Archive for the ‘Leonard Cohen in London’ Category

Leonard Cohen in London: Hallelujah!

July 18, 2008
Death-bed scene: “Well, Dad, that’s the money sorted out: you seem to have blown most of it on live music. As a matter of interest, what were your top five gigs?”

I think I’d have to include last night’s London leg of the Leonard Cohen tour at the O2 (aka Millennium Dome). The septuagenarian charmer delivered almost three hours of intense beauty, deep joy and not a little glee.

For the assembled 20,000, it was a predictably reverential (if unexpectedly intimate), celebration of a major, rarely seen, talent.

The setlist (below) was remarkable, Zeitgeist-marking signature songs succeeding each other, relentlessly. Cohen’s performance was energetic, engaged, generous. His singing made you suspect that maybe he really does have the gift of a golden voice after all. His spoken renditions, particularly of A Thousand Kisses Deep, were deeply moving.

What a writer! What a performer! What a charismatic, inspirational man.

Band – 6 plus 3 vocalists – were accomplished accomplices. Horn-man Dino Soldo was particularly impressive. Sound quality was the best I’ve heard at an amplified gig. Staging, lighting, vision/mixing on big screens were all benchmark quality.

I’d waited many years to see Leonard, the second best writer/performer of the rock era. It was well worth the wait.

SETLIST (approximate):

1. Dance Me to the End of Love
2. The Future
3. Ain’t No Cure for Love
4. Bird on a Wire
5. Everybody Knows
6. In My Secret Life
7. Who by Fire
8. Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye
9. Anthem
10. Tower of Song
11. Suzanne
12. The Gypsy’s Wife
13. Boogie Street
14. Hallelujah
15. Democracy
16. I’m Your Man
17. Take This Waltz
18. First We Take Manhattan
19. Sisters of Mercy
20. If It Be Your Will
21. A Thousand Kisses Deep
22. So Long, Marianne
23. Closing Time
24. I Tried to Leave You
25. Whither Thou Goest

A perfect 10, then?

Not quite. A churl could point to the slight unevenness of the setlist: it flagged a bit towards the end of the second half. The finales were underwhelming – the welcome Webb Sisters duet was wrongly positioned; Closing Time is dramatically and melodically too weak to close a show.

And there was an ever-present threat that the show might descend into mainstream showbiz hoopla – Leonard’s frequent name-checking of the band palled early; he was far too nice to the assembled hordes – few would have deserved his compliments; and you sensed that the “spontaneous” jokes had been the same at most gigs on the tour.

For most performers, all this would have been a turn-off. For Leonard, I can make an exception.

Gerry Smith