|Tour Reviews and Other Memories from
LEONARD COHEN WORLD TOUR The Beacon 2009
New York, New York
Set List - February 19, 2009
Dance Me To The End Of Love
Ain't No Cure For Love
Bird On The Wire
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
Sisters Of Mercy
Tower Of Song
I'm Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep (recitation)
Take This Waltz
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will
I Tried to Leave You
Whither Thou Goest
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Returns to U.S. Stage, Announces North American Tour
- February 20, 2009 by Andy Greene (Photo: Loccisano/Getty)
Galloping onstage with a huge grin on his face for an encore of “So Long, Marianne” at the Beacon Theatre last night, Leonard Cohen looked more like a spry schoolboy than a 74-year-old man who had already been performing for more than two and a half hours. When I saw him last June in Toronto, I couldn’t fathom Cohen possibly doing a better show — but last night’s epic New York performance (his first U.S. concert since 1993!) managed to one-up himself. It was one of the most magical concerts I’ve ever seen, and Cohen was shockingly funny. “I know hard times are coming,” he deadpanned midway through the night. “Some people say it’s gonna be even worse than Y2K.”
The scene outside the theater was absolute chaos, with hordes of people desperately looking for tickets. The few scalpers were getting upwards of $500 a seat. The will-call line, the drop ticket line and the ticket holder line all seemed to merge into one giant mass of confusion. Even Rufus Wainwright, who famously covered “Hallelujah” and appears prominently in the Cohen documentary I’m Your Man, looked frazzled in the back of a line seconds before the show began.
Since last June Cohen has traveled through Canada, Europe and Australia at a punishing pace. Now with 84 shows under their belt, Cohen and his amazing band are a well-oiled machine. (See photos from last night’s historic Cohen gig.) The slight nervous energy I picked up in Toronto has completely vanished. He glided around the stage with ease, and frequently got down on his knees as he sang. Later-day tunes such as “Closing Time” and “Waiting For The Miracle” have been dropped to make room for early classics like “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Sisters Of Mercy” and “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.” Highlights included a hauntingly beautiful rendition of 1979s “The Gypsy’s Wife,” an amped up “First We Take Manhattan” and a note perfect “The Partisan.” It was “Hallelujah,” however, that brought the entire theater to their feet.
For years and years it was nearly impossible to imagine Cohen making any sort of return to the stage, particularly one as glorious as this tour has been. Jaws were dropping as he came back onstage for more and more encores, as the show ran way past the three-hour mark. The fact he’s willing to do this is really an unbelievable gift to the world, even if his main inspiration is to raise much needed funds for his retirement.
New York, New York
Cohen takes Manhattan
The Edmonton Sun
- February 20, 2009 by Darryl Sterdan
Folk-rock poet laureate storms Big Apple to kick off first U.S. tour in 15 years
"It's been a long time since I stood on a stage in New York," Leonard Cohen said Thursday night at Manhattan's Beacon Theatre. "I was 60 years old -- just a kid with a crazy dream."
It just goes to show: Dreams really do come true. At least, they did for the 2,800 or so fans who forked over up to $750 a pop -- assuming the scalpers outside were getting their asking price -- to see the 74-year-old poet-laureate of folk-rock perform his first U.S. concert in nearly 15 years.
Judging by the response, we're gonna go out on a limb -- like a bird on a wire, say -- and presume that everybody got their money's worth.
While an icy wind blustered up and down Broadway out front, the Montreal-born poet and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee warmed the hearts and souls of a wildly enthusiastic sold-out crowd with his romantic balladry, well-deep vocals and tinder-dry wit. Looking dapper as ever in his usual black gangster suit and fedora -- accessorized for the occasion with a powder-blue shirt and black string tie -- Cohen held court for nearly three hours in the stately Greco-Roman grandeur of the newly renovated Beacon, playfully and graciously directing his supple sextet and trio of honey-dripping backup vocalists through two lengthy sets, three encores and umpteen standing ovations.
Not bad for a senior citizen -- and one who only came out of retirement a few years back because he was allegedly fleeced out of millions by his former manager. But if Cohen was bitter or tired, he didn't show it. His renewed passion for performance, however, was evident from the start. As was his slightly refurbished sound.
Opening with a gently bouncy version of Dance Me to the End of Love, the singer-songwriter soon unveiled his secret weapon: Spanish guitarist Javier Mas, whose fluid Flamenco fingerpicking cast gypsy overtones onto Cohen's older coffeehouse folk and his more recent synth-based jazz-pop.
Fans got plenty of both flavours. The set list (see below) reached all the way back to Suzanne, the first song on his first album, and moved through decades of hits. Bird on a Wire was given a hushed gospel treatment. Everybody Knows bobbed to a low-impact disco bassline. I'm Your Man was converted into a slow-burning shuffle. On Famous Blue Raincoat, Sisters of Mercy, Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye and several other cuts, Cohen acquitted himself capably on guitar. Throughout, his most important instrument -- that rumbling, god-like thunder cloud of a voice -- seemed all but unchanged, perhaps only the slightest bit raspier after all these years (though that could have been the slightly underworked PA system; heaven knows you'd need to rock subwoofers the size of submarines to recreate all the brown notes Cohen can hit).
From that pin-drop sound mix and the band's lightfingered touch to the monochromatic washes of light and Cohen's courtly manner -- he grandly introduced everyone in the band not once but twice and continually doffed his hat in gentlemanly salutes to all and sundry -- the whole evening was an exercise in taste, style, subtlety and understatement. Which might also be the one strike against it. For a guy whose lyrics are often so grim and powerful, Cohen's music tends to be watery and even cheesey at times -- and while these performances were far more dynamic than much of his studio fare (give credit to gifted horn and keyboard player Dino Soldo, Mark Knopfleresque guitarist Bob Metzger and stylish drummer Rafael Gayol), a little more energy and oomph would have worked wonders. That approach paid off handsomely on one of the undisputed highlights of the night: When Cohen reclaimed his oft-covered Hallelujah, showing the acolytes and Idols how it's done with a passionate rendition that ebbed and flowed from delicate verses to swelling gospel choruses and brought the man to his knees (albeit somewhat gingerly).
Truth be told, Cohen was actually pretty spry for an old dude. Granted, the spotlight operator had an easy night -- mostly Leonard stood in one spot, clutching the mic in both hands like an old blues harpist. But every now and then he'd bust a little move, be it a sly shuffle, a knock-kneed wobble, some bob-and-weave boxing, a gentle foot stamp, a prayerful kneel or a goofy "white man dance." By the end of the show, he was even skipping -- skipping! -- on and offstage like a schoolgirl.
The fun didn't stop there. He cracked wise about his years in a Buddhist monastery: "I turned to a study of religion and philosophies -- but cheerfulness kept breaking through." He joked about the economic climate: "Some people say it's worse than Y2K." He got a few hometown cheers with First We Take Manhattan (natch). He got laughs with some of the black lyrics to Chelsea Hotel and Tower of Song -- and milked the latter for more yuks by inserting a hamfisted keyboard solo and some playful antics with backup singers Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters. At the end of his third encore, he even closed with the oh-so-apt I Tried to Leave You, putting a little extra zing into the line, "I hope you're satisfied."
No fear. They were -- beyond their wildest dreams, we'd wager.
Beacon Theatre, New York City
Thursday, Feb. 19
Sun Rating: 4.5 out of 5
New York, New York
Legend Cohen - Beacon Theatre, NY (Show Review)
- February 20, 2009 by Jim Allen
While 15 years is a long time to go without a visit from the greatest living songwriter this side of Bob Dylan, the sold-out crowd that packed into the Beacon Theatre for a visitation from songwriter/saint Leonard Cohen Thursday night could be forgiven for feeling just the tiniest twinge of trepidation. After all, Cohen is 74 years old now (for those doing the math, that's eight years older than Paul McCartney), and hadn't been seen in these parts since the Clinton Administration.
Any such reservations were completely washed away almost instantly, from the moment Cohen opened the evening with "Dance Me to the End of Love," bent down on one knee like the romantic poet king he was born to be, finessing the tune with a voice as deep as ever but perhaps twice as flexible as the last time he hit a Big Apple stage. Fronting a six-man band plus three female backing singers, Cohen shuffled around the Beacon with elan, spiffily attired in a dark suit and hat that made him look like a film noir detective. He threw himself into the music with a measured pace but unfettered emotional depth, as he offered up the old favorites like "Bird on a Wire" and "Hey, Thats No Way to Say Goodbye" alongside more recent compositions like "A Thousand Kisses Deep" (delivered as a recitative) and "Democracy" (whose sociopolitical landscape seemed more timely than ever now, especially with its reference to "the battered heart of Chevrolet").
As deep and dark as Cohen is capable of going, he never fails to throw in a graveyard grin, both in his writing and on stage. In the midst of wryly claiming that he'd been undertaking intense religious studies, for example, he observed that he'd been foiled because "cheerfulness kept breaking through." And as heavy as the messages and imagery of the evening's fare were, that's the very phenomenon the audience seemed to experience too when all was said and done.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Dazzles At New York Tour Warm-Up
- February 20, 2009 by Jonathan Cohen
Tuning up for a spring North American tour, Leonard Cohen played his first show on American soil in 15 years last night (Feb. 19) at New York's Beacon Theatre. The three-hour performance featured all of Cohen's classics, including "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire" and "Hallelujah."
Cohen, 74, broke a 15-year hiatus from touring in 2008 with shows in Canada, Europe and New Zealand. His AEG-promoted North American tour will begin April 2 in Austin, Texas, and run through June 2 at Red Rocks outside Denver. He will also make a previously announced appearance on April 17 at the Coachella festival in Indio, Calif.
In what was just the second show at the newly reopened Beacon, Cohen dazzled the sold-out crowd with a career-spanning set, backed by an ace six-piece band and three female vocalists.
He frequently thanked the audience for its devotion, and the crowd ate up Big Apple references in songs like "Chelsea Hotel" and the funky "First We Take Manhattan."
Cohen was in fine, deep voice throughout, dropping to his knees to sing "Hallelujah" and dabbling in guitar and synthesizer throughout the performance.
As previously reported, Columbia will on March 31 release Cohen's "Live in London," taped last summer at the city's O2 Arena.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen / Feb. 19, 2009 / New York (Beacon Theatre)
- February 20, 2009 by Lavinia Jones Wright
Defying his 74 years and his decades spent as rock'n'roll's hard-living bard, Leonard Cohen impishly scampered onto the Beacon Theater's newly renovated stage to a standing ovation last night (Feb. 19) in New York. He proceeded to nimbly sink down to one knee to serenade his bandurria player, Javier Mas, with "Dance Me To The End Of Love" in a voice as hot and raspy as a flaming shot of whiskey.
After a 15-year hiatus from touring, many fans were unsure what to expect from Cohen's performance. It's no secret that his lifestyle as a younger man didn't encourage longevity (Cohen jokingly listed Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Ritalin and Tylenol full-strength as former interests of his). But his energy throughout the performance was electric, driving the crowd to its feet after nearly every song.
Cohen's touring band, led by musical director and bass player Roscoe Beck, laid a subtle, shimmering and sometimes funky background behind Cohen's celebrated lyrics and theater-shaking basso profundo. And the surprisingly spry singer wobbled into shuffling foot dances and rascally grapevine steps as guitarist Bob Metzger and saxophone player/multi-instrumentalist Dino Soldo took their solos.
Cohen led the band through the immortal refrains of "Suzanne" and his dark gospel "Hallelujah" as well as "I'm Your Man" and "If It Be Your Will." He whipped the audience into a frenzy with the native nods "First We Take Manhattan" and "Chelsea Hotel," and then stood back to let vocalist and collaborator Sharon Robinson and vocalist sisters Hattie and Charley Webb take the lead as he watched, enamored.
Seeing "Hallelujah" performed by its true creator after years of hearing it covered by many less stylish and slicker than he was a true epiphany. As Cohen sank to he knees and begged upwards, the words to the familiar song became new, a prayer rather than a lament. And when he finished the song with the verse that has been left out of the most famous cover versions of "Hallelujah" (by John Cale's and Jeff Buckley) -- "And even though it all went wrong, I'll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah" -- the song's true, tragically reverent spirit shone through.
Ever the gentleman, the dapper, suit-clad Cohen removed his hat for each of his backing musicians and introduced the entire band not once, but twice. He waxed sweetly nostalgic, telling the crowd, "It's been a long time since I stood up on a stage in New York City. I was a young man of 60 then with a dream," and he fondly goofed on his experiments in faith, saying, "I turned to the study of religions and philosophies, but cheerfulness kept breaking through."
Indeed, the evening was joyful; for the audience, but more so for Cohen himself. He seemed positively elated to be back in front of an audience in his beloved city, skipping off the stage at the end of the main set and then again after each of two encores. Any first-timer would have seen every bit of the power of Leonard Cohen both as a performer and a songwriter in the show.
And when his signature humility appeared as he heavily pronounced the line "I hope you're satisfied" during the closing song, "I Tried To Leave You," the audience responded by erupting uncontrollably in cheers and applause, as if to tell him we were.
A long line of disappointed fans waited outside in the blistering February cold hoping for a last minute spare ticket, but those who didn't make it in (resale value of a single ticket reportedly reached $700) will have a second chance to see Cohen during his North American tour this spring.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen takes Manhattan, again
National Post (Canada)
- February 20, 2009 by Emily Johnson (Photo: Michael Loccisano / Getty Images)
Leonard Cohen is funny. For his last song (and third encore) at the ravishing new Beacon Theater on Thursday night, he began I Tried to Leave You and smiled. He joked about Prozac and his spiritual search. His humour is warm, sly, and always a bit surprising, as it punctuates his dark poetry.
He is also generous. During the nearly three-hour show (with one intermission) he was uniformly gracious, doffing his hat to the audience after each song, and receiving a standing ovation for nearly every one in return. Maybe it was just their appreciation of being there for Cohen's first concert in the U.S. since 1993, but it seemed that the audience, aware of his troubled relationship with the States in the past, was at particular pains to show him their true love.
He stands very slim and straight, in his dark suit and fedora, with the mien of a much younger man than his 74 years. Like a Buddhist monk, he seems to ride his bones lightly.
There has always been a tension between the depressive poet mining endless lyrical depths and simple song structures, and the singer and band leader, shuffling and stepping, crouching as he sings or looking over as his band mates play. Not completely resolved here, the styles took turns.
The first group of songs, including Dance Me to the End of Love, Bird On a Wire and Everybody Knows, were done in grand, and faintly '80s, style, geared by sax and backing vocals, which is one way to corral Leonard Cohen's dark matter into concert mode. As the show progressed, the instrumentation became quieter, bringing that "golden voice" to the fore, Who by Fire and Chelsea Hotel providing crescendos of emotion from singer and audience. The accompaniment of Javier Mas' gypsy bandurria and flamenco guitar kept the folk songs rooted in their original style, even as it opened up beauties not glimpsed in them before.
By the second act, the band was fully integrated, providing the perfect counterpoint to Cohen's incantatory, hushed intonation. The backup singers each sang lead, a nod to both the singers' individual talents and the endless covers of his material. Their voices became more angelic and disembodied as the evening progressed. In particular the Webb sisters' If It Be Your Will was haunting, their harmonies reminiscent of the folk era and Judy Collins. Even when he isn't the one doing the singing, one can't mistake the provenance of the words being sung.
Beloved songs he hit like beats, dotted throughout both sets. Hallelujah and Famous Blue Raincoat have attained an immortality that renders them covers even when he sings them. But he was able to mine new things even from this material. Especially on Hallelujah, his grunting of the words, "Love is not a victory march/ It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah" came as a brutal riposte in an ongoing argument. This is Cohen in fine dictatory form, a master of the gracious breakup song, complicated, feeling, and yet resigned, and it was moving. The holy dove was moving, too.
As an artist, Cohen makes an iconography of his obsessions. But his anchor has always been his deep, conversational voice. By now he is a consummate performer - it is not an exaggeration to say that he makes love to the audience - but he is also an artist capable of imparting awe. More than one audience member likened the concert to a religious experience, as the capacity crowd of 2,800 shuffled out of the building.
"You are very kind," Cohen said, when applauded for a simple melody he played on the keyboard. The buzz from the audience punctuated the climactic moments: when he picked up the guitar for the first time, say, or rendered beloved phrases, which were many. Someone near me shouted "Thank you," after he sang the French lyrics of The Partisan, a high point of the show, with its tumbling tribute to the French Resistance. It was an expression of gratitude for coming back. If there was a rift between Leonard Cohen and the U.S. audience, it's old news. On his upcoming North American tour, he will play mostly boutique-sized venues like the Beacon, commanding up to $250 per ticket (list price). He's earned the right to appear only before those who revere him.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Holds First U.S. Gig in 15 Years
- February 21, 2009 by Rebecca Brody
Folk singer Leonard Cohen hopped on the stage on Thursday during his first U.S. concert in 15 years by telling jokes with regard to his advanced age, as well as mocking the hearty themes of one of his best known tracks.
The three-hour, six-encore gig, which took place at New York’s Beacon Theater, represented Leonard Cohen’s first U.S. show since he brought his touring to a standstill in order to become a Buddhist monk. However, the musician had to return on the road soon after he lost his retirement savings.
The 74-year-old Canadian artist, wearing a black suit and hat, sang hit tunes such as “Bird on the Wire,” “Suzanne,” “In My Secret Life,” “Hallelujah,” “Everybody Knows,” as well as “So Long Marianne,” to standing ovations.
Throughout his performance of the poem “A Thousand Kisses Deep,” Leonard Cohen halted briefly on the line: “I’m old but I’m still into that,” thus urging the audience to burst into never-ending howls and applause.
The singer told the crowd that a lot of time had passed since he last “stood up on a stage in New York,” explaining that he was around 60 back then, “just a kid with a dream.”
Leonard Cohen has been on tour since May and held various performances in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
The musician is scheduled to launch a North American tour as early as April 2 in Austin, Texas, and will comprise other cities as well, such as Vancouver, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Quebec City and Ottawa. In addition, he is due to return to New York on May 16 for a gig at Radio City Music Hall.
New York, New York
Folk-rock poet Leonard Cohen makes a transcendental return to the U.S. stage
New Jersey Star Ledger
- February 20, 2009 by Jay Lustig (Photo: Henny Ray Abrams/AP photo)
NEW YORK -- There were drums and keyboard instruments, electric and acoustic guitars, amplifiers and monitors. There was a curtain behind the stage, and lights overhead. There was a merchandise table where T-shirts and programs could be bought.
Leonard Cohen's Thursday night concert at the Beacon Theatre had all the trappings of a normal rock concert. Yet it seemed to come from another place entirely. Cohen's lyrics had the refinement of poetry, his dapper appearance and courtly manner evoked the cabaret circuit, his precise way of moving about the stage seemed derived from the world of theater, and his songs sometimes took on the air of religious supplication.
And then there was his voice: a deep, dark rumble that gave his romantic songs a sense of larger-than-life longing, and made him seem like a prophet, able to access some other dimension, when he sang about the future.
No, this was not just another rock concert.
In addition to being a remarkable concert, this was the first show that Cohen, 74, has presented in the United States in 15 years. It also served as a preview of his 2009 North American tour, which begins April 2 in Austin, Texas, and will include a May 16 concert at Radio City Music Hall. (Tickets go on sale March 9.)
This represents the continuation of a world tour that began last year, and already has hit Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Cohen and his nine-piece band have become, by now, a tightly meshed unit. The three backing vocalists (Sharon Robinson, and sisters Hattie and Charley Webb) contributed to the show's cool, understated vibe, and Spanish virtuoso Javier Mas added some flamenco and Middle Eastern flavor to the mix on guitar and other instruments.
It was a long show, lasting more than three hours (including an intermission). Along the way, Cohen sang some of his early classics ("Suzanne," "Bird On the Wire," "Chelsea Hotel #2") as well as more recent compositions like "In My Secret Life," "Anthem" and "Democracy." Robinson, Cohen's frequent songwiting collaborator, sang lead on "Boogie Street," and Cohen mesmerizingly recited "A Thousand Kisses Deep" with just some atmospheric keyboard backing by Neil Larsen.
Since he last toured the United States, Cohen has become even more of an icon, though he has spent much of that time away from the showbiz world, studying religion and philosophy ("but cheerfulness kept breaking through," he said, while discussing this part of his life). He was the subject of a 2005 documentary, "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man," and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. He has also seen his song "Hallelujah" become something of a standard, in part because of the late Jeff Buckley's popular cover of it.
On Thursday, "Hallelujah" represented the show's emotional peak, with Cohen dropping his usual reserve and belting it out. Here -- and at other points in the show, too -- he dropped to his knees as he started singing, as if proclaiming himself a humble servant of the song. He also introduced band members, twice, with elaborate politeness (bowing to them, and describing them with florid phrases, like "prince of precision" for drummer Rafael Gayol). At the end of each set, he thanked audience members for their "kind attention."
There were occasionally other eccentric touches, as well. After the Cohen sang the line "white girls dancing" (changed from the original "white man dancing") in "The Future," the Webb sisters left their microphone stands to turn a cartwheel in unison. And Cohen, who played guitar for much of the show, switched to keyboards for "Tower of Song," adding an amateurish solo and deadpanning, "Ah, you're very kind," when audience members applauded.
Cohen ended the show on a fittingly poetic note, wishing audience members the blessings of family and friends. "And if you have none of these," he added, "let the blessings find you in your solitude."
Beginning Feb. 26, a webcast and podcast of this entire concert will be available at npr.org/music. For tour information visit leonardcohen.com.
New York, New York
Poet of pleasure and pain leaves 'em swooning
Outside the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a man wandered up and down Broadway on Thursday evening, his spirit flagging as the minutes ticked by. "I'm looking for that miracle," he sang out. "Looking for that one ticket to Leonard Cohen."
For the 2,800 faithful who were already seated warmly inside for the sold-out show, Cohen finally in New York was miracle enough. It had been more than 15 years since their poet of pleasure and pain had last played in the United States, which may be why they leapt to their feet at the end of Dance Me to the End of Love, his opener, and then again for a reflective Bird on the Wire, and a flamenco-inflamed Who by Fire, and again and again through the glorious night, as if to defy not just his absent decade and a half but their own creeping mortality too.
The show is more or less the same one Cohen opened in Fredericton last May, a shimmering and generous 3¼ -hour stroll through his four decades of music, performed with a depth of feeling an Oscar-winning actor would have trouble matching. Even most of his patter is the same - he quips that the last time he played this town he was just "a 60-year-old kid with a dream," and runs through his various prescription medications - yet, just as with the songs he has performed thousands of times, he delivers the spoken reminiscences as if discovering them anew.
Of course, some of the songs have acquired new relevance and renewed urgency since he hit the road. Everybody Knows, with its calling-out of fraudsters and charlatans ("Everybody knows that the boat is leaking / Everybody knows that the captain lied") is a menacing indictment of our time that opens up into a cathartic exaltation in the instrumental conclusion. As he stands at centre stage, microphone clasped with two fists tightly in front of his mouth, growling out the words with constrained fury, you wonder if we couldn't have used his moral indignation over the years.
And more of his class. At 74, Cohen puts the young 'uns to shame with his stamina, soulfulness, poise and professionalism.
When he defers to the individual members of his band - the enchanting duo known as the Webb Sisters performs a strangely uplifting If It Be Your Will - Cohen remains on stage and listens attentively, paying homage to their talent with a fedora held over his heart, even as he stays in the shadows.
When he leaves at the conclusion of a set, he skips off like a kid who has never lost the joy of making people joyful.
After nine months on the road, he and his six-piece, three-singer backup band are as perfectly tuned as a Swiss watch. On Tower of Song, his singers chirped their backup lines with a kind of languid focus, just a flicker behind the beat.
The layered, bluesy tension in Famous Blue Raincoat and The Partisan felt like something out of a pulp novel, always threatening but never quite managing to break out.
Cohen is an old-fashioned showman without any of the unctuous polish that implies. He brings his audience along on a journey of narrative and emotion, delivers them to ancient lands with folkloric numbers like The Partisan, makes them swoon with the spoken word poem A Thousand Kisses Deep, and reminds them of their youth with the melancholy Suzanne. "I hope I leave you satisfied," he sang at the show's conclusion.
As if there were any doubt.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Takes Manhattan
- February 20, 2009 by Eric Alterman
"There is a crack; a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Lucky me, continued: In one of the hardest tickets to get I've ever seen in New York, I saw Leonard Cohen at the newly restored Beacon theater last night and it was one of the most wonderful shows of my life; the concert was like being in church but in some imaginary church, (or shul) that actually does what a church or a shul is supposed to do. Leonard was magnificent, during the course of three hours and twenty minutes of classic after classic after classic as was the band and the singers. He thanked and recognized virtually everyone who helped make the show. The audience was rapt, perfectly quiet and deeply appreciative. An argument for age, wisdom and grace as powerful as any I've ever seen. A nearly perfect evening--and a truly transcendent experience. Is Mr. Cohen coming to your town? You'll kick yourself if you don't go, unless it turns out to be impossible. (I noticed on CL here that there was a real danger of counterfeit tickets.)
New York, New York
Pop Music’s Perpetual Old Man, Now 74, Is Back on the Road
The New York Times
- February 20, 2009 by Nate Chinen (Photo: Nicholas Roberts for The New York Times)
Leonard Cohen kept returning to the stance of a supplicant at the Beacon Theater on Thursday night, dropping to one knee, or both, to intone his wry and ruminative songs. At the same time, he basked in the rapture of the crowd, artfully courting adulation. His mix of humility and sovereignty felt effortless, entirely true to form. And it girded the concert, his first in the United States in 15 years, with a vibrant and effective tension.
Mr. Cohen, 74, left little room for disappointment in a show that lasted just over three hours (with an intermission) and featured more than two dozen songs. The evening doubled as a preview, coming with the eagerly anticipated announcement of a North American tour this spring. (The tour includes a stop at Radio City Music Hall on May 16.) Mr. Cohen began his return to the road last year, with a slew of dates in Europe and his native Canada; one of them yielded “Live in London,” an album and DVD due out next month from Columbia.
The rigors of performing have reinvigorated Mr. Cohen, whose trademark black suit and fedora conveyed a somber chic. He literally skipped offstage at the end of each half, and after each of his several encores. He sashayed back on, with the slyest of grins. And his voice, that grave and inflexible instrument, occasionally escaped its granitelike restraints. On “Chelsea Hotel #2,” one of the best-received songs of the night, he sang with the resonant candor of his younger self, though that moment was brief and bittersweet.
Comforts are fleeting in Mr. Cohen’s songs, and contradictions are eternal. He was unsparing with his song choice, delving early on into “The Future” (“I’ve seen the future, brother/It is murder”) and savoring the sting of “Everybody Knows” (“Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful/Ah, give or take a night or two”). He fleshed out a liturgical cadence on “Who by Fire,” sounding grim; on “Famous Blue Raincoat,” an encore, he struck a complicated but familiar chord of contempt, compassion and self-pity.
Mr. Cohen’s backing ensemble, led by the bassist Roscoe Beck, matched these songs to a warm, gauzy glow, muting all textures. If anything the band was too polished, evoking smooth jazz and the more homogenized strains of world music. (It should be noted that the flamenco-tinged flourishes by Javier Mas, on bandurria and laúd, were more palatable than the ardently cloying solos by Dino Soldo, on saxophones.) When most of the group dropped out for an austere “Suzanne,” with Mr. Cohen on acoustic guitar, the effect was salutary: suddenly there was flow in the music, a feeling of breath and fluctuation.
But Mr. Cohen, like anyone else who isn’t João Gilberto, would have struggled to cast that spell over the course of the concert. He needed the band for atmosphere as well as support. And what he got from his backup singers, Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters, was abidingly deep: their airy harmonies offset Mr. Cohen’s sepulchral tone.
Ms. Robinson, a longtime collaborator of Mr. Cohen’s, also sang a solo feature, “Boogie Street,” with authority. The Webb Sisters had their own moment, claiming “If It Be Your Will” as an ethereal Celtic ballad, with Hattie Webb on harp and Charley Webb on acoustic guitar. (This week they released an EP on StratArt, “Comes in Twos,” which contains that arrangement.)
That was one of a handful of songs with philosophical overtones, befitting Mr. Cohen’s experience as a Zen Buddhist monk. The strongest in this vein was “Anthem,” which he prefaced with an allusion to troubled times; a joke about his medications (he mentioned a litany of name-brand antidepressants); and a quip about how he tried a course of religious study, but “cheerfulness kept breaking through.” Then came the song, and its chorus:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Mr. Cohen sang these words with a kind of gracious generosity. Then he introduced everyone onstage, with practiced eloquence. And before dashing into the wings to end the first half he stood for a moment, hat in hand, awash in wild applause.
Leonard Cohen’s Beacon Theater concert will be broadcast at nprmusic.org/music on Thursday. Tickets for his tour go on sale Friday at leonardcohen.com.
New York, New York
- February 20, 2009 by David Sprague
Leonard Cohen waited more than two hours before playing "First We Take Manhattan" -- a conquest-minded song that took on a decidedly more celebratory tone at this, his first Stateside show in 15 years -- but it only required a few moments for him to actually seal the deal laid out in the song's title.
Absence may have had some effect on making the aud's collective heart demonstrate fondness for the septuagenarian poet-singer, but over the course of his three-hour, three-encore perf, Cohen proved again and again that this was no mere nostalgia trip. Yes, the offerings went back as far as "Suzanne" -- the first track on his now 42-year-old first album -- but none of the two-dozen-plus pieces were presented as if preserved in amber.
Some of Cohen's alterations were subtle -- a chilled-out-but-pulsing bassline appended to "Everybody Knows," a storefront-church arrangement on "Bird on a Wire" -- while others were quite bracing. The latter aspect was most evident in Cohen's own delivery, which was palpably looser than one might expect from a performer of his vintage and portent -- notably a light, almost winking take on the doom-laden "Tower of Song."
One thing that hasn't changed over the years is Cohen's dark-hued, deep baritone, a sound that can give him the air of an Old Testament prophet one moment and a honeyed lothario the next. Even at this stage of his life, he's a remarkably seductive presence -- nattily clad in black suit and fedora, ambling around the stage with a quiet confidence that positively permeated versions of "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" and "If It Be Your Will," the latter of which was leavened nicely by the harmonies of the Webb Sisters.
As the program progressed, the breadth of Cohen's influence came into sharper and sharper focus, with song after song evoking memories of covers heard in smoky clubs or on middle-of-the-night radio assays. But as Cohen dug into the marrow of "Famous Blue Raincoat" and, especially, a hypnotically incantatory "Hallelujah," it became amply evident that he still has far more of an impact in the flesh than he does in the mist of memory.
Leonard Cohen plays the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on April 10.
New York, New York
Return of a ladies' man
- February 20, 2009 by Paul L. Underwood (Photo: Scott Weiner / Retna Ltd.)
Prior to yesterday night, the last time Leonard Cohen played a show in the U.S. was 15 years ago, when, as he put it, "I was 60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream." A good line (albeit one he's used before), and a sign that Cohen was in high spirits for last night's performance. Another sign: The septuagenarian performed for more than three hours (including an intermission and a whopping six encores), singing his best-known hits ("Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne") and lesser-known stuff ("The Gypsy's Wife," from 1979's Recent Songs) in his trademark raspy baritone. He looked good, too, dancing in place in a slim suit (with Dylan-esque bolo tie) that still looked baggy on his lean frame. He frequently tipped his fedora toward his band mates after particularly spectacular turns. (Targets included Spanish guitar player Javier Mas, singer-songwriter Sharon Robinson, and the lovely Webb Sisters, who even turned cartwheels during the opener, "Dance Me to the End of Love.") After the epic performance, Cohen skipped off stage. He's got a few dozen more shows planned this year, so here's hoping he paces himself. Actually, here's hoping he doesn't.
New York, New York
Still Your Man: Leonard Cohen Takes Back Manhattan
- February 20, 2009 by Henry Freedland (Photos: Ricky Chapman)
On his first U.S. stage in 15 years, Leonard Cohen smiled in a gangster suit. He removed his fedora and bowed deeply—to the 2,800 fans who paid premium to pack into Manhattan's gilded Beacon Theatre, then to the admiring musicians around him who answered by launching into "Dance Me to the End of Love." Cohen fell to a crouch. At 74, was he finally too feeble to perform standing? Or was his body channeling the song's supplication—"lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove"?
Through the night, it appeared the latter. Cohen eschewed infirmity on all accounts, skipping on- and off-stage with youthful glee, singing poised on his knees, singing knock-kneed, singing tip-toed, singing curled sideways like an upside-down question mark. He soft-shoed a bit during "The Future," demonstrating its "white man dancing." He shadow-boxed for the briefest of moments. And he spryly took the night into overtime, with two extended sets and three encores—nearly three full hours of performance.
With so much time, Cohen hit his bases. Of his 12 studio albums, only 1977's Phil Spector-produced Death of a Ladies' Man and Cohen's most recent release, 2004's Dear Heather, saw no love. (Which meant a tasteful snub of "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On"). Soul vocalist and Cohen's recent collaborator, Sharon Robinson, was on hand to sing "In My Secret Life" from 2001's 10 New Songs. And the show harkened all the way back to Cohen's first tune, "Suzanne," which chanteuse Judy Collins had to coax him onstage to debut almost 42 years ago.
The rest of the set careened like so, between older and newer tracks, with the band backing in production values reminiscent of the smooth, synth-laden I'm Your Man. Cohen found a friend in bandurria, laud and 12-string guitar player Javier Mas, who spun out busy Spanish tones over each song to great effect. Keyboardist Neil Larsen peeled paint with a few Hammond B3 solos, and when saxophonist Dino Soldo managed to keep his hips and vibrato in check, his lounge-blues breathiness did augment the mix. Cohen seemed taken with the players, introducing them with alliterative grandiosity twice over the night's course. And while Robinson and twin vocalists The Webb Sisters vamped on "Tower of Song"'s chirping background vocal line, "doo-dum-dum-dum-da-doo-dum-dum," Cohen entreated them to continue. "Please don't stop, we have need of you," he said. "You have the answer to the great riddle of suffering and existence."
Cohen made sure to hit crowd favorites like "So Long, Marianne," "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," "Sisters of Mercy" and "Bird on a Wire," which came through in swirling gospel throes. Resolute fans appreciated "First We Take Manhattan," "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" as well, not missing the chance to cheer references to New York's cold weather, Clinton Street and, yes, the once-tawdry Chelsea Hotel. When he strapped on a guitar, as he did for a handful of the older numbers, his classic singer/songwriter stance coalesced into rebirth, every time.
It was 10 songs in before Cohen finally took a moment to reflect. "It's been a long time since I've stood on a stage in New York City," he admitted. "I was 60-years-old—just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I've taken a lot of Prozac." He went on to list a long catalog of prescription drugs he'd taken over the last decade and a half—as the audience laughed riotously—and he described his hard study of religion and philosophy, partially done in his retreat at the Mount Baldy Zen Center. "But cheerfulness kept breaking through," he said.
Which is the thing with Leonard Cohen. There is darkness with loneliness, desire into sin and salvation and struggle, Biblical loves that fail to love biblically—but always that uplift, breaking through. This was as evident at his comeback concert as ever before. "Hard times are coming," he said shortly before the intermission. "They say it might be worse than Y2K." He paused for laughter before coming to his Cohen-esque flourish. "So: 'Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering.'" Slowly the crowd caught on. "'There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in.'" His band picked him up to enter into the song he had elliptically introduced, "Anthem."
Cohen certainly knows about hard times. An unspoken element of his vault out of retirement is financial trouble with a former manager, which left him without his monetary due. But even his low, rumbling voice by itself—if possible even lower and more rumbly than before, and still as full of soul as a tabernacle on holy days—cast off any fear that an ulterior motive might cast a shadow on his performance. And, thankfully for fans of Cohen's reemergence, there are to be 28 more tour dates, many of them in the U.S., starting April 2 in Austin, Texas.
The concert finally came to a halt after the third encore, with Cohen accenting "I hope you're satisfied" in a cheeky rendition of "I Tried to Leave You" and bringing all players to the microphones to chorale on "Wither Thou Goest." Under swooning harmonies, he thanked and blessed the crowd, who were on their umpteenth standing ovation of the night.
But even if the concert ended there, it echoes on. During his consummate performance of the oft-covered "Hallelujah," Cohen growled in spiritual tones. He sang it not like Jeff Buckley, or John Cale, or Rufus Wainwright. He sang it like its proginator—a supplicant, down on his knees, rising to sing the refrain's "Hallelujah" as light poured in on the stage. As the story goes, Cohen wrote reams for the song—he claims two notebooks worth, over 80 verses total. wWen he recorded it for Various Positions, however, he ended with a verse that Buckley's, Cale's and Wainwright's versions skip (they sign off with "it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"): "Even though it all went wrong / I'll stand right here before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!" It's a rising note to leave with, a man standing up to give what he has. Somewhere else in space, the rest of the verses reverberate, felt if not heard. But on Thursday night, the audience members were privy to what they'd been missing for 15 years: There is the light, and here is Leonard, opening the crack to let it in.
New York, New York
Live Report: Leonard Cohen [New York, NY; 02/19/09]
- February 20, 2009 (Photos: Kathryn Yu)
After leaving a Buddhist monastery, where he spent the better part of five years, Leonard Cohen wasted little time getting back to work. He quickly released two albums of new material, and wrote and produced another for his acolyte Anjani. He published a book of poetry and photography, was feted in the documentary I'm Your Man, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And in true rock'n'roll fashion, he fended off and reciprocated several lawsuits, many cleaning up the mess from a former manager that left him just this side of skint.
Yet last night's appearance at New York's Beacon Theatre marked Leonard Cohen's first U.S. performance in more than 15 years, the inaugural American stop of a comeback tour that will soon bring him across the States, including a show at this spring's Coachella festival (where Cohen shares marquee comeback status with the reunited Throbbing Gristle-- do we smell collaboration?). Resplendent in a suit and hat that hid a full head of silver hair (though virtually the whole band wore hats as well), Cohen looked thin and limber, belying his 74 years (and no doubt the product of all that meditation and, if his jokes were to believed, a bit of medication, too) as he led his band through two and a half hours of music drawn from the intersection of folk, rock, pop, and cabaret.
While the set comprised such classics as "Suzanne", "So Long, Marianne", "Chelsea Hotel #2", "Everybody Knows", "Tower of Song", and other mini-masterpieces, Cohen's show never came across as pat as a greatest hits set. For starters, most of the songs he sang hardly constitute hits, per se. Heck, "Hallelujah" was all but lost amidst Cohen's 1980s output until the likes of John Cale, Rufus Wainwright, and, of course, Jeff Buckley rescued it from obscurity. But more intriguingly, Cohen's songs seem to have transcended the passage of time, with cuts as old as the 1960s and as new as this decade miraculously free from the trappings of nostalgia. And yes, that included the Weimar disco of "First We Take Manhattan" and the somehow not dated "The Future", inspired by the L.A. riots but oddly timeless with its doom-laden prophecy "I've seen the future, brother, it is murder."
Vitally, unlike such erstwhile peers as Bob Dylan, Cohen still respects the power of his words, still tweaking and perfecting his lines to suit his rumbling baritone croak rather than lazily glossing over them. The dude's a poet, after all, and even when his band sacrificed spontaneity if favor of strict professionalism, and especially when the arrangements veered to the smoother side of jazz, Cohen's words and voice remained riveting. As Buddhist monk modest as Cohen may be, he seemed to recognize this as well as he generously invited the crowd back into his inimitable world of sex and spirituality while graciously welcoming himself back in ours.
New York, New York
Pop bard Leonard Cohen back on stage after 15 years
New York Daily News
- February 20, 2009 by Jim Farber (Photo: Loccisano/Getty)
Leonard Cohen knelt early and often at his Beacon Theater show Thursday night - his first in this city in over 15 years. Throughout the long and languorous night, pop's great bard kept going down on one knee, as if to pray, or to propose.
Just as often Cohen graciously doffed his black fedora, bowing before his band, the audience, or some higher force unseen.
Such gestures made sense given the whole cannon of Cohen's writing, which finds fragility in everything, erasing all traces of human entitlement to tremble before God, love, or fate - which, in his view, may all be the same thing.
Naturally, the collected faithful, who've long wandered in a Cohen-less desert, drank it all down greedily. Besides, what other ostensible pop star wears a fedora these days?
Cohen's attire highlighted his ranking among the grayest wave of boomer icons. He's 75 now. And he referred to his age, with a terrific wink, at the show's midpoint.
"The last time I played this city I was 60 - just a kid with a crazy dream," he said. "In the time, since I've taken a lot of Prozak, Paxil....Tylenol Full Strength. But cheerfulness kept breaking through."
He's got a million of ‘em folks.
While Cohen has a reputation for great seriousness due to the grace and depth of his poetry, he's always been a cut- up at heart. Cohen's performance this night highlighted humor a key part of his enduring art. Of course, words - glorious words - took a lot of the attention this night.
His cadences remain unmatched in the last century of pop songwriting. Along with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, Cohen forms the top troika of chart-making poets. But there's also a power to the voice that delivers them, and a sweep to the music that mirrors them.
Vocally, Cohen hasn't changed much over the years - aided by the fact that he never had much range, or a youthful pitch, to begin with. His voice remains all dust and insinuation, a deep, sexy drag of a thing that knows its limitations and milks them for all their worth.
The band - highlighted by Spanish guitarist Javier Mas - supported that dry voice with care, with all 6 members playing their instruments gingerly so as not to drown him out.
He also included the usual arrangement of three female backup singers to provide sweet counterpoint. This time they included a longtime collaborator of Cohen's: Sharon Robinson, who contributed her own soulful take on "Boogie Street" at this show.
As usual, Cohen casts his women as agents of redemption or revelation. He did so most directly in the witty "Tower Of Song" in which he identified their final "be-dum-dum" motif as nothing less than the answer to life's great mystery.
Cohen's band luxuriated in the subtle, shifting rhythms of his work. The songwriter has forged a rare mix of slowed down American blues, torn French chansons, and ominous German oompahs.
Cohen thumbed through a virtual wish-list of his best-known songs at the Beacon, from the opening "Dance Me To The End of Love" to "Hallelujah," which, via Jeff Buckley's version, has become ubiquitous enough to inspire interpretations in places as daft as "American Idol."
Cohen found a sweet comic peak with "Chelsea Hotel," which recounts a sexual encounter with Janis Joplin.
"We're ugly," he wrote of the two of them, "but we have the music."
Cohen scaled an emotional summit with his reading of "A Thousand Kisses Deep," proving his speech alone contains great music.
Clearly, Cohen enjoyed the night as well as anyone. He didn't seem to want to leave the stage, coming out for scores of encores, ballooning the show to 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Maybe the guy should get out more.
Luckily, it seems he will. Cohen will begin a North American tour in April, returning to New York - at Radio City Music Hall - May 16th. Do you really want to miss it?
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Plays First U.S. Show in 15 Years
- February 20, 2009 by David Chiu
At one point during his sold out show at New York's Beacon Theater Thursday night, Leonard Cohen jokingly referenced his 15-year plus absence between performances in the States. "Fifteen years ago, I was 60 years old," he says. "Since then I've taken a lot of Prozac, Paxil ... [and] Tylenol."
Accompanied by a six-piece band and three backup singers, the Canadian singer and poet, who is now 74, played his best-known songs for three hours spanning his 42-year-recording career. The Beacon Theater show was a preview of Cohen's recently announced North American tour, which begins on April 2 and ends on June 2. (Also included in those string of dates for him will be an appearance at Coachella on April 17). The news of the tour coincides with his upcoming 'Live in London' two-disc CD and DVD, which was taken from last year's London O2 show.
Wearing a dark suit and a fedora, Cohen kicked off Thursday night's set with the waltz-like 'Dance Me to the End of Love.' He carried on with favorites such as 'Bird on the Wire,' 'Suzanne,' 'Tower of Song' and 'Famous Blue Raincoat,' before concluding with 'Wither Thou Goest.'
A highlight of the show was when he delivered a very stirring performance of 'Hallelujah.' In addition, his backup singers took a turn on lead vocals: Sharon Robinson sang 'Boogie Nights,' and Hattie and Charley Webb performed 'If It Be Your Will.'
As for his performance, Cohen was very spry in his moves. When he donned his fedora and sang with knees slightly bent, and hands cradling the microphone, Cohen personified cool. His distinctive and ominous vocals evoked both romantic longing and soul, from his spoke word reading of 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' to 'So Long, Marianne.'
The singer concluded his successful concert with these words to an excited audience: "May you be surrounded by friends and families. If you have none of these, may the blessings find your solitude."
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Plays First U.S. Show in 15 Years
- February 20, 2009 by Scott Colothan
Leonard Cohen performed his first US live show in 15 years at the Beacon Theatre in New York last night (February 19).
The legendary singer-songwriter treated the completely sold-out to a sprawling three hour set that featured an astonishing six encores.
The 74-year-old Canadian joked to the crowd at one point: "It's been a long time since I stood up on this stage in New York City. I was 60 years-old, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I've taken a lot of Prozac."
Classic tracks performed included 'So Long, Marianne', 'Bird On A Wire', 'First We Take Manhattan', 'Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye' and, of course, the ubiquitous 'Hallelujah'.
Leonard Cohen performs at the Coachella Festival in California this April.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen @ Beacon Theatre, 2.19.09
- February 20, 2009 by Glenn Gamboa
At the end of “Tower of Song,” Leonard Cohen looks at his outstanding backing singers – Sharon Robinson and The Webb Sisters – and deadpans, “Don’t stop. Please, don’t stop.”
“Do dum dum dum da do dum dum,” they respond, in gorgeous girl-group harmony.
“There is much that is torn that you could heal,” he says.
“Do dum dum dum da do dum dum,” they respond.
It’s a moment that sums up Cohen’s amazing concert at the Beacon Theater Thursday night, a kickoff to his first American tour in 15 years. It also comes close to explaining the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s legendary career.
A lot of hard truths get communicated in Cohen’s songs, softened by sweet melodies, lush arrangements and, of course, the even-keeled Cohen croon. Let other singers turn vocal curlicues on his standard “Hallelujah,” he doesn’t need them. Even on his knees, Cohen conjured the song’s power, embodying the tale of recognizing one’s imperfections, yet striving for more.
He tied together bad celebrity role models and Nazi-era Germany in the disco rhythms and ominous synth pop of “First, We Take Manhattan.” He hid death and disappointment in the sprightly “Take This Waltz,” ending the song practically skipping off the stage in 3/4 time.
“It’s been a long time since I stood on a stage in New York,” Cohen said early on, recalling that it had been 15 years. “I was 60 years old, just a crazy kid with a dream.”
He then went on to list the drugs he had been on in that time frame – from Prozac and Paxil to Tylenol Full Strength. Yes, Cohen is still sharp – “I know hard times are here,” he says, slyly, “some people say it’s worse than Y2K” – and he’s remarkably spry, bouncing up from his knees quickly and bounding off the stage.
Most importantly, Cohen seems to be enjoying himself, watching each member of his 9-piece band intently as they deliver their solos, offering his gratitude, hat in hand. Responding to the sold-out crowd’s wild cheering, Cohen offered “I Tried to Leave You” as his final encore, emphasizing the line “I hope you’re satisfied.”
Who wouldn’t be?
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen plays first U.S. concert in 15 years
NEW YORK — Leonard Cohen played his first U.S. concert in 15 years, returning with a two-set, six-encore, three-hour long performance that the singer called "a memorable evening."
The 74-year-old Montreal-born singer, poet and novelist drew countless standing ovations at New York's Beacon Theatre on Thursday night.
"It's been a long time since I stood up on this stage in New York City," Cohen said, addressing the crowd for the first time ten songs in. "I was 60 years-old, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I've taken a lot of Prozac."
While the audience roared, Cohen proceeded to list a dozen or so more drugs that have comforted him in his old age, as well as his hard study of religions and philosophies, "but cheerfulness kept breaking through."
The concert was much the same, too.
Singing his serene and melancholy ballads, the always well-dressed Cohen performed with passionate restraint, often kneeling as he clutched the microphone - or when standing, his knees bent inward against each other, as if he would otherwise crumble.
He repeatedly doffed his black hat (which naturally matched his black suit) in courtesy to his three backup singers and six-piece backing band, whose talents were often on display in brief, melodic solos throughout the evening.
Cohen cheered the sold-out crowd performing most of his best known material, like, "Suzanne," "So Long, Marianne," "Bird on a Wire," "First We Take Manhattan" and "Hallelujah," which Jeff Buckley famously covered and which more recently has been covered on, of all things, "American Idol."
Cohen's voice has perhaps settled even deeper into the lower registers as time has past, but it has lost nothing of its powerfulness. A long wait to see him perform again is fitting because Cohen is something of a perfectionist, regularly taking more than a year to finish a song.
His lean, taut songs sounded particularly apt in such a time of economic recession. At one point, Cohen told the crowd he understood that hard times were coming, then drolly adding, "some say even worse than Y2K."
Cohen knows something about economic downturns: He is touring partly because he learned in 2005 that his longtime former manager Kelley Lynch, had misappropriated millions from his retirement fund. In 2006, a Los Angeles court awarded him $9.5 million. It's not believed that he recovered any of it.
Cohen has been widely feted in recent years. When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, Lou Reed said he was among the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters." In the 2005 documentary "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man," which featured a tribute concert to Cohen, Bono called him, speaking for music, "our (Percy Bysshe) Shelley, our (Lord) Byron."
Cohen has already toured Canada, Europe and Australia and will continue playing several dozen North America concerts through the spring. A live CD and DVD "Leonard Cohen: Live in London" is to be released March 31.
He isn't far removed from new work, though. Cohen's last book, "Book of Longing," was released in 2006. His most recent studio album was 2004's "Dear Heather."
The song that most resounded at Cohen's Thursday night performance was his "Anthem," which took on meaning for both his music and the current times.
He both recited the lyrics and sang the song: "Ring the bells that can still ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in."
After ringing the bells for three hours, Cohen sang "Goodnight my darling/ I hope I leave you satisfied" and shortly thereafter - breaking from his graceful poise - skipped off the stage.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen takes to U.S. stage after 15 years, amazes N.Y. audience
- February 22, 2009 by Joshua Klein
NEW YORK—Montreal bard Leonard Cohen has written and recorded many great songs, and influenced many times that number of peers and followers with his spiritual, morose and occasionally carnal poetry and music.
But lately one song towers over the rest of Cohen's considerable oeuvre, and that's "Hallelujah." It has been covered countless times by the likes of Bob Dylan, Bono, John Cale, Rufus Wainwright and, perhaps most famously, Jeff Buckley. It has been heard in TV shows and movies as diverse as "The West Wing" and "Shrek." It has even been interpreted on "American Idol" and England's "The X Factor," the latter leading to a record-breaking U.K. chart hit by fifth season winner Alexandra Burke.
Yet "Hallelujah," it should be noted, isn't some gem from Cohen's late '60s and '70s heyday. It's a track from his relatively unsung later years—1984, to be exact—and is found on an album initially deemed so uncommercial it didn't even warrant an American release.
In keeping with that uncommercial spirit, Cohen retreated from public performances and recording for many years. But after financial setbacks, he began recording again and announced his first U.S. concert tour in 15 years. He performed Thursday at New York City's Beacon Theatre, and is scheduled to perform May 5 at the Chicago Theatre.
Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but Cohen is a patient man. "Hallelujah" reportedly took two years to write and once allegedly spanned 80 verses before he found a way to whittle them down (Cale's influential 1991 version was supposedly crafted from a mere 15 pages of lyrics faxed to him by Cohen). But for the thrilled audience at the Beacon Theatre, Cohen's appearance came not a moment too soon.
Yes, Cohen has written several classics—"Suzanne," "So Long, Marianne," "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" and "Bird on the Wire" among them—but as of late, it's "Hallelujah" that increasingly pulls more people into the fold. It's a cryptic but compelling masterpiece of hopeful melancholy (and oft overlooked sensuality) by a man many may not even know wrote it.
Not that Cohen seemed to mind. Though he was no recluse, the singer/songwriter grew increasingly sanguine on the sidelines in the '80s, and by the '90s he had vanished peacefully to a Buddhist retreat outside Los Angeles, where he was ordained a monk and kept to himself, apparently content to let his legacy speak for itself.
But after five years in seclusion he reportedly emerged only to learn that his legacy had been exploited by a former manager, who left him with just a fraction of his fortune. That's what led him back to work, with new albums (2001's "Ten New Songs" and 2004's "Dear Heather") and the tour.
An icon as influential as Bob Dylan, as cool as Lou Reed and as hip as Tom Waits, Cohen nonetheless got a late start in his career. He was 33 when he released his first album, 1967's "Songs of Leonard Cohen." Now that he's 74, it's unclear how many tours he has left in him.
Ironically, royalties from all those renditions of "Hallelujah," as well as licensing deals to use the song in movies and on TV, probably mean that refilling the coffers is less of a priority for Cohen than it once was. Yet the rare opportunity to see Cohen perform the song himself is not to be passed up, and on the day of the New York show, tickets were going for hundreds of dollars to desperate fans.
Perhaps news that a live CD and DVD of Cohen's 2008 London performance are on their way offered some solace to those shut out, as did the formal announcement of the spring U.S. tour.).
Yet that was likely no substitute for the sight of the man himself, dapper and fleet of foot as he trotted into position to front his ace band through more than two hours of instantly recognizable material.
Like Dylan, Reed and Waits, Cohen is not a conventionally talented vocalist, but he still used his impressive baritone like a master, frequently delivering, on bended knee, each perfectly phrased line with a mix of menace and knowing mirth.
In the end, it's no surprise that an artist of Cohen's caliber should return; each year more acts reunite, most nowhere near his level. What's remarkable is how Cohen has managed to do this minus the stigma of nostalgia. From "Famous Blue Raincoat" to "The Future," his music felt wholly in tune with the here and now. "Dance me to the end of love," he intoned at the show's start, and the crowd followed him at every step.
That the ubiquitous and much-beloved "Hallelujah," which came midway through the show, was (standing ovation or not) far from the evening's highlight said less about the quality of that composition and more about the quality of all those that surrounded it.
One after the other, songs such as "Sisters of Mercy," "Tower of Song," "The Partisan" and "Everybody Knows" reduced the audience to rapt silence, attentive to every nuance of Cohen's voice and the subtle accompaniment of his band and backing singers. Unlike the work of many of his contemporaries, these songs have weathered the passage of time not as relics but as something special, something living and breathing, something almost otherworldly in their austerity and grace.
From the looks on the faces of the people pouring onto the street after the show, to be part of it was a rare privilege.
New York, New York
WELCOME BACK, COHEN
New York Post
- February 21, 2009 by Dan Aquilante
IN music, seeing Leonard Cohen live, and I mean alive, was as thrilling as having spotted an
ivory-billed woodpecker - thought to be extinct - in the swamps of Okefenokee.
The 74-year-old pop legend played his first American concert in years at the Beacon Theatre on Thursday. He played a marathon three-hour, 29-song set that covered all his best known, most loved music.
Cohen looked his age but displayed no frailty, remaining incredibly limber and strong-voiced. His stage manner is intact, but time has tempered his reputation for sternness with humor and modesty.
After a couple of tunes in which he rattled rust out of his deep baritone, he eyed the sold-out house and deadpanned, "Long time since I stood on a New York stage. It was 15 years ago, I was 60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream."
From the music he played at this show, the dream is still sweet. Cohen has a gift for love ballads. He writes about romance, lust and even loss without any sticky sap. There's even poetry in character songs such as "In My Secret Life" when he sings lines like "I smile when I'm angry, I cheat and I lie, I do what I have to, to get by . . . "
But it isn't just about the words or even melodies. Cohen creates worlds within songs as he performs, and the adoring fans at this performance were completely drawn in - especially when he offered his most famous material, including "Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne," and "Hallelujah."
Cohen's show was a surprisingly beautiful musical event. He will try to do it again when he plays a return engagement at Radio City Music Hall on May 16. See him live.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen’s Triumphant Return
- February 20, 2009 by Bill Bradley
Leonard Cohen is the most nimble 74-year-old man I’ve ever seen. Last night, at the renovated Beacon Theater in Manhattan, the Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist danced his way across the first American stage he’d stood on in 15 years. Cohen was even more thrilled to be in New York than the crowd was to see him. Which is saying a lot: people were scalping tickets for over $500 cash outside the theater.
The emotional payload was large for both Cohen and the crowd. Fans were certainly older than your average indie-rock show at the Bowery, but not geriatric by any means. But there were (probably) plenty of people like myself who started listening to Leonard Cohen out of curiosity after hearing the lyrics from Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea” in the early 90s. (“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld,” Kurt Cobain sang.)
Ten musicians took the stage last night (including Cohen), the most peculiar of which were three female back-up singers who, at first glance, looked more like a Motown affectation, but who ended up adding a soulful depth to Cohen’s songs live. Cohen even addressed the current economic turmoil, saying, “Hard times are coming. Some say even worse than Y2K.”
How does a guy who’s back in New York please a crowd that hasn’t seen him in over a decade? He plays some old songs. Some newer ones. Some favorites. Takes an intermission. Skips back on stage. Gets multiple standing ovations and plays for three full hours taking advantage of the wonderful acoustics of the Beacon. Oh, and he introduces and thanks his band members, twice. Bravo, Mr. Cohen. Lovely having you back.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen at the Beacon Theatre
Time Out New York
- February 20, 2009 by Hank Shteamer
Is Leonard Cohen in it for the money? The story broke a few years back that this brooding antihero of modern song was suddenly out millions of dollars, apparently screwed by an ex-manager. He’s on tour now for the first time in 15 years, and it’s been said by some that he’s on the road at age 74 mainly to make ends meet. At the Beacon Theatre last night—so far, the only U.S. show Cohen has booked this time around—the singer did make a passing reference to “hard times” afoot nationwide, but otherwise, there was nothing grim or perfunctory about the show. On the contrary, the three-hour-plus concert—previewed by Sophie Harris in this week’s TONY—was simply one of the most gracious performances I’ve ever had the privilege of attending.
It was surprising, too, in many ways. On record, Cohen can seem ghostly and withdrawn, like a voice without a body. Younger listeners such as myself, who have discovered his music in the past decade or so, have gotten used to thinking of him as a rapturously gloomy force of nature rather than a living performer. So it was truly surreal to witness his ultra-expressive body language last night. As the band struck up the opening tune, “Dance Me to the End of Love,” with most of the attendees still finding their seats—the mob scene outside the Beacon nearly erupted into a riot—Cohen literally bounded on stage. Within a minute, he was on his knees, belting out the song. Beaming and giving effusive thanks, the man projected the demeanor of an improbably worldly lounge singer.
A certain hamminess did pervade the show at first: For one thing, it might have been a little much to call on his female backup singers to perform cartwheels along with the line “…and the white girls dancing.” But gradually, the comic aspects and the somber, reflective aspects of the show became one, and any sense of incongruity fell away. I had the sense watching the performance that previously, I had understood only one side of Cohen—namely the dark one. And this side was on splendid display during songs like “Chelsea Hotel,” “Who by Fire,” “Famous Blue Raincoat” and an utterly riveting near-solo rendition of “Suzanne.” (Yes, all the hits were played.) Throughout the show, the singer plumbed the depths of his incredibly low voice, at one point stretching out the words cold and old until they sounded like Mongolian throat-song.
But amid the foreboding, Cohen also projected an enormously endearing humility, removing his hat and bowing to his backing musicians after each solo. (He capitalized on this by including an almost comically protracted band-introduction segment in both of the night’s two sets.) And moreover, there was something of the comedian about him. As one song ended with the backup singers cooing, “Dum dum-dum-dum-dum,” he pleaded with them in a mock seduction: “Don’t stop.… Please—don’t stop.” In the middle of the first set, he paused for a speech, in which he drolly catalogued the mood-lifting drugs he’d employed in the last several years: “Prozac, Paxil, Ritalin…,” and so forth, all the way down to Extra-Strength Tylenol. Coming back onstage after intermission, he made a goofy production of firing up a chintzy synthesized beat on his keyboard.
In the second set, the show’s various moods all seemed totally integrated. The gritty Western tale of “The Partisan” alongside the black-comic “First We Take Manhattan”; the urban cool of “Boogie Street” (with stirring lead vocals by Cohen’s writing partner, Sharon Robinson) and the erotic lyricism of the spoken-word feature “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” Topping it all off was the exalted mood of “Hallelujah,” featuring a suitably heavenly white lighting scheme—when Cohen knelt this time, it seemed glorious rather than cheesy. At the end of the set (after placing special emphasis on the line “Here’s a man still working for your smile” and thanking the audience for the umpteenth time), the man whom so many view as a prophet of misery left the stage in an unlikely way: skipping like an overjoyed child.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen plays first U.S. concert in 15 years
- February 20, 2009 by Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Folk singer Leonard Cohen skipped onto the stage on Thursday at his first U.S. concert in 15 years, cracking jokes about his advanced age and the lusty themes of some of his hit songs.
The three-hour, six-encore concert at New York's Beacon Theater marked Cohen's first U.S. concert since he stopped touring to become a Buddhist monk, only to be forced back on the road after he lost his retirement savings.
The 74-year-old Canadian, dressed in a black suit and hat, performed hit songs "Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne,' "In My Secret Life," "Hallelujah," "Everybody Knows," and "So Long Marianne," to standing ovations.
Performing the poem "A Thousand Kisses Deep," he paused knowingly on the line: "I'm old but I'm still into that" prompting the crowd to erupt into whoops and applause.
"It's been a long time since I stood up on a stage in New York," he said, quipping that he had been 60 then, "just a kid with a dream."
Cohen has been on tour since May, performing in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
Born in Montreal, he started his musical career in New York, after modest success as a poet and novelist.
He rose to fame in the 1960s with songs about sex, faith and betrayal performed in a deep baritone he once described in a song as "the gift of a golden voice." His best-known song, "Suzanne," was a hit for Judy Collins.
Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
He retreated to a California monastery in the 1990s to study Zen, but "cheerfulness kept breaking through," he told the crowd.
Cohen resurfaced in 2005, claiming that his former manager and lover Kelley Lynch had misappropriated more than $5 million, reducing his retirement account to $150,000.
A Los Angeles court awarded him a $9 million civil judgment, but he has reportedly not been able to collect.
"I think that hard times are coming. Some people say that it's going to be even worse than Y2K," he joked, referring to concerns, which proved unfounded, that a computer glitch would cause devastation at the start of the year 2000.
While the concert was something of a homecoming for Cohen, he often gave the spotlight to his bandmates. His back-up vocalists, including longtime songwriting collaborator Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters, had cameo performances.
On April 2 he will launch a North American tour in Austin, Texas, that will also take in Vancouver, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Quebec City and Ottawa.
He will return to New York on May 16 for a concert at Radio City Music Hall.
In a lengthy thank-you at the end of the concert, Cohen thanked not only his band but also the technicians and "Lisa, who takes care of our hats."
"I want to thank you for the warm hospitality," he told the crowd. "It was a memorable evening, and I won't forget it."
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Live: Nothing On His Tongue But 'Hallelujah'
The Huffington Post
- February 23, 2009 by Jesse Kornbluth
I couldn't blame my wife for her sudden ambivalence when a guy outside the theater offered us $1,000 for each of our front-row balcony seats --- we'd had to get our Leonard Cohen tickets from a scalper, and for what they cost, we could have bought several hundred shares of Citigroup.
A year ago, I wouldn't have given a second's thought about that sidewalk offer. Leonard Cohen appearing on an American stage for the first time in 15 years? No-brainer: we're there. But Cohen was performing at the end of a week when George Soros was saying the financial system had collapsed and there's "no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom." In that world, $2,000 in cash just doesn't drop in every night.
But...Leonard Cohen. Now 74 years old. The author of songs made for tough times. The last time I saw him, five encores.
The impulse to sell passed very quickly.
If you don't care for that near-monotone of a voice or think his songs are uniformly depressing, the high regard I have for Leonard Cohen is as incomprehensible as, say, admiration for Dick Cheney. If you're in the cult of Cohen, however, you know a Cohen appearance is not just a concert, nor can Cohen be reduced to "singer-songwriter." For the faithful, Cohen is more than a musician --- he's our intimate stranger, the poet laureate of our secret lives, our personal bard.
Try this: In my life, women have come and gone, but I've been faithful to Leonard Cohen for 40 years.
I grant that is hyperbolic. But in 1968, when I was in the kindergarten of professional writers, I had a book published by The Viking Press. That season, Viking also published Cohen's second novel, Beautiful Losers. In the ads, our books leaned against one another --- such a small thing, but even the faintest connection brought great pleasure.
I was dazzled and confused and threatened by 'Beautiful Losers'. I went back and read Cohen's first novel, The Favorite Game, which I liked much more. That winter, I got an early copy of his first CD, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and became an enthusiast of his music. And ever since, it's for his music that I've been interested in Cohen.
Why have I never tired of a guy who is, in his songs, mining a very small patch? Because the subject of almost all of Cohen's songs is love, or, more correctly, the "war between the man and the woman" that may take the form of an incurable disease we call love. That strikes me as the most important topic in music (and every other medium), and so, over the years, I've subjected lovers to his CDs. Reactions have varied, and I have slowly, and sometimes painfully, learned that a woman's affection for Cohen does not predict that she'll have long-term affection or understanding for me.
When our kid was a colicky baby, Cohen's was one of two deep bass voices --- George Jones was the other --- who could calm her. My wife, for her part, has endured my praise and admiration for Cohen, read my appreciations of Cohen, even listened to him. Along the way, she's collected recordings of "Hallelujah" ---- especially Rufus Wainwright and kd lang and Jeff Buckley. But how do you prepare someone for a three-hour-plus immersion in the man himself?
Cohen made it easy. It's not often said about him, but he's a great showman. And at the Beacon Theater, he put on a great show.
He wore a sharp black suit, gray shirt, and black patent leather shoes, and topped off that boulevardier outfit with a black fedora; if he'd had a cane, he would surely have twirled it. Old? Frail? Spry? None of the above. The adjective to describe Cohen is timeless. He's a ladies' man who will be attractive to women of every age until he takes his final breath --- and he knows it.
Cohen dropped to his knees for some songs. For others, he stood stock-still, knees touching and feet apart, like the young Frank Sinatra. When he wasn't singing, he gave his full attention to whoever had the spotlight. That wasn't just showmanship. His three backup singers and the members of his band executed at such a high level the concert was like watching a beautiful machine --- from the inside. You had to watch every little thing because small bursts of theatricality went off like fireworks at unexpected moments: acrobatics from the backup singers, Manet lighting on the Spanish guitarist.
Oh, the songs. All the greatest hits, served up so you could see why this is, with Dylan's, the most significant North American catalog of the last half-century. As a writer, no one's more audience-friendly than Cohen; his lines are short, declarative, essential. And --- something else rarely noted --- he can be very funny, both in his songwriting ("You told me again you preferred handsome men/but for me you would make an exception") and his banter ("Hard times are coming. Some people say it will be worse than Y2K.")
This concert and Cohen's tour are only happening because Cohen's longtime manager had ripped him off for more than $5 million, leaving him with only $150,000 to show for four decades of recording and touring. "That person did the world a favor," my wife said afterward. Want proof? Watch the DVD of the concert, hear the live CD. See if, as Cohen says, a mature, sophisticated cheerfulness doesn't keep breaking through.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen Plays First U.S. Show in 15 Years
- February 20, 2009 by William Goodman (Photo: Joe Kohen (WireImage.com))
The 74-year-old "Hallelujah" songwriter returns to New York City for a three-hour set packed with vitality and grace.
By the end of his first U.S. show in more than 15 years, Leonard Cohen proved that not only is he still the king of cool, but even at 74 years old, he's also king of the live performance.
The venerated musician/novelist/poet, best known for the songs "Hallelujah" and "Suzanne," filled New York City's Beacon Theatre Thursday night with a dazzling three-hour show that included six encores and more than a dozen standing ovations. Outside, fans were offering upwards of $700 for a single balcony ticket.
Fronting a nine-piece band, Cohen touched on his entire catalogue. And he did so with a refreshing "cheerfulness," as he put it, that "kept breaking through" the darkness of his well documented battle with depression. Cohen's upbeat demeanor only added to the poignancy of his carefully wrought lyrics of isolation and lost love.
He spryly crossed the stage on tunes like "Everybody Knows," dramatically dropping to one knee and tipping his black fedora (which matched his Dick Tracy-style suit) to signal a solo from Barcelona-based guitarist Javier Mas, whose work -- especially on 1974's "Who By Fire" -- was the show's second star.
On "Chelsea Hotel," the Montreal-born Cohen flashed a suave smirk, garnering laughs and woops with his sexual lyrics about getting "head on the unmade bed."
His low groan was an ever-present highlight of the night. On "Suzanne," a tribute to an artistic lover from his '67 debut, the combination of Cohen's early folk songwriting and seductive vocal phrasing provided a truly transcendent moment. And on "Hallelujah," a true American classic that has been covered by hundreds of artists from Jeff Buckley to American Idol's Jason Castro, Cohen's persona was at its most powerful as he kneeled before the audience in song and prayer.
But Cohen wasn't the night's only star. Each band member was a virtuoso in their own right, combining their individual mastery into a seductive fusion of jazz, cabaret and blues. Cohen reminded the audience of their prowess, introducing each -- including his longtime musical collaborator and life partner Sharon Robinson, who sang lead on "Boogie Street" -- with titles like "architect of arpeggio" or "master of direction."
"I hear hard times are coming -- it'll be worse than Y2K," Cohen cracked at one point, bringing the crowd to laughter. But his financial woes are no joke: Cohen is touring in part because his former manager, Kelley Lynch, misappropriated millions from his retirement, while he was holed up in a SoCal Buddhist sanctuary for five years. Cohen was subsequently rewarded $9.5 million by a Los Angeles court, but has so far been unable to collect.
If his finances are the reason he's emerged from retirement for a just-announced U.S. tour (see complete dates here), all 2,800 fans at the sold-out show last night owe Lynch a drink. Cohen is not to be missed -- his show is a mesmerizing testament to his legend.
New York, New York
Leonard Cohen, Live From The Beacon Theatre
- February 26, 2009 by Bob Boilen (Photo: Avi Gerver)
First, this concert is historic and a knockout. Leonard Cohen is a brilliant poet and songwriter. Second, Cohen may be coming to a town near you — details are in this recent blog post. If you have a chance to see him live, don't pass it up.
At 74, Cohen is no spring chicken. That said, his voice was in fine form and his stage presence is so graceful and passionate that you may rethink all those other great shows you've seen by younger artists.
This concert, from the gorgeous Beacon Theatre in Manhattan, finds Cohen revisiting a body of work that's more than 40 years deep and full of songs that have inspired every generation of songwriters since: "Dance Me to the End of Love," "Bird on a Wire," "Chelsea Hotel," "Sisters of Mercy," "Suzanne," "Hallelujah," "I'm Your Man," "Famous Blue Raincoat."
Cohen performs these songs with a talented band of musicians, including his collaborator and singer Sharon Robinson, as well as his other backup vocalists in The Webb Sisters. Here's the lineup:
Roscoe Beck, musical director, electric bass, stand-up bass, background vocals
Rafael Bernardo Gayol, drums and percussion
Neil Larsen, keyboards
Dino Soldo, wind instruments, harmonica, keyboard, and background vocals
Bob Metzger, lead guitar, pedal steel guitar
Javier Mas, banduria, laud, archilaud, 12-string guitar
Of these musicians, Mas is the one that Leonard Cohen would often get down on one knee and serenade — when he's not stopping to listen. Mas' performance on a variety of stringed instruments gave Cohen's sound a European flavor, and reminded me at times of a sound I heard in Portugal, called Fado. Fado is a bittersweet style music filled with longing and yearning. I heard it in Leonard Cohen's music while watching him perform at the Beacon Theatre, and it was wonderful to know that, at 74, he's still injecting new life into his old classics.
Special thanks to MSG Entertainment and the Beacon Theatre
New York, New York
Concert Review: Leonard Cohen at the Beacon Theatre, NYC, 2/19/09
Conceit or modesty aside, even the most accomplished and prolific songwriters could seldom attest to having created a genuine masterpiece. Leonard Cohen is of the rare few who can, of course, but last Thursday night at the Beacon Theatre it was abundantly clear that he could lay claim to far more than one.
Taking the stage for his first American concert in fifteen years, Cohen received a reverent welcome by the sold-out audience, its applause overlapping the opening bars of “Dance Me To The End of Love.” Dressed to the nines in a dark suit with bolo tie and fedora, the 74-year-old bard cut a distinguished figure, his sophic disposition tempered by a laconic, often self-mocking sense of humor.
What Cohen imparted most, though, was a selfless commitment to his songs. After a mirthful trip through “The Future” — during which he pirouetted as the ominous “white man dancin’” — and having pled his case on “Ain’t No Cure For Love,” he dropped to his knees at the start of “Bird On The Wire,” turning out a truly stunning rendition that soon saw him singing at full stride. Likewise, he enlivened an avalanche of imagery and delicate melodies on “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” his rich voice at times recalling the lissome timbre of his younger days.
The esteem to which Cohen paid his compositions extended to his superb 9-piece band. Each time a musician soloed — as when guitarist Javier Mas played a gorgeous, flamenco-styled prelude to “Who By Fire?” — or when a background vocalist assumed a leading role — as did long-time collaborator Sharon Robinson on a soulful version of “Boogie Street” — Cohen stood aside in deference, his hat held to his chest, his face betraying an appreciative smile.
The ultimate pleasure and privilege, however, lay in listening to Cohen. With the conviction of one who’d labored more in composing these works than most others could’ve otherwise endured, he stepped into each song — from the understated grandeur of “The Gypsy’s Wife” and “Famous Blue Raincoat” to the synthesized thrust of “First We Take Manhattan” — and rendered each one with rich perception. He recited “A Thousand Kisses Deep” as written in Book of Longing (as opposed to singing the version from Ten New Songs), drawing out evocative lines and phrases in cadenced tones. And at his most transcendent, Cohen surrendered “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah” to those fortunate enough to have attended — to those who knew they’d witnessed something very special. Now, everybody knows.
New York, New York
Blogs and Other Fan Reports
Blog - Grombleberries: Redefining the American Dream - "Sunday, March 1, 2009
Leonard Cohen / NYC concert"
More than two weeks after I went to Leonard Cohen's first U.S. show I'm STILL in awe. It was literally the best I've ever seen, and the sound in the newly-renovated Beacon Theatre was amazing. It was ridiculous -- Cohen was enchanting and his backing band were total virtuosos...
Blog - BrooklynVegan - "Leonard Cohen - 2009 Tour Dates & Beacon Theater setlist"
Leonard is such a gentleman - especially when it came to introducing each and every person that made the show possible, including all those on stage with him. I don't think I ever experienced so many standing ovations during the course of one show...
Blog - The Sky Report - "Live Review
LEONARD COHEN, Beacon Theatre"
Cohen’s presence and performance was anything but haunted. He was joyous. He was joyous in his scant, anecdotal rapport with the crowd. He was joyous in paying homage to his band, member by descriptive member, twice…. And he was joyous in literally skipping off the stage between encore, between encore, between encore...
Blog - KR CONNECT - "The great Mr. Cohen "
For me the power of Cohen's lyrics and the passionate perfection of the orchestra, the incredible harmonies and the lived in voice combined to make it the best night of 2009 so far...
Check out the wondeful photos of professional photographer Chris Owyoung.
Blog - Heck Of A Guy - "Leonard Cohen New York Concert Exquisite"
It was spectacular.
Blog - The 'FUV Blog - "Leonard Cohen at the Beacon"
It was a magical, nearly 3 hour show, that still has me flying in it’s glory...
Blog - Gotham Acme - "Thoughts Upon Seeing Leonard Cohen at the Beacon Theatre"
If Leonard Cohen were American and not Canadian, we would be using phrases like “National Treasure” to describe him...
Photographer Ryan Muir shares his fantastic photos. Click here to have a look.
Discuss the tour and read fan reviews on The Leonard Cohen Forum and in French on the Leonard Cohen Forum (French site).
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