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Leonard Cohen delights

25/Nov/2010

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He's still got it. He's still got it.

AGE does not exist at a Leonard Cohen concert.

On the last night of his Australian tour, it was incredible to see a mix of baby boomers right through to Generation Y - still kids - streaming into NiB Stadium (Perth Oval) clutching their tickets like their very life depended on it.

Perhaps they did.

Cohen’s concerts are frequently referred to as religious or spiritual experiences, and tonight the crowd worshipped at the altar of the 76-year-old music and literary legend.

Walking on to stage in a dapper suit, with his now-trademark fedora pulled low, Cohen did not for a minute look like a man 16 years past retirement age.

Backed by his eight-piece band, he opened with the one-two punch of To The End Of Love and The Future, revealing the dichotomy that is a Leonard Cohen show.

Love and death are constantly intertwined in his lyrics and so it was in his live show, with his rich baritone informing The Future with a sense of unrelenting dread that kept the audience hanging off his every word.

The thing about Leonard Cohen that becomes instantly apparent live is that while he is not a singer, he can sing the hell out of a song.

He would probably admit that his range is limited and he is certainly no great vocalist in the technical sense, but music is rarely if ever about technical brilliance.

More so, it is about soul and personality, elements that come through in phrasing and the way songs are sung.

The best example of this on a surprisingly chilly late-spring night was Cohen’s rendition of his classic Hallelujah, which came late in the second set.

Made famous by the departed Jeff Buckley, Cohen simply cannot match Buckley’s vocal histrionics, so he does not try.

Instead, he simply claims ownership of a song that was always his to begin with, and his more-subdued version of the song wipes the floor with Buckley’s version.

Leaving aside the simple brilliance of Cohen, his backing band must also be applauded for what was a flawless set.

Cohen was certainly ready to applaud them, heaping plaudits on them in each of the four encores.

It must also be said that for someone who makes entirely serious music, Cohen has a wicked sense of humour.

Whether it was playing I Tried To Leave You for his fourth encore - a song he started with more than a wink and a nod towards the crowd - or his rousing, hilarious introduction of drummer Rafael Gayol, which saw the drummer laying it down, smothering it with a pillow, going to jail, converting to Judaism and spending his remaining days in a halfway house for destroyed vegetarians, he was utterly sincere and utterly hilarious.

It’s not often you get to see a genius at work - a genius that is prepared to cast off your preconceived notions of what a genius should be or should do.

Perth, we are very lucky to have seen this man at work. If there’s one thing left to be said, it is certainly that Leonard Cohen is our man.

LEONARD COHEN
NIB STADIUM (Perth Oval)
Wednesday, November 24
Review by Liam Ducey


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What everyone else is thinking

Robyn Morris

26/11/2010

Leonard Cohen was absolutely magic. His back up singers and band flawless. What ruined the night was the very limited and very expensive range of all mid strength alcohol. For gods sake, it was a Leonard Cohen concert, not a heavy metal or screamo rage. The vast majority of the audience were well over 40, well dressed and looked to be responsible enough to drink with out big brother baby sitter insinuating that they may get out of control if they are allowed full strength alcohol.

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