Thursday, April 23, 2009

Leonard Cohen

Upon the heels of many favourable reviews, I awaited in eager anticipation for my night with Leonard Cohen, especially after listening to The Collection and watching Jian’s interview:

Cohen himself was simply amazing, especially at 74: he shuffled and skipped across the stage, and spent much time on his knees serenading instruments and phantom lovers. His kind disposition shone through, addressing the crowd as friends and displaying genuine appreciation at the vigorous applause; furthermore, he employed his dry wit eliciting hearty laughs from the audience, e.g. asking the singers to keep singing at the end of In my Secret Life and ending with I Tried to Leave You. Cohen remains so cognisant of the human condition: he commented on how fortunate we are to gather when suffering’s so prevalent in the world. Whenever he recited lyrics he left many with goosebumps and tingles — A Thousand Kisses Deep still resounds within me.

Cohen remains a reluctant star, perhaps the reason he surrounded himself with so many great musicians to whom he repeatedly doffed his hat. Javier Mas, who met Cohen via Mas’s tribute Acordes Con Leonard Cohen, astounded audiences on the laud, bandurria, and guitar. Mas is an innovative musician who enjoys jamming with diverse instrumentalists, such as tabla player, Prabhu Edouard (reminiscent of Béla Fleck and Sandip Burman). 

Neil Larsen tactfully interwove his ghostly reverberations through most songs, at times hardly noticeable, but on Hallelujah he broke out with great flair. I really enjoyed Roscoe Beck’s bump and slide technique on the upright bass. Sharon Robinson filled the arena with her incredible voice and sensitive vibrato, especially on Boogie Street. (Here’s a great interview with Sharon). The Webb Sisters also amazed with their sweet harmonies and gave a spine-tingling performance of If it be your Will. I thought Dino Soldo was best on the harmonica, but appreciated his sensitivity on other songs. Bob Metzger and Rafael Bernardo Gayol did a good job holding it all together.

In the end one can only wonder at Cohen: his extensive catalogue, his sensitive interpretation of the human condition, his ability to capture a scene in a song, and the fact that he has performed over one hundred times this year and plans on doing another hundred. If you are unable to see him live purchase Live in London; this production does a good job of capturing the magic of his performance (as much as the medium can).

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