Thursday, 17 July 2008

Leonard Cohen Castle Concert

I want so badly to write something, anything that adequately portrays my reaction to this event, but it is not possible. Touted tickets for many of Leonard's UK gigs have been reportedly been going for up to £300, yet I had the opportunity for a free seat in one of the boxes, still cold but covered from the rain and wind. While it was an intimate venue compared to arena concerts, I do wish now that I had brought binoculars as I was only able to see him in miniature, like a tiny caricature in a pristine suit.

After each song he often took off his hat and held it over his heart, over and over thanking the members of the band (the glorious Sharon Robinson was among the backup singers) as well as the audience. And twice I saw him skip off the stage like a boy, the first time just prior to the first encore and again following Closing Time and the end of the show.

I knew all the songs - every one. But the one that has stuck with me is Hallelujah, which I didn't expect. Hallelujah has been covered by so many artists, but he sang it like it was the last song on earth and that word was the last, bold breath of us all. It was fucking unbelieveable.

My other favourite moments were when he spoke the poem A Thousand Kisses Deep, slowly and languidly, and then in the moment in Tower of Song when he sang "I was born with the gift of a golden voice," which drove the eager crowd mad with joy.

It was so cold. Near the end it rained. Still people sat, they stayed, and would have stayed deep into the night, just to keep listening.
It was the best concert I have ever seen, full of passion, with perfect musical timing and all wrapped up as a gift to his fans.

I shall leave you with the Scotsman's Martin Lennon's review:

EDINBURGH clearly loves Leonard Cohen, and judging from his obvious delight at the reception he was given at the Castle last night, the sentiment was very much mutual.

Always the romantic, Cohen wooed the crowd between songs, constantly thanking them for the generosity of their welcome. That is, when they stopped applauding long enough for him to get a word in.Not many men of 53 would literally jog onstage waving, so it came as some surprise to see Cohen do exactly that at the age of 73.

The show, all two and a half hours of it, got off to a gentle enough start though, with the lilting Dance Me To The End Of Love. Cohen was impeccably dressed in a double breasted suit and fedora, which he removed as he bowed to the audience or his band mates at what appeared to be every opportunity. Most of the others onstage – including the backstage crew – were similarly attired, giving the stage a strange but pleasant 1940's feel.

Cohen has an unwarranted, yet enduring reputation as a peddler of misery. His fans have always known that the opposite was true, for within those apparently maudlin lyrics, lay gems of humour and dry wit.

The Future, from the early 90's album of the same name was full of such gems. Midway through one verse, he sang of 'white men dancing', at which he had a little birl to himself, to the crowd's amusement.A moment later, the line about 'white girls dancing', set backing singers, the Webb Sisters, off on a twirl of their own.Ain't No Cure For Love, from the well represented I'm Your Man album, found Cohen in impressively low voice, and with a twinkle in his eye that appeared almost cheeky, he sang, 'I need to see you naked in your body and your thought'. For a moment some of the audience looked like they might even comply.

While many of the arrangements were all but identical to their recorded versions, The Canadian poet would often slightly change a few lyrics, or alter the rhythm of the words, pushing and pulling them to suit his whim. Partly because of this, Bird On A Wire and Everybody Knows, songs from either end of his career, sat comfortably beside one another on the set list.

Song after song poured out of the balladeer. Who By Fire, a song which echoes a Jewish prayer, Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye and the often covered Suzanne were some of the numbers that represented the earlier albums in his career. During Tower Of Song, at the famously quoted ironic line 'I was born with the gift of a golden voice', the audience applauded and roared so appreciatively that they could have earned five stars of their own.

Cohen reclaimed ownership of Hallelujah for himself before closing the show with Take This Waltz. By the end of the fourth and final encore, Closing Time, the rain began to drizzle. It didn't stand a chance of dampening the spirits of the happy, sated crowd though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds fan-freakin-tastic! j-e-a-l-o-u-s