Leonard Cohen: Behind The Scenes, Part 5!

Celebrity stage designer Bruce Rodgers

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In the December issue of Uncut, we celebrate Leonard Cohen’s comeback by getting the inside story from his bandmates on their extraordinary year on the road. Here at the next month, we’ll be posting the full, unedited transcripts of those interviews in a new, seven-part series.

Today we present: BRUCE RODGERS


Founder of the company Tribe Inc, Rodgers has been behind the set designs for musical extravaganzas from the touring shows of Madonna, Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez, through to the all-star tributes to Brian Wilson and Johnny Cash.


UNCUT: When and how did you get involved in the project?


RODGERS: I was contacted by Anne Militello, a friend and a great lighting designer. She was already on board and wanted to introduce me to Leonard and his manager Robert Kory. I was on the east coast however and booked pretty solid so my introduction happened via email and phone calls and Anne handled all the face to face time.

You’ve worked with lots of other big names and projects — how does it differ from them?

On every project the first thing I do is dive into the music. I was aware of Leonard’s music but once I started listening and feeling around for a look I became his greatest fan. I found a connection easily. The biggest difference was the music could stand on it’s own …it needed no scenery per se…it made me find a way to stay as subtle as possible and let Leonard and Anne do all the work.

How involved was Leonard in the design? Is he very hands-on?

As far as the design and layout he was very involved, he was the master planner of the placement of all his band members. We tried a few platform layouts but he finessed the final plan once the set arrived in rehearsals in Los Angeles…he wanted his musicians as close and intimate as possible and we were glad to help.

Is there a theme that you were working with, design-wise?

Not necessarily a theme but I took the approach to design the set as an extension of who Leonard is to me, Leonard is a very elegant gentleman and dresses that way. His music is from the heart and he’s also a great artist. He allows us to see into his heart when he sings and I wanted the feel of the set to be like him, subtle and silvery grey and translucent, mysterious and full of light at times, dark and moody at others. My setting this not only gave me the feelings I was after but also gives Anne the ability to tone the space thru out the evening.

Do you transport the set everywhere or do you make up different backdrops in each country/region?

The set we built in Los Angeles is the set used everywhere.

Do you socialise with Leonard? What’s he like?

I didn’t…but Anne and Robert tell me he’s a real gentleman. As an artist I get a vibe from him that he’s real like us but his ability to make music allows him to transcend to higher places. I’m proud to be a small part of his life.



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