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Leonard Cohen live
Cohen is received rapturously by a crowd of 10,000 at the 02
Peter Murphy, 31 Jul 2009
Flanked by big screens that proclaim the legend Unified Heart Touring Company, Field Commander Cohen enters stage left at an honest to god run, 10,000 people rise from their seats in spontaneous ovation, the band strikes up, and here’s our invitation to the dance until the end of love.
Few writers labour as hard as Leonard to hear the Holy Spirit, and maybe as a consequence few performers invest as much depth of heart and breadth of thought into phrasing every word, never mind every line.
The angels in the details: Beatles-y string swoons that counterpoint the Manson reference in ‘The Future’; the line “But I don’t call soft enough” in ‘Ain’t No Cure For Love’; the way Cohen places Hank a hundred floors above him in the Tower of Song.
Leonard frequently sinks to his knees in homage to the virtuosity of his players, the spirit of whatever song he’s in, the beauty of women and the resilience of love. ‘In My Secret Life’ is a holy moment, thousands of rapt witnesses knowing exactly what the poet meant. There are transfigured moments of memory frozen in ‘Suzanne’ and ‘So Long, Marianne’ and razor blade dramas enacted throughout ‘The Partisan’ and ‘Who By Fire’. Later, the spoken ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ and the sung ‘Take This Waltz’ dignify romance as the true thing, acknowledging the flawed body, the wounded psychology and the presence of brandy and death.
‘If It Be Your Will’ is not tonight’s finale, but this rendition, delivered by the Webb Sisters, with Leonard knee-bent in reverence, sounds like the last song ever written and the first song ever sung.