The inimitable Mr Leonard Cohen

Leonard-Cohen--002Mr Cohen’s latest concert at the 02 Arena on Friday demonstrated that at 79 his capabilities are undiminished and that he is still able to hold 20,000 people in the palm of his hand for three hours.

We suspect that his frequently dropping to his knees may have more to do with their being lyric sheets stuck to the stage than undue supplication but if there are signs of infirmity this is as good as we could get (and we were in the front ten rows center stage).

The secret of his success is a great back catalogue and a band that changes as little as the rendition of the songs.

Indeed the rendition of “My Will” by the Webb Sisters and the magnificent performance of Alexander Leaving by Sharon Robinson are my two highlights of the second half.

Roscoe Beck lead solidly and Javier Mas and Neil Larsen were outstanding among the Unified Heart Touring Band.

But this show is about Leonard Cohen

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

If that’s the epitaph he wants to give himself in “Going Home” it does for me. As the song says “he doesn’t need a vision” and Cohen is moving into the final phase of his life in pretty good spirits. “Old Ideas” dominated the set and demanded most from the audience. The back catalogue allowed us to sit back and relive our memories of when we first listened to the great statements “Suzanne”, “Bird on a Wire”, “Marianne” and “Hallelujah”.

It is difficult for me to write dispassionately about this man’s music. It has touched me all my adult life from my days at University till now. His spirit will hopefully be on earth a few years more guiding me into my retiring years.

If you don’t know the man’s music, I advise you to become acquainted with it. If you get the chance to see him in concert go. His is a gift that articulates a profound understanding of humanity and his songs probe the human condition as only he, Dylan , Cash and perhaps Paul Simon have done within his idiom.

We are greatly blessed in London, to have these great Americans performing to us in their later years. Cash is no more but the rest live on, as do Brian Wilson and Lou Reed. Of the younger generation only David Byrne can really hold a candle to these great Americans of the sixties.

For Cohen the concert is a conversation with the audience, the band a thing of wonder that he listens to with astonishment throughout the set. On Friday night, he turned the O2 into a little jazz club that could have been in New York, Montreal or London – we were his guests.

Above all others, Tower of Song, with which he started the second part of the show, exemplifies his self-deprecation. The gags surrounding his keyboard skills never fail, it is the fulcrum of the set that moves us from the dark brooding of the first half’s introspection to the joyous coinclusion of the show’s final hour.

I am quite sure that everyone at the 02 returned home on Friday night having been deeply moved by the occasion.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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6 Responses to The inimitable Mr Leonard Cohen

  1. helenoe says:

    A pleasure to read your review! Thanks! By the way, I’ve seen videos of Cohen concerts taken from the side, up in the nosebleed seats, giving a full view of the stage, and there’s nothing there (no lyric sheets, no set list) except for a very large clock propped against the back of one of the monitors. I hope Mr. Cohen will continue to “give… everything we’ve got” for a good many years yet to come

  2. Con Keating says:

    I did not see you Henry – I have some very fond memories of his work from my later university days in the 1960s – we used to call these: Songs to slit your throat to.

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