When 60s music iconic, Leonard Cohen announced his European tour, Superbreak’s Dinah Burke couldn’t wait to go. Playing live at The London O2 Arena, find out what she made of the show…
Those amongst us of a certain vintage will recall a time when we sat in darkened rooms, musing on the miseries of life, and listening, on vinyl of course, to the intense musical meanderings of a mysterious Canadian, usually dressed in black and sparsely accompanied by an acoustic guitar and occasional violin or piano. This was Leonard Cohen. In the late 60s he was already established as a serious-minded novelist and poet with a somewhat jaded, world-weary take on life. However, if you took the trouble to listen carefully to the lyrics, his songs often had a sly wit and a light touch, with an attractive use of imagery and rhyme. Those same late-60s hippies and dreamers would be amazed to learn that over 40 years later, Leonard Cohen, 79, would be embarking on a sell-out European tour and playing to huge audiences in arenas like the O2 in London.
We attended the concert at the O2 on Sunday 15th September 2013. How refreshing it was for an event to do exactly what it said on the tin. He started more or less on time, unlike many of the over-hyped boy bands who treat their fans so dismissively, and played gloriously for over 3 hours with only a short intermission. Whoever described his music as “dirge-like” will have to revise their views. He brought with him on stage a breath-taking multi-national set of players and harmony singers, including the exquisite Webb sisters from Kent. His growling, almost sonorous voice worked fantastically well with the sublime, honeyed harmonies of his collaborators.
Cohen featured most of his most famous songs, opening with ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’, and including favourites such as ‘I’m Your Man’, ‘Suzanne’, ‘Chelsea Hotel’, as well as less familiar ones from his extensive back catalogue. Inevitably, ‘Hallelujah’ raised a huge reaction from the audience. Though much recorded by other artists, only Cohen could deliver it at such a spin-tingling level. I have often thought that smaller-scale, pared-down bands and musicians could sometimes seem underpowered in the enormous O2 arena. However, Leonard Cohen interacted with his audience in such a way that he managed to transform even a cavernous space such as the O2 into somewhere intimate and special. The outstanding sound system at the venue ensured that Cohen’s precise delivery of his lyrics could be heard by every audience member.
I’ve never seen such generosity of spirit shown by a leading musician towards his supporting band as I witnessed at this concert. When other soloists were in the spotlight, Cohen removed his trademark trilby, watched intently and then bowed in gratitude as the solo ended. He behaved like a gentleman of the old school.
I would wholeheartedly recommend that you catch this outstanding show of musicianship while you can, and particularly whilst Leonard Cohen is still with us.
Are you a fan of Leonard Cohen? Have you seen him live in concert recently or in the past? We’d love to hear from you. Get in contact using the comments box below!