“From Kent where we are not” – Leonard Cohen’s Wembley Arena Show

They are from Kent, where we are not

So Cohen introduced the Webb sisters – Hattie and Charlie, who have grown in vocal stature since Cohen was last seen here and now dwarf the considerable talent of Sharon Robinson.

The three hour show on Sunday (and by all accounts Saturday) was a triumph but “where we were not” was the balmy hoplands of England‘s garden. We were left wondering how many hapless punters paying upwards of £100 a ticket had not got the news that the gig had been switched and were struggling homeward or stuck in a pre-ordered hotel with no Cohen and no explanation.

An explanation was due and none was forthcoming, just some humorous jests about hands “not lined or calloused”. No apology is real unless it is accompanied by an explanation and no explanation for the change of venue, the repurchase of tickets or the hour long queue at the box-office was forthcoming.

But on to lighter matters; the show was dominated by its central section featuring five of the songs on Cohen’s new album “old ideas”. The peerless musicianship on display by all (other than Cohen when he took to guitar) ensured that we could concentrate on Cohen’s voice and performance. Neither seem to be showing any sign of withering with old age, indeed Cohen like a vintage port, seems to improve the dustier and grimmer his bottle seems.

If you want to see it for yourslelf- try this – “there is a crack in everything- that’s how the light gets in” (Anthem)

The sound quality where we were sitting -close to the stage – was so good and the instruments so well mixed that it was as if we were listening to chamber music played acoustically. Modern technology often emasculates a gig but on this occasion , the digital precision of the mix allowed us to pick out every note perfect performance. Thanks to the man called Pants for this!

Cohen spent much of the gig on his knees, sometimes in a foetal position, sometimes  in a gesture of reverence to his musicians. There is a deal of hamming about all this and he treads a fine line between contrition ,penitence and self-parody. What exactly Cohen has to be contrite about we never quite know, but his dark secrets play well against the angelic sweetness of the Webbs.

A word too about costume. The business suits donned by all are a major feature of the show. We were sitting close to the Webbs, who apart from the cartwheels early on, did good impressions of hotel receptionists. Cohen’s mexican drummer, Rafael Gayol, managed to play for three hours without taking off his jacket and tie (which gives you an idea of the control in his performance).

Neil Larsen Cohen’s pianist , who spurned the hat and grey suit routine, has established the happy manner of a middle manager. He only strayed upfront once to play accordion of “Take this Waltz” but his work on the Hammond B3 organ is at the front of the mix and informs most of the set with a sixties overlay. This may be oneties technology but the sound is rooted in the 60s and 70s.

Together “the Unified Heart” as the band are referred to, come together around the guitars of Mitch Watkins and Javier Mas, the violin of the Moldovan youngster (whose name I missed) and in particular the immaculate bass and leadership of Roscoe Beck.  They carry a three hour set by continually grabbing us and giving Cohen the chance to wind himself up for the next impassioned exhortation.

An audience ranging from kids to coffin dodgers sat in respectful silence till the dam broke in a series of crashing encores, starting with Marianne and ending with “Save your last dance for me”. By the time Cohen had finished it was 11.30pm.

By the looks of it, the majority of those wending their way home had long-since given up work, but not on life. At 78, Cohen appears to be getting his second wind.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in Leonard Cohen, Music, Olympics 2012 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “From Kent where we are not” – Leonard Cohen’s Wembley Arena Show

  1. Simon Lawrence says:

    Henry – superb blog. The best I could manage as I headed off to Wembley Park Tube Station was “WOW!”. My considered view, having had the benefit of a good night’s sleep, is “WOW!”. The only thing lacking for me was a decent Triangle player.

  2. As you are able to see you’ll find approaches to get a car loan even when
    you have a bad credit score bluehost coupon 2.95 since 2007 olive has removed 18 loans totaling 8,600 costing 6,354 in interest alone – that’s 1,000 more than her annual pension.

Leave a Reply