EDINBURGH clearly loves Leonard Cohen, and judging from his obvious delight at the reception he was given at the Castle last night, the sentiment was very much mutual.
Always the romantic, Cohen wooed the crowd between songs, constantly thanking them for the generosity of their welcome. That is, when they stopped applauding long enough for him to get a word in.
Not many men of 53 would literally jog onstage waving, so it came as some surprise to see Cohen do exactly that at the age of 73.
The show, all two and a half hours of it, got off to a gentle enough start though, with the lilting Dance Me To The End Of Love. Cohen was impeccably dressed in a double breasted suit and fedora, which he removed as he bowed to the audience or his band mates at what appeared to be every opportunity.
Most of the others onstage – including the backstage crew – were similarly attired, giving the stage a strange but pleasant 1940's feel.
Cohen has an unwarranted, yet enduring reputation as a peddler of misery. His fans have always known that the opposite was true, for within those apparently maudlin lyrics, lay gems of humour and dry wit.
The Future, from the early 90's album of the same name was full of such gems. Midway through one verse, he sang of 'white men dancing', at which he had a little birl to himself, to the crowd's amusement.
A moment later, the line about 'white girls dancing', set backing singers, the Webb Sisters, off on a twirl of their own.
Ain't No Cure For Love, from the well represented I'm Your Man album, found Cohen in impressively low voice, and with a twinkle in his eye that appeared almost cheeky, he sang, 'I need to see you naked in your body and your thought'.
For a moment some of the audience looked like they might even comply.
While many of the arrangements were all but identical to their recorded versions, The Canadian poet would often slightly change a few lyrics, or alter the rhythm of the words, pushing and pulling them to suit his whim. Partly because of this, Bird On A Wire and Everybody Knows, songs from either end of his career, sat comfortably beside one another on the set list.
Song after song poured out of the balladeer. Who By Fire, a song which echoes a Jewish prayer, Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye and the often covered Suzanne were some of the numbers that represented the earlier albums in his career.
During Tower Of Song, at the famously quoted ironic line 'I was born with the gift of a golden voice', the audience applauded and roared so appreciatively that they could have earned five stars of their own.
Cohen reclaimed ownership of Hallelujah for himself before closing the show with Take This Waltz.
By the end of the fourth and final encore, Closing Time, the rain began to drizzle.
It didn't stand a chance of dampening the spirits of the happy, sated crowd though.
From T in The Park, where I definitely fell into the "older fan" bracket, to the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle where I was one of the youngest.
A good few decades younger than the star of the show - the one and only Leonard Cohen.
Like most fans, I snapped up tickets without considering the venue - simple seeing him perform live is a rarity these days. He hasn't toured for 15 years so there was enormous pressure on this concert to be something really special.
And for all that it lacked intimacy - shared with 10,000 others, some of whom were still climbing the tattoo stand terraces to their seats as the concert began - it was actually a note perfect gig.
Close your eyes and you could have been in some dingy Berlin club (the suits and fedoras, mandolin and clarinet simply add to the image); open them and you have the glorious sight of the castle, with the sun setting in the distance over the Firth of Forth.
Seventy three he may be, and openly on tour because his pension fund has been dipped and he needs to replenish it, but it was one heck of a show and his voice as strong and as distinctive as on any of his array of albums.
The guy next to me was a teenager - but clearly knew the entire back catalogue of Cohen classics.
Every time the band struck up the chords of the first song, he'd turn to us with a great beaming grin of recognition. And in a two and a half hour concert - none of us were disappointed.
He begins with Dance Me To The End of Love - a wonderful 30s style rendition - which has latecomers sashaying into their seats.
You've got to admire an elegant septugenarian who says he'll be onstage at eight sharp - and keeps his date!
Then Everybody Knows, Bird on the Wire and That's No Way to Say Goodbye - the songs come thick and fast.
It works best in big band style, less so with some of the overwrought jazz arrangements but it's never dull.
He flirts with the audience in I'm Your Man - his ladies' man reputation clinging hard, despite his age, and leaves barely a dry eye in the house with his emotionally rending anthem Hallelujah.
People have always been divided about the voice - perhaps even lower with age? - but there's no disputing Cohen's abilities as a songwriter.
And often, it's other singers' renditions of his songs which have brought him to a new audience - Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah, Arran Neville's version of Ain't No Cure For Love, not to mention a whole album full of tributes from U2 to the Chieftains on Tower of Song.
Tower of Song opened the second act - after a polite pit stop for all - a humorous self deprecating lyric about the pecking order of songwriters.
There's lots of humour in the show - one in the eye for anyone who thinks Gloomy Len only does mean and moody.
He even skips off at the end - Morecambe and Wise style - only to re-emerge for three encores.
First We Take Manhattan, Sisters of Mercy and finally, and rather aptly Closing Time.
As the mist of rain starts to descend on the audience, Cohen squints into the darkness. "Is it raining? You need to all go home now. Thank you for coming but I don't want anyone catching a cold."
And warm and fuzzy inside, we all do as we're told and head for home.
There may be a red velvet armchair onstage for Leonard Cohen's first tour in 15 years, but there's nothing cosy about the 73-year-old Jewish Buddhist's itinery. Dressed like a 1940s mobster fronting a similarly styled ensemble, the one-time soundtracker of bed-sit melancholy raises his homburg in greeting before going down on one knee for the gentle sway of Dance Me To The End Of Love. The three hours of his back catalogue that follows is delivered with humility, grace and twinkle-eyed charm.
From the rinky-dink lounge-bar schtick of the opening numbers, things ease into a gorgeously arranged low-key baroque framing Cohen's voice, even deeper these days, as familiar lines are punctuated with a wry chuckle. It's as if the wisdom experience has brought with it has also added an extra nuance of clarity to his fragile hymns of hope and despair. On a wonderful So Long, Marianne, Cohen's voice is raw and impassioned, and hearing him incant his poem, A Thousand Kisses Deep, before 8000 people is oddly humbling.
Cohen is a magnanimous host, name-checking each band member if they do anything remotely interesting, watching over them benignly, yet never forgetting who we're here for.
Special mention must be made of the Kent-born Webb Sisters, Charley and Hattie, who, as well as supplying backing vocals with Cohen's musical collaborator Sharon Robinson, take the lead on a sepulchrally inclined encore of If It Be Your Will.
By this time the rain's started and, after a funky ride through Closing Time, Cohen really does call time. "Don't catch a summer cold," he implores dryly as he exits. It sounds like a blessing.
LEONARD Cohen's loss is our gain. On realising that a substantial portion of his fortune had disappeared, Cohen opted to undertake this first major tour in years to claw back a few of those lost pennies. His solvency depended on our attendance, if you like. And the crowd, in turn, were certainly not short-changed.
Though his hand may have been forced, Cohen's concert on Wednesday night on the Castle Esplanade felt more like the act of a liberated man. This was a classy production, with all the band in sharp tailoring and his mandolin player ensconced in an armchair. But none was more distinguished than Cohen, 73, looking the consummate sophisticate in his rakish fedora, which he graciously removed between songs to acknowledge the crowd's applause.
From the off, the veteran torch singer showed he still had the moves to seduce the audience, periodically going down on one knee to deliver a beseeching line, engaging in a sublime vocal pas de deux (or pas de quatre, really) with his trio of backing singers and delivering the line "I need to see you naked" (from There Ain't No Cure For Love) with a gruff, knowing chuckle.
Vocally, he was as virile as ever, his velvet baritone invested with gravity, adoration or playfulness as required, and his diction exquisite, the better to drink in his often uncanny way with words.
He warmed the senses with a full complement of his best-loved songs, including Bird On A Wire and Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye in the first half. After the interval, he set his keyboard to autopilot for the fiendishly humorous Tower of Song, romanced the assembly with a flirtatious I'm Your Man and brought the audience to their feet with a statuesque Hallelujah, before offering So Long Marianne in farewell.
He then literally skipped off-stage - but only after delivering First We Take Manhattan with the verve of a man half his age.
Not a bad way to re-earn your living, though, in the end, it was the fans who were in his debt.
Blog - poketmouse - "Leonard Cohen at Edinburgh Castle" ...Mr Cohen's voice has not aged at all. He still sounds exactly the same, his voice is just as strong and he can still hit those low notes. And I've never heard him speak before. I actually love his speaking voice. I'd quite like him to follow me around and narrate my life for me....
Like most gentlemen of 73, Leonard Cohen had planned to spend his time in comfortable retirement. Instead, having seen (or, rather, not seen at all) his ex-manager/lover separate him from his fortune, he was forced to go back to work and tour these shores for the first time since 1994, "when," he quipped, "I was just a 60-year-old kid with a crazy dream".
Laugh? Of course we laughed. For all his image as a vendor of only despair, anything more than a cursory listen to his canon reveals otherwise of the Canadian who admitted in the lugubrious Tower Of Song, "I ache in the places where I used to play".
If Cohen's presence was reluctant, once he had run - yes run - on stage, he behaved as if his skies were uniformly sunny. Wearing a fedora because it looked dapper rather than to conceal baldness, and dressed, as were his roadies and band, in a suit, he resembled a wry, impish hitman with a voice as deep as the Mariana Trench.
Three hours, one interval and four encores later, he ran - yes ran - off stage, leaving an audience including Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and former Culture Secretary Chris Smith overpowered by a magnificent performance - and not just magnificent for a 73-year-old.
Equally informed by both carnal and Biblical knowledge, his songs of comfort, longing and as on Everybody Knows ("Everybody knows that the plague is coming"), the occasional nod to the forthcoming apocalypse, hardly seemed made for arenas. Similarly, Cohen - an unashamed ham but no showman - would surely have been happier in an intimate setting.
Hardly. His warmth, his intelligence and his child-like delight in an adoring audience was enough. Indeed, when he recited A Thousand Kisses Deep, backed only by Neil Larsen's keyboards, to a backdrop of reverential silence until the standing ovation afterwards, it was if Leonard Cohen had set up camp in my lounge.
If he individually name-checked his crack nine-piece band once, he individually namechecked them a dozen times, as if to acknowledge that while the songs are his, the show is a collective effort.
Peak of peaks was the much-covered Hallelujah, which Cohen reclaimed for himself via an exquisite arrangement and his own depth and passion, but there was much more: the sinister First We Take Manhattan (its narrator is insane); a lachrymose So Long Marianne and Democracy, a jaunty reminder that Cohen is an acerbic social commentator too.
He left us with the Old Testament benediction Whither Thou Goest, which, momentarily seemed like the most final of farewells. It wasn't. He's back at the 02 on 13 November. This is turning into quite a retirement.
So softly intoned is his music, and so privately consumed is it by his fans, the idea of a Leonard Cohen arena show is possibly a little bizarre. 43 dates into the summer leg of his world tour, as he addresses the 20,000 crowd in London's O2 Arena, it's plain that the 73-year old is well-attuned to the ironies in the situation. "Thank you for joining us," he says, "at a place just the other side of intimacy…"
Witty, urbane – it's the perfect introduction to the Cohen show that follows. Over the next three hours, Cohen and his band deliver music that's representative of his many selves: the lightly picked guitar of his early records, the wry lounge-style treatments of his post 1990s-music, and in between, tastefully arranged full-band renderings of material like "Bird On A Wire", given a Dylanesque feel by Neil Larson's Hammond organ.
Neil Larson? Like every other patron this evening, I know Neil Larson because Leonard has introduced him to me, and done so many times. Over the course of the show we meet all of the band members (three backing singers, two guitars, sax, bass, drums and keyboards) in a similar way, introduced by Cohen in unique fashion: "Javier Mas…the shepherd of strings…", and possibly most beautifully, "Dino Soldo…master of breath, on the instrument of wind…"
All round, it's a show which, as you might hope, illustrates both the gravity of Cohen's music, and the great warmth of his wit. But as much as it is about those things, this is also a show with a prominent subtext about the blessings of a long life. What Cohen conveys in person is not so much age (he literally skips on stage and off; he frequently falls, Nick Cave-like to his knees to address guitar-player Javier Mas in song), as huge experience.
Not least in the structuring of a show. Split into two unequal halves, (a 55 minute first section, and then an hour and three quarters second) the show establishes its own sedate, swaying pace with the great "Dance Me To The End Of Love", followed by "The Future", and "Ain't No Cure." "It's been 15 years since I last stood on a stage in London," he says, as he has with city-specific variation everywhere on this tour. "When I was just a 60-year old kid with a crazy dream…" Like everything else, Cohen's patter is polished to perfection.
His years have evidently taught Cohen to self-deprecate. Dressed in a double-breasted suit and hat (he once remarked in an interview: "At my age if you don't wear a suit people think you're homeless"), he is throughout a master of humility and grace. After most songs, he removes his hat. Flattering to him and to us, he credits us for allowing events like this to take place: "Thank you for keeping my songs alive…"At one point he intones the word "(i)old(i)…" in a voice so deep, the cavernous O2 reverberates in sympathy with him.
In the second set, it is during "Hallelujah" that the show really begins to animate the crowd. Though it's arguably more familiar to us in its cover versions, Cohen's performance of the song is highly physical, as if he wishes to re-assert his ownership of the material. It's impressive stuff, and it earns him the first of the evening's standing ovations. Most interesting, perhaps is the recitation, "A Thousand Kisses Deep", which establishes Cohen, his voice, and his art, as the ultimate in romantic accomplishment. Behind me, a woman audibly gasps.
Really, it's this should be the defining mood of the show. As you think about the words you've heard used a lot in the evening, you remember quite a lot of "ice", quite a lot of "old". Predominately, however, you remember a lot of love.
Death-bed scene: “Well, Dad, that’s the money sorted out: you seem to have blown most of it on live music. As a matter of interest, what were your top five gigs?”
I think I’d have to include last night’s London leg of the Leonard Cohen tour at the O2 (aka Millennium Dome). The septuagenarian charmer delivered almost three hours of intense beauty, deep joy and not a little glee.
For the assembled 20,000, it was a predictably reverential (if unexpectedly intimate), celebration of a major, rarely seen, talent.
The setlist (below) was remarkable, Zeitgeist-marking signature songs succeeding each other, relentlessly. Cohen’s performance was energetic, engaged, generous. His singing made you suspect that maybe he really does have the gift of a golden voice after all. His spoken renditions, particularly of A Thousand Kisses Deep, were deeply moving.
What a writer! What a performer! What a charismatic, inspirational man.
Band – 6 plus 3 vocalists – were accomplished accomplices. Horn-man Dino Soldo was particularly impressive. Sound quality was the best I’ve heard at an amplified gig. Staging, lighting, vision/mixing on big screens were all benchmark quality.
I’d waited many years to see Leonard, the second best writer/performer of the rock era. It was well worth the wait.
1. Dance Me to the End of Love
2. The Future
3. Ain't No Cure for Love
4. Bird on a Wire
5. Everybody Knows
6. In My Secret Life
7. Who by Fire
8. Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
10. Tower of Song
12. The Gypsy's Wife
13. Boogie Street
16. I'm Your Man
17. Take This Waltz
18. First We Take Manhattan
19. Sisters of Mercy
20. If It Be Your Will
21. A Thousand Kisses Deep
22. So Long, Marianne
23. Closing Time
24. I Tried to Leave You
25. Whither Thou Goest
A perfect 10, then?
Not quite. A churl could point to the slight unevenness of the setlist: it flagged a bit towards the end of the second half. The finales were underwhelming – the welcome Webb Sisters duet was wrongly positioned; Closing Time is dramatically and melodically too weak to close a show.
And there was an ever-present threat that the show might descend into mainstream showbiz hoopla – Leonard’s frequent name-checking of the band palled early; he was far too nice to the assembled hordes – few would have deserved his compliments; and you sensed that the “spontaneous” jokes had been the same at most gigs on the tour.
For most performers, all this would have been a turn-off. For Leonard, I can make an exception.
Poet crooner Leonard Cohen may be back on the road to replace the millions he has lost through pension fraud, but there was not an ounce of resentment in the 73-year-old's unforgettable performance at the 02 last night.
In fact, the crown prince of miserabilism was on positively effervescent form, bopping and bantering his way through a hit-packed three-hour set.
His sparse folk tunes including 'Bird on a Wire' and 'Who By Fire' were transformed into irresistible jazzy blues by his talented backing band, the latter benefiting from a gorgeous flamenco guitar introduction.
Only 'Suzanne' was stripped down, with just the velvet-voiced Cohen on guitar accompanied by his radiant backing singers the Webb Sisters and long-time collaborator Sharon Robinson.
Like his recent performances at Glastonbury and the Manchester International Festival in June there was to be no 'Chelsea Hotel'.
But the devoted audience were more than placated with a rousing, sing-a-long version of the much-covered 'Hallelujah' and an extended encore which included 'Sisters Of Mercy' and, inevitably, 'So Long, Marianne'.
As Leonard Cohen brings his world tour to the O2 Arena, Luke Turner discovers that even the biggest venue makes for a perfect pulpit for the master of song.
"We appear to be on the wrong side of intimacy," remarks Leonard Cohen dryly. He's clearly aware that the enormous O2 arena is hardly the venue in which his many acolytes might have hoped him to make his unexpected live return to London. 30 feet high on the screens that flank the O2 stage, Cohen's features show his 73 years: his neck is that of an elderly man, his eyes look tired and sometimes moist, those elegant lines on his face are now deep furrows, his hands wrinkled and spotted. "Last time I stood on a stage in London was 15 years ago. I was a young man with a dream," he deadpans. "Since then I've spent time reflecting on and studying the word's major religions, but cheerfulness kept breaking through".
It's this great humour and wonderful energy (he skips on and off the stage with great agility) that is making this tour into a remarkable renaissance for Cohen. Days later, a photograph of him will appear on the cover of The Times to illustrate an interview with Alistair Darling, the broadsheets heave with profiles, and yet more UK concerts have been announced for the autumn. People can gripe all they like about the ticket prices, but this might be one of the last opportunities to see one of the greatest lyricists of the 20th century play live at a series of concerts that would never have happened had his former manager not run off with all Cohen's cash.
What's more, the O2 surprisingly offers up a better atmosphere than at the concert I saw at Edinburgh Castle the night before. The sound is spotless, for a start, and the crowd more enthusiastic. One group of women on the front row have brought along a banner that they leap to their feet to brandish between songs. Cohen is still the thinking woman's crumpet, and the ladies' man clearly has life in him yet. This is a crowd that crosses the generations, too - like me, many of the younger members of the crowd seem to have brought the old man and ma along.
But why is it that Leonard Cohen's songs still resonate so? Because of his perfectly imperfect voice, viscous and deep, that enlivens his words. Many are present to hear the truisms on love aired tonight (see 'Ain't No Cure For Love', 'I'm Your Man', 'So Long Marianne', an astonishing recital of 'A Thousand Kisses Deep'), or his exploration of the search for self in an antagonistic world: as 'The Future' has it, "The blizzard of the world / has crossed the threshold / And it has overturned / The order of the soul". Or, as I'm Your Man and The Future albums examined, that imperfect world itself. The line directed at "the killers in high places [who] say their prayers out loud" from 'Anthem' has as much, if not more, meaning in our time as it did when Cohen wrote it in the early 1990s. Yet so too, does his optimism - from the same song, "Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in." Interestingly, this is the lyric selected to be emblazoned on the tour t-shirts.
Up there on those big screens, with his face possessed of such love and wisdom, these great themes take life with ever-greater clarity. No matter how many times you've listened to the records, hearing the power of these songs performed live is worth any exorbitant Ticketmaster booking fee. Venues like the O2 might often be the most dispiriting of places, cattle sheds stinking of chips and cheap cologne. But tonight raises the possibility that when enormodome experiences go awry, you ought blame the preacher, not the church, for a man with the gravitas and humble, simple power of Cohen captures souls with ease. Like so much of Cohen's music over the years, tonight presents a strange kind of intimacy, but it's a beautiful one all the same.
Poet of pessimism? No way - Leonard Cohen’s first London gig in 15 years proves that his witty, heartfelt misery is as uplifting as ever.
His jog on to stage prompts rapturous applause, wolf whistles and howls. His one-fingered piano solo triggers an ecstatic round of clapping. A simple twirl delights the 20,000-strong crowd. He can hardly get a word in between songs; when he does, every quip draws roars of laughter, and every sombre recital has the ladies – and the gentlemen – awkwardly pretending that something’s gotten in their eyes. As he waves goodbye, the crowd calls him back with deafening standing ovations. Even after the five-number encore at the end of a three-hour set, the fans still want more.
This is not the response to the latest teen sensation but to the husky-voiced, at times growling, never less than elegant septugenarian, Leonard Cohen. And little wonder: the Canadian poet and novelist turned folk singer turned Zen Buddhist monk is back on stage for the first time in 14 years. ‘I was 60 then’, he says, ‘just a kid with a crazy dream’.
He lists the many anti-depressants he has taken over the past decade-and-a-half, and says that during that time he has also studied religion and philosophy – ‘but cheerfulness kept breaking through’.
The well-rehearsed joke is also well-placed, coming in between the doom-mongering ‘The future’ (’I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder / Things are going to slide, slide in all directions / Won’t be nothing / Nothing you can measure anymore’) and the humorous ‘Everybody knows’ (’Everybody knows you’ve been discreet / But there were so many people you just had to meet / Without your clothes’).
At last week’s performance at London’s 02 arena, Cohen spared the audience any spiritual titbits he may have picked up during his five years at the Mount Baldy Zen Centre in southern California in the 1990s. This was fortunate given his Zen moniker, Jikan, meaning ‘silent one’. Instead the Cohen we witnessed was positively effusive, repeatedly introducing his band members, and clasping his black fedora in between songs as he thanked and smiled at his fans; ‘humble yet cosmic’, as he put it.
While Cohen was busy meditating, chanting, scrubbing floors, cooking and acting as secretary for his ninetysomething teacher, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, at Mount Baldy, his own long-time personal manager was engaging in more profane pursuits: emptying Cohen’s $5million retirement fund. The alleged theft came to light some years after Cohen had come down from the mountain and traded his monk’s robes for his customary Armani suits. With little left in his bank account and faced with costly legal procedures, Cohen went to work. Whether or not his depleted funds were truly the main motivation behind publishing a new book of poetry, recording a couple of albums and setting off on his current world tour in the space of just a few years, Cohen’s loss is certainly our gain.
He is on form and his band – all decked up in dark suits and hats – give many of his old songs soulful, jazzy, gypsy and Hispanic tones.
Cohen’s tour (several new dates have been added recently) is not so much a comeback as a nostalgia trip, a long gorgeous swansong; and at every gig Cohen makes sure to thank his fans for ‘keeping my songs alive all these years’. At the London concert, he told an anecdote of toasting his teacher on his ninety-seventh birthday (‘Roshi’ is now 102), who then told Cohen: ‘Excuse me for not dying’. ‘I kind of feel the same right now’, he says.
Well, ‘the ladies’ man’ ain’t dead yet. When Cohen sings ‘If you want a doctor I’ll examine every inch of you’, the women respond ‘woooooooo!’ - and at the next line, ‘Or if you want to take me for a ride, you know you can’, they shout ‘YES!’. Cohen concludes: ‘I’m your man.’ The men in the audience, mostly either grey-haired or bald, probably identify more with the opening line of Cohen’s ‘The tower of song’: ‘Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey / I ache in the places where I used to play.’
But Cohen’s appeal transcends the generations, as his appearances at more youthful events over the summer, such as the Glastonbury festival, testify. In short, his songs are timeless, appealing as much to pubescent poet-scribblers as to middle-aged melancholics. And since the release of his 1975 greatest hits album, The Best of Leonard Cohen, many a teenage girl has stared at the picture of Cohen blowing smoke rings on the sepia-coloured backcover and angstily agreed that ‘there ain’t no cure for love’.
Accused of writing ‘songs to slit your wrists by’, Cohen has also been labelled ‘the poet of pessimism’, ‘the godfather of gloom’ and ‘the prophet of despair’. Aficionados would, of course, disagree. At the start of the documentary Ladies and gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen, shot in Montreal in 1965, the author (he had not yet started recording music), far from prompting a mass quietus, has an audience doubled over with laughter before a voice-over explains that Cohen ‘is not primarily a stand-up comic, but a novelist, a poet and a very confident young man’.
At the sold-out 02 arena concert, Cohen thanked the audience for ‘overcoming financial and geographical obstacles’ to be there and to meet him ‘at the other side of intimacy’. But everybody knows that Cohen’s is an easy crowd to please; after all his fans have been desperate to see him for nearly 15 years.
Three hours and 20-odd songs on, and after pretending to end the show with ‘Closing time’ and skipping off stage, Cohen comes back singing ‘I tried to leave you’: ‘Goodnight, my darling, I hope you’re satisfied, the bed is kind of narrow, but my arms are open wide. And here’s a man still working for your smile.’
There was little spontaneous or unrehearsed about the show, but, hey, what a way to say goodbye!
...For the love of Leonard
In the same week, I am also lucky enough to see my favourite lyricist perform live, for the first time in my life. Leonard Cohen at the O2 is a mob experience of an entirely different nature. Even though Lenny sings to 20,000 people about love and death, the arena is doused in shadow and intimacy - it could be a tiny bar in Paris, New York or even Buenos Aires back in the Sixties. He jokes, and we all murmur our smiles out together. Seventy three years old now, and he sings about the end in song after song - but even death feels like a warm embrace in Cohen's hands. We believe in his particular tightrope between the sacred and profane, and it is something to be there in that moment.
The writing life
Back to the solitary aspect of my job, and the shed that I rent near my house. I'm writing bits of journalism and responding to interviews around Aids Sutra, a forthcoming book about HIV and Aids to which I've contributed a story. My mind is on Cohen, and the perfect series of lines: "Oh take this longing from my tongue/whatever useless things these hands have done/Let me see your beauty broken down/like you would do for one you love." A bunch of simple words - put together like beads in a painfully elegant necklace. One day, eh.
Blog - S. Worthen - "Leonard Cohen concert" ... Leonard Cohen can command an arena. His voice is rich, deep, commanding, his expressions evocative and amusing, and he thinks about his songs as he sings them...
Blog - The Line Of Best Fit - "Leonard Cohen – O2 Arena, London 17/07/08" ...After a rousing rendition of ‘Boogie Street’, which sees his backing singers, Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters, prove their salt for the unquestionable privilege of performing alongside Cohen, the band effortlessly, almost casually slide into one of Cohen’s most famous songs, ‘Hallelujah’. It’s at this point the show ceases to be a simply amazing show, and enters, most appropriately, the realms of a truly religious experience. It’s an utterly captivating, spell binding 5 minutes, which stuns the 20,000 strong audience into reverent silence, almost as if they’re afraid it might be a dream that could shatter at any moment...
Blog - You've Been Gigged - "17 July 2008 - Leonard Cohen, O2" ...All in all the audience were as delighted to be there as Leonard was - and his graceful good humour and humility was an example to all.
Blog - Songs for the Journey - "Leonard Cohen>Hallelujah" ...All the reviews of his current tour (the first for 15 years) suggested that it was going to be a great night - and we were not disappointed...