Review: Leonard Cohen

By Jean Hannah Edelstein, July 25, 2008

O2 Arena, SE10

Age has not affected the ability of the legendary Canadian to hit the same four notes

Age can be a scourge on the best singers, with years of strain and heavy use the cause of notable deterioration in range and tone.

Not so, however, the iconic voice of Leonard Cohen. As he demonstrated to rapt audience at the O2 Arena in London’s Docklands last week, the owner of one of the world’s most loved, but limited, baritone voices can still hit the same three or four notes with which he has been disarming his fans since the release of his first album in the ’60s.

It has been widely reported that Cohen was pressed into undertaking his current tour — his first in many years — by financial hardship.

But as he jogged on stage with a beaming wide grin, there was no evidence of anything but his desire to perform.

Of course, it would have been a struggle for him to disappoint the assembled dedicated fans, who ranged from the legendary Canadian’s contemporaries to those who could be his grandchildren.

Though some of the saxophone riffs in his songs from the ’80s sounded a  little dated, Cohen’s repertoire by and large stands the test of time. Backed by a large band of talented singers and musicians, he surpassed expectations, fitting in all of his essential songs, from Chelsea Hotel to Suzanne to First We Take Manhattan.

Cohen’s abilities as a songwriter and lyricist have always more than compensated for his less-than-excellent singing voice. This was particularly evident when he performed A Thousand Kisses Deep without backing music, reciting the lyrics in his sonorous speaking voice, a reminder that before he began to set his words to music he had already been recognised as one of Canada’s most gifted young poets.

Hallelujah is constantly covered by musicians who are far better singers than Cohen, but this was rendered moot as Cohen performed it himself, drawing tears to most of the eyes of his captivated audience.

He is due to perform again in London in November — not to be missed.

Last updated: 2:54pm, February 18 2011



Tue, 07/29/2008 - 16:35

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i had the misfortune to wander past the o2 arena during mr. cohen's performance and found that my mental thought processes were untimely disturbed by his juvenile warblings. i am currently developing a revival of robert bolt's play state of revolution and as is often the case in the early stages of such projects i popped out for a walk to think over my ideas in my head. for example, i think about set construction and so on. i was on the verge of resolving who to cast in the key role of "antole vassilyevich lunacharsky", luca zingaretti maybe, when saxaphonic sound pierced my eardrums and dissolved my bolshevik reverie. if people will insist on holding these performances can't they hold them in indoor theatres that are sound insulated? it is not fair on law abiding citixens who want to have a wander without being assailed by drug dealers and pop music. if boris wants to win a second term he should commit to constructing a network of underground walkways crisscrossing the city, which could be used be people who want to have a ponder in peace...there was mention of such concept in the hungarian Quaterly some time ago... i think damian hockney referenced about this before he left politics... also would like to hear from people keen to invest in a season of revivals of unsuccsessful bolt plays as derby civic theatre are proving unreceptive to suggestion.