I saw Leonard Cohen play at the Beacon theatre last Thursdaynight in New York.It was one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. But fear not--soon, you'llhave a chance to see him play too. The world's coolest septuagenarian Jewishchansonnier starts a tour April 19. Here's why you should buy a ticket:
1. The Songs
I'm a pretty big Cohen fan and even I was surprised at theamount of gems the dude kept pulling from his catalogue: "Bird On AWire," "Suzanne," "Hallelujah," "First We TakeManhattan," and on and on. Trust me, even if you don't know the songs byname, you'll recognize them when you hear them (perhaps from a famous coverversion--e.g., Jeff Buckley's haunting take on "Hallelujah"). Theonly problem was that since the concert was three hours long, and Cohen wasn'tmessing around with deep cuts, it was hard to find a good moment for a bathroombreak. But the music was worth the small amount of bladder discomfort.
2. The Voice
Despite saying in "Tower Of Song"that he was born with the gift of a golden voice, Cohen was never what youwould call a technically great singer. I guess spending years in a monastery(as Cohen did) is good for the throat, because, to my ears, his voice soundedeven better in person than he did on his most recent album, 2004's Dear Heather. It's still a husky croak,but it's a strong croak, and one that Cohen is completely in control of,whether he's intoning solemnly on "The Partisan" or wryly leering on"I'm Your Man."
3. The Presence
Especially on his early records, Cohen can come off as thekind of guy that makes a mortician look like a glee club captain. Live though,he's a humorous, sardonic figure, joking about the different anti-depressantshe's tried and skipping off-stage before being called back for encores. Withoutthe occasional levity, the often downcast material might have felt oppressive.It didn't.
Dude rocks a fedora better than Bogart.
5. The Back-up Singers
Cohen was joined by three backing vocalists. One, SharonRobinson, has been singing with him for years. She's got a smoky, forcefulvoice and did well with her solo spot on "Boogie Street." She's aided by theWebb sisters, Charley and Hattie. They sing like a dream, clear and high in closeharmony. One of them played the harp. They both played guitar. And early on inthe show, they did a cartwheel in unison. I wish I could've seen theiraudition.
Okay, Dino Soldo's sax solos often sounded like the kind ofthing you'd hear playing over a softcore porn luuurve scene (or so I'm told),but aside from him, the six instrumentalists backing Cohen sounded like thecoolest member's only night club band you'd ever hear. Their playing wassensitive and finely detailed, with special props going to Javier Mas (on abunch of stringed instruments whose names I don't know), and Neil Larsen'sversatile organ and keyboard accompaniment.
7. The Truth
When Leonard Cohen sang, I felt like he was telling thetruth. We could all use a little more of that.
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