Concert review: If It Be Your Will: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, Jonesway Theatre

A tribute to the singer-songwriter through poetry and song.

Fringe World is back and seemingly bigger, brighter and fiercer than ever, judging by the amount of ‘sold out’ shows and lack of car parking spaces in Northbridge right now – and the city is electric!

New venues, approximately 514 shows and, if possible, an even more eclectic variety of performances make for an exciting festival.

Smart Perth musicians have jumped on the musical tribute train in the last few years, a move which brings in audiences of even more shapes, sizes and ages. One such act this year was If It Be Your Will: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, inspired by Swedish duo First Aid Kit’s live tribute show to Cohen in 2018 and created by local chanteuse Sylvia Cornes.

Cornes’ rendition included moving interpretations of Cohen’s well-known songs, accompanied by poems and stories from his colourful life.

It’s a tall order, as Cohen’s talents were broad beyond belief, extremely well-documented and have been covered and dissected by more established artists and wannabes than you can poke a proverbial stick at, but Cornes’ talent and delivery won the audience over immediately. 

Cornes was joined on stage by Beau Haines (drums), Greta Andrews Taylor (bass), Henry Clarke (vocals/guitar), Verity Brean (keys/vocals) and Mae Anthony (keys/mandolin/guitar and vocals). Many tribute shows do call for a big band as they benefit from the many added layers they create, but in truth I would have loved to see this as a trio, or even duo, as Cornes’ voice and overall stage presence is much more than enough for these songs. She had all the nuances and clear deep love and understanding of Cohen the troubadour, so much so that the extra harmonies were almost a distraction. 

Not only was Cornes’ glittery jumpsuit the classiest and best outfit of this Fringe, but she looked and sounded as if she could have come directly from a party at Lookout Mountain in Laurel Canyon hosted by Mama Cass or Joni Mitchell, as her whole demeanour oozed 1966 Americana.

Clarke was a standout contributor, his melodic and atmospheric voice echoing that of Cohen, Neil Young, Jim Morrison… any of the residents of Laurel Canyon really, and fitted Cornes’ aesthetic and harmonies perfectly.

Cohen’s songs are far from easy, and Cornes put together a slick and moving show that fans and newbies alike would appreciate and remember fondly. 

Read: Performance review: House of the Heart, Melbourne Chinese Museum

With all the choice that Fringe offers every year, I would hand on heart say that I would hunt down another show by Sylvia Cornes, and drag friends and family along as they would be guaranteed a great evening out. Her voice and authenticity shone through the whole production and, like Cohen, Cornes is a true artist.

If It Be Your Will: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen
Jonesway Theatre
Fringe World, Perth

Lead vocals: Sylvia Cornes
Drums: Beau Haines
Bass: Greta Andrews-Taylor
Vocals and Guitar: Henry Clarke

If It Be Your Will was performed from 4-7 February 2023.

Victoria Wyatt has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.