quickly graduated from tiny theaters in Canada to arenas and festivals. It was one of the most stunning comebacks in music history, and it all began on this tiny stage with the biggest band in the world.