Hear Bob Dylan Debut Leonard Cohen Cover In Montreal

Listen to Bob premiere “Dance Me to the End of Love.”

By Nate Todd Oct 30, 2023 10:21 am PDT

Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour rolled into Montreal’s Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier/ Place des Arts on Sunday. Dylan continued to honor musicians associated with the city he’s playing in on his fall tour by offering a debut of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.”

“Dance Me to the End of Love” appears on esteemed singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s landmark 1984 album Various Positions. The record also includes standouts “Hallelujah,” “If It Be Your Will” and more.

Sitting at the top of the singer-songwriter Mount Olympus, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen’s careers have followed a similar path albeit several years apart despite Cohen being eight years older than Dylan. Leonard Cohen was born in the Montreal enclave of Westmount, Quebec in 1934. Bob was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1942.

When the talents of a teenaged Bob Dylan — who cut his teeth performing in the fertile folk scene of early 1960s Greenwich Village in New York City — came to the attention of renowned producer John Hammond, Cohen was still pursuing a career as a poet and novelist although music had been a constant companion in his life.

Cohen was encouraged to shift to music in the mid-1960s after another Greenwich folk alum, Judy Collins, had a hit with a musical adaptation of his poem “Suzanne.” Cohen relocated to NYC to explore his folk career and soon came to the attention of one John Hammond. The singer-songwriter released his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, on Columbia in 1967.

As astronomically talented but very different songwriters who had similar career paths, Dylan and Cohen naturally gravitated toward each other and built a bond on mutual respect. As the story goes, Dylan ran into Cohen and asked him how long it took to write “Hallelujah.” Cohen said 10 years. He then asked Bob how long it took him to write “I and I.” Dylan said 15 minutes.

When Various Positions arrived in 1984 with limited commercial success, Dylan said of the album “These are more than songs. These are prayers,” which brought many unfamiliar listeners into the Cohen camp.

While “Hallelujah” may have been too obvious a choice — although Bob has covered it before — Dylan did dip into Various Positions for his tribute to Cohen — who died on November 7, 2016 — in Montreal, performing opening track “Dance Me to the End Of Love” in the usual cover slot toward the end of the set. Listen below:

Other than the Cohen nod, Bob and his band — guitarist Doug Lancio, bassist Tony Garnier, drummer Jerry Pentecost, guitarist Bob Britt and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron (violin, electric mandolin, steel guitar) — adhered to the Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour setlist mixing new songs from his 2020 album of the same name with older favorites like “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour is in Schenectady, New York tonight. Check out his itinerary with ticket info below:

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Setlist

Bob Dylan at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier

  • Watching the River Flow
  • Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine
  • I Contain Multitudes
  • False Prophet
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Black Rider
  • My Own Version of You
  • I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
  • Crossing the Rubicon
  • To Be Alone With You
  • Key West (Philosopher Pirate)
  • Gotta Serve Somebody
  • I've Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You
  • That Old Black Magic  
  • Dance Me to the End of Love  
  • Mother of Muses  
  • Goodbye Jimmy Reed
  • Every Grain of Sand
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