Leonard Cohen - O2 Arena, London

Something in my heart was ready to sink as I took my seat in the O2 arena. Every time you go to see a living legend there is great potential for seeing them go through the motions, trying to rekindle some youthful flame but really only replenishing their bank account. In Leonard Cohen's case, the odds were stacked against him - his reputation as a live performer has been oft debated and his recent débâcle with accountants have left him in dire financial straits. As I was telling myself to not expect too much, Cohen entered the stage prancing around in circles like a youthful mountain goat, clad in a worn-out suit and fedora. Suddenly all movement in his body ceased as he approached the microphone to launch himself into Dance Me To The End of Love. All doubts immediately dissipate as you realise his voice is not shot to pieces but truly still vibrating with sorrow and loss. The basses are as fully formed as they were on his seminal 90s release, The Future, from which he sings the title track. Although he can't really hit the highest parts of That's No Way To Say Goodbye, he makes full use of his female backing vocalists (co-writer Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters) to re-arrange it to his advantage. His lower range however seems to have taken on a new quality with time, underlying the broken despair that permeates so many of his lyrics.

A lot of his 80s back catalogue was marred in my mind by some dreadful production. Tonight however, synths are very much relegated to the sidelines as the Hammond organ and the acoustic tones of Javier Mas' Banduria give the songs new clothes for Cohen's ceremony, redeeming the likes of Ain't No Cure For Love and Dance Me to The End of Love. After a short break, Cohen takes back to the stage for Tower of Song and reels off another clutch of gems from his 60s releases, such as Suzanne, Chelsea Hotel no. 2 and The Partisan which gets the greatest applause of the night so far. Hallelujah follows with Cohen reclaiming it from Buckley ethereal version, to his own homage to his art and the absurdity of life. The concert stretches on and on, with more and more encores, as Famous Blue Raincoat, So Long Marianne and Democracy enter the fray. Stretching on for the best part of three hours, Cohen ignores the old adage to leave your audience wanting more - but with such a display of brilliant songwriting who could possibly complain?

Photo by Jonl1973

Category Gig Review

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