Next Article

"Date Lines"

by Aidin Vaziri


May 4, 2007
Anjani Thomas on life with Leonard

"Is that the worst thing in the world?" asks Anjani Thomas. Now that she mentions it, it was kind of a stupid question. But it's also one that must be on lots of peoples' minds: Does she ever feel overshadowed by Leonard Cohen, the famously reclusive Canadian singer-songwriter who wrote and produced her most recent album, Blue Alert, and also happens to be her boyfriend?

Working as Cohen's backup singer and keyboard player since the mid-'80s (that's her voice on his seminal recordings such as "Hallelujah" and "First We Take Manhattan") the two officially became an item eight years ago. To make Blue Alert, the pair scoured Cohen's old journals looking for inspiration -- sometimes it came in the form of a completed song, other times just a line they built the album's slinky piano jazz around.

"It was a bit like playing in a treasure box," says Thomas, who headlines the Swedish American Hall on Thursday. Throughout the process, Thomas thought she was just making demos for the 73-year-old singer's next album. Cohen had other ideas. "He kept saying the songs were done," the Hawaiian-born vocalist recalls. "He took them to New York and played them for three different companies, and they all offered to put them out. Who am I to argue?"

The minimalist Blue Alert was eventually released on Sony last year but disappeared until Madeleine Peyroux covered the track "Half the Perfect World." Now the disc has been rereleased and is being re-promoted alongside reissues of Cohen's first three albums, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs From a Room and Songs of Love and Hate.

And how does the duo feel about her opening act, Conspiracy of Beards, a San Francisco male choir that exclusively performs a cappella renditions of Cohen's songs? "I'm looking forward to hearing them," Thomas says. "But I don't know if Leonard's going to come. Sooner or later I've got to fly this thing on my own."

Anjani performs with Conspiracy of Beards at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Swedish American Hall, 2170 Market St. in San Francisco. $20. (415) 861-5016.

Next Article