It is seven years and one day since Leonard Cohen died, and 13 years to the day since he performed in Sydney on the second round of the world tour which revived attention, love and awe for the great Canadian writer and singer. And along the way restored his finances.
So here comes Wind Back Wednesday to once more kneel at the shrine – truth be told some of us would struggle to get up from that position anywhere near as nimbly as the man could, and did. But I digress – in the company of fellow devotees.
Not that godly perfection was achieved in 2010, as you’ll see. But that’s not what we would come away talking about.
Acer Arena, November 8, 2010
SOMETIMES YOU FEEL that every Leonard Cohen concert in this late, late career revival tour, which began three years ago and shows no sign of ending, is a When Harry Met Sally moment.
We watch a 76-year-old man mesmerise and eroticise, amuse and move, touch and tease, dance gaily and sing deeply in a now typically long and generous show (a little over three hours including interval; 27 songs including one recitation) and think "I want what he's having".
As he ends the night with a long, sinuous and wholly playful Closing Time, where it doesn't seem out of the question that this mature audience could live out the lyrics "all the women tear their blouses off/the men they dance on the polka-dots”, you start thinking to yourself, hmm, does the merchandise stand stock Leonard’s Signature Chamomile Tea?
(Incidentally, how mature is this audience? Hardly any of us spend the night taking photos on our mobile phones to relive the moment later but actually try to exist in that moment. Whoa, old school.)
However, amid the heightened senses and emotional buzz of the end it should be noted that this show started at less than optimum. Not bad, for Mr Cohen doesn’t do bad. Not when there is the compelling blues of The Darkness, and the slow soul of Born In Chains, both due to appear on his next album, alongside the jauntiness of The Future and the seduction of Waiting For The Miracle.
But in that first hour Cohen seems subdued and somewhat disengaged, certainly by comparison with last year's chatty and wry performances. Is it tiredness or familiarity? Hard to say but transcendence, that defining feature of the 2009 shows, seems out of reach.
But I underestimate the restorative qualities of the interval’s tea.
Upon his return to the stage, a rejuvenated Cohen plays a mini set of sparse arrangement (his guitar and a touch of organ, with the voices of Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters) but such explicit emotion that this big box of a room is compressed into a small bar. After a light run through Tower Of Song, complete with rinky dink rhythm box, Suzanne, Avalanche, A Singer Must Die and Sisters Of Mercy paint evocative darkened pictures which make us hold our breaths with something approaching awe.
From there everything else seems to fly, through the poetry of A Thousand Kisses Deep and the melody of So Long Marianne through to the barbed play of I Tried To Leave You.
I don’t even drink tea but I want what he’s having.
SET LIST November 8, 2010
Ain’t No Cure For Love
A Singer Must Die
A Thousand Kisses Deep (Recitation)