Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Managed at short-notice and unexpectedly to get a ticket for this gig. Leonard Cohen is not one of the artists I'd previously list in my most admired or favourites but great to get a ticket for these sell-out theatre shows in Manchester (rest of summer tour is stadia or festivals) and even better to see a legendary artist and understand why he is a legend.

Leonard was backed by a nine-piece band - three singers, keyboards, drums, bass, saxophone/'instrument of wind' and two guitarists - all suited and booted in black (good to see a drummer with a tie and waistcoat). They were clearly exceptional musicians but their role was to provide a subtle backdrop to his voice and to the lyrics. Some of Leonard's backing music, particularly on latter career albums, does tend towards the muzak/smooth end of the spectrum; and this was reproduced (with class) here. But purposely to foreground Leonard's rich voice and those distinctive lyrics. Dressed in a charcoal grey suit and with a brimmed hat, he appeared humbled by the rapturous reception he met - his entrance, after an absence from the UK of 15 years, was of course met with a standing ovation.

The revelation that followed (to me) was then what a performer he is and just how funny he is. In a set that lasted three hours (including a "fifteen to seventeen minute" break), he was witty, self-deprecating and humble in his banter, and truly delivered his songs. Most were performed with his body tensed, slightly hunched, knees bent and cupping his hands around the microphone intently. Despite his years, the voice was captivating.

Obviously he was playing to a crowd on his side - standing ovations at every stage exit/entrance, shouts of encouragement and love throughout - but he appeared genuinely moved by this. To me the highlights were when he kept it simple like Tower of Song: just him, a drum machine, some swirls on the Hammond B3 and the three backing singers. I overheard conversations in the interval about memories of seeing him "in Croydon in 1972". This was another performance that people will be remembering in 36 years' time. Worth going out of your way to see on his summer travels if you have deep pockets.

Dance Me To the End of Love
The Future
Ain't No Cure For Love
Bird on a Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
- interval -
Tower of Song
The Gypsy's Wife
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep
Take This Waltz
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
That Don't Make It Junk
If It Be Your Will
Closing Time
I Tried To Leave You

Leonard Cohen
Songs of Love and Hate [BUY]

Leonard Cohen
I'm Your Man [BUY]

Leonard Cohen
The Future [BUY]

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