By Roger Childs
Friends, we’re going to give you everything we’ve got! Leonard Cohen
A Towering Figure in The Tower of Song
His output of top quality numbers over the years has been prolific; his concerts have always been memorable occasions and some of his best known numbers, such as Halleluyah, Bird on a Wire and Suzanne, have been sung by many famous artists.
This week in Wellington he performed two concerts to rapturous audiences. It was a memorable mix of old favourites and recent numbers with quality support vocalists and highly skilled instrumentalists.
Surviving the ups and downs of being a star
Leonard Cohen is one of Canada’s most famous sons. As well as being a renowned songwriter and performer, he has been a poet, novelist, social philosopher and revolutionary, and has endured the battles with smoking, alcohol and drugs that have beset so many artists in the music industry.
However he has come out the other side, and in his early seventies launched a comeback concert with a stellar performance in London in 2009. This was a resounding success which has been repeated world-wide.
In this his third visit to New Zealand, the 2013 concerts retain all the ingredients that made London such a triumph.
A winning formula
The two Leonard Cohen performances this week were superb. This is a man who is 78 and yet he dances round the stage and often crouches and kneels as he sings and listens to his band members in a manner that would sorely test the joints of performers half his age.
There are many ingredients that make up the Cohen concert magic:
- the maestro performs with skill, dignity and humour
- he is backed by superb vocalists: the incomparable Sharon Robinson and the sublime Webb sisters
- his band consists of musicians at the top of their game
- he loves what he is doing and provides 3 hours plus of quality music
- there is a mix of old and new compositions, instrumentals and poetry
- all his support singers and band members have their own superbly rendered solo pieces which the master warmly acknowledges.
Add all this to his ability to establish genuine, humble and humorous rapport with his audience and you have the formula for an unforgettable night’s entertainment.
A memorable experience
It was a pleasure and privilege to see the great man perform in person. It was a concert with plenty of variety and the fans appreciated anew the messages in his songs which incorporate so many elements
- personal relationships: Dance Me to the Edge of Love
- social realism: Everybody Knows
- satire: Democracy is Coming to the USA
- humour: I’m Your Man
- revolution: First We Take Manhattan
- nostalgia: Suzanne
- biblical history: Halleluyah
- despair: Famous Blue Raincoat
Leonard Cohen delighted the fans with a virtuoso performance that belied his age and he also engaged them with sardonic comments such as
- Thank you to those who challenged the family budget to acquire these tickets…
- It is an honour for us to perform for you tonight and we will give it everything we’ve got.
- After the interval Thank you for not going home…
Time to go home?
After more than two and a half hours he brought proceeding to a close, or so you might have thought. But back he came and continued providing encores which suggested we should all go home to our beds, such as
- Closing Time
- I Closed the Book
- Save the Last Dance for Me.
However Leonard Cohen, his singers and the band didn’t want to go: they stayed so we stayed and we didn’t want it to end.