Monday, June 30, 2008

Leonard Cohen at IMMA - 15th June 2008

A truly epic gig. The portents were not good: showery weather; seats mostly on the same level spread over a greedily wide area; and the feeling that maybe Cohen’s best days were behind him. Surely at 73 he would just be going through the motions.

But the genial old boy confounded my pessimism and put on an unforgettable show – sustaining the power and polish for nearly three hours. He received maximum support from a multi-dimensional band, and a trio of angels on backing vocals. As if the foxy and talented Webb Sisters weren’t enough, we had Sharon Robinson lending a voice also. She has co-written a host of Cohen’s songs (“A Thousand Kisses Deep” , “In My Secret Life”, “Everybody Knows” etc.) - and she added texture and colour to his renditions of these classics.

The backdrop was sensational, ragged clouds, the Wellington Monument, and the darkling sky provided the canvas on which Cohen painted his masterpieces. The sound also helped – it was pellucidly clear and plenty loud. And the alienating layout of the seats was offset by the two giant screens on either side of the stage. This allowed us to catch every nuance of Cohen’s performance and plenty of closeups of his twinkling eyes – and they twinkled a lot as he basked in his rapturous reception.

I have never been a supporter of the view that Cohen is a miserabilist. He is acerbic and sardonic for sure, and occasionally ruefully reflective, but he’s also a great celebrator of life and especially love. “There Ain’t No Cure for Love” was one of the early highlights. And his acerbic side comes out with “Democracy” (“democracy is coming to the USA”) which got one of the biggest cheers of the night.

He seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly and doffed his fedora in a courtly bow to the audience after each song. He also regularly introduced his band and stepped back from time to time to allow them the limelight.

I fear we shall not see his like again.