not a member? click here to sign up
Leonard Cohen live at the O2 London
Paul Nolan gets a taste of what the Dublin O2 will have to offer, as he visits its London counterpart for a truly stunning Leonard Cohen gig.
Paul Nolan, 11 Dec 2008
Although it was undoubtedly a massive headache for him at the time, Leonard Cohen’s financial troubles have had hugely positive knock-on effects for his fans. Throughout 2008, they have been given the opportunity to witness an extraordinary series of concerts by the legendary singer, who decided to tour again in an attempt to claw back some of the money he lost during the ’90s.
Whilst it would be easy for certain acts to appear somewhat remote in the O2’s cavernous environs (it has a 20,000 capacity), the combination of Cohen’s presence as a performer, the excellence of his band and the crowd’s almost palpable admiration for the singer gives the gig a wonderfully intimate feel. It goes without saying that the setlist is immaculate, with songs drawn from all stages of the Canadian’s long and illustrious career.
Listening to these tracks in a live setting merely confirms Cohen’s status as one of the all-time great lyricists. From the exquisite melancholy of ‘Who By Fire’ and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, to the awesome treatise on the songwriter’s life, ‘Tower Of Song’, the celestial beauty of ‘Hallelujah’ and the dystopian visions of ‘The Future’ and ‘First We Take Manhattan’ (both of which could have been penned by the equally magnificent Scott Walker – whose Drifting And Tilting stageshow is tonight playing across town at the Barbican), Cohen’s gifts as a wordsmith continually dazzle.
The 74-year-old performs each track with quite incredible intensity, though between songs he talks to the audience in a very laidback and humorous fashion (at one point he quips that, “This year has been the first time I’ve toured since I was 60 – when I was a young man with a dream”). As if further evidence was needed of his relaxed and good-humoured mood, he actually skips on and off stage between each of the three encores.
The final two tracks of the night, ‘I Tried To Leave You’ and ‘Whither Thou Goest’, see Cohen acknowledge the sterling contribution of his band, including the truly outstanding vocal performances of his backing singers, Sharon Robinson and Charly and Hattie Webb. With a bow from Field Commander Cohen and his charges, one of the finest gigs I’ve ever seen comes to a close.