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Leonard Cohen – O2 Arena Sept 16th 2013: the one-man genre triumphs

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen – O2 Arena Sunday September 16th 2013

Songs of innocence and experience… and love with the occasional edge of lust: 3 hours with seven encores, every word he wrote himself; the one-man genre that is the extraordinary Leonard Cohen still had his delighted audience asking for more.

Cohen is a Class Act: gracious and grateful both to his audience and especially to the superb group of musician and singer friends he has surrounded himself with. There was a valedictory spirit in the air when he appositely remarked at 78 years of age that there was no way of telling “when or if we will meet again my friends”. And then with the ironic, self-mocking counterpoint that marks both his sense of humour and a genuine-sounding humility, he defused the sentimental undertones of the remark with “I’m not ready yet to hang up my boxing gloves….but I now where the hook is.”

Fedora-hatted this angular, iconic figure, still full of vital, jerkily energetic and potent physicality; crouched and knelt, skipped and boxer-stanced his way through most of his extraordinarily rich catalogue of poetic songs and musical poems with a freshness it was a privilege to see and a warmly satisfying experience to hear – to share.

His words – eloquent, articulate, always heartfelt, sometimes profound – insinuated themselves into the private spaces of our inner thoughts and feelings borne on melodies and rhythms shamelessly infectious but never dull. Exploiting to the full the rhythmic flexibility of a song’s stretched vowels but retaining a semblance of poetic metre, a Cohen rendition is part poem, part song – but all enjoyment. Ideas – playful and scabrous; affectionate and mockingly angry; romantic and wistful – elicit an inward nod of recognition and approval that stills cynicism and silences the sceptic. The Trinity that comprises the Cohen phenomenon, after the words and the music – is a voice to die for: deep, sonorous, expressive; and carrying however quietly used. This is a voice you can’t doubt when it speaks of love, and loss, and life.

Often striking an almost Sinatra-like pose (maybe it’s the Fedora) Cohen captures that sense of an easy, unforced cool we can neither define nor miss. Half way through the second set a voice rang out across the O2 Arena “thank you for an evening of intelligent songs that matter.” Embarrassing but true.

I’m not sure of his remaining tour plans or any future projects. But as one who was a mildly curious, occasional listener before last night, if you get a chance to see this man – don’t miss it. We have not seen his like for the last 40 years and I rather think, may not ever again. The man delivers: more than we have a right to expect; and with an authenticity and passion it was privilege to share.

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