Monday, 10 September 2012

Leonard Cohen - Wembley Arena, September 9th, 2012

Today I will do something a little different to what I usually write about; it will be a review, not of a film, but of a concert. I have not written a review about a concert before, but how hard can it be?

Anyway, beforehand things did not run smoothly, the venue changed barely two weeks before the event was scheduled to take place (Cohen offered his apologies stating that he found out the same time we did) and another hiccup was that the tickets were late in arriving causing a nervous wait. However, it all worked out for the best (for a mate and myself, others were not so lucky) as the change in venue from Kent Hop Farm to Wembley Arena meant easier transportation to the venue, also (and even better), our tickets were upgraded from £65 to £95 free of charge! This gave us one of the best seats in the house, side on but very close to the stage. The comparison to the seats we got and ones we would have got have to be seen to be believed as we were originally going to sit right in the corner at the back of the arena. I cannot deny that we got extremely lucky, we were, however, among the first ones to book tickets (on the first day of their release), but this luck added greatly to the experience.

We moved from section S14 to the very front of section N5 free of charge. Not to be smug, but that was quite brilliant.

The great, charming and poetic Leonard Cohen is a 77 year old who still hops on and off the stage in a manner similar to that of an excited child, taking in the applause of every one of the attendees with the upmost gratitude. His wry wit, humorous, profound and deeply meaningful songs make Cohen such a charismatic figure on stage, capable of engaging with his audience on an emotional and humorous level. Cohen’s comments on the forthcoming US election was typically Cohenquse and the famous ironic line in Tower of Song is a perfect example of Cohen’s wit, and the likes of Suzanne, So long, Marianne and far too many to mention are perfect exhibitions of Cohen prowess as a poet.

In Cohen’s latest tour, planned to coincide with his latest album Old Ideas, Cohen performs many of his classics, including Hallelujah and Suzanne (the silence in the arena when Cohen sings Suzanne is breathtaking. The audience are moved into silence by that gravelly voice and the beauty of the lyrics of one of Cohen’s first ever songs). Cohen also performs songs from his latest album (Going Home, Amen and Come Healing) to an equally great reception. In Going Home, Cohen calls himself ‘a lazy bastard living in a suit’ (a joke about his less than regular output) but he certainly shows no signs of laziness in his live performances as he performs for over three hours, showing great stamina for a man of his age. However, he best not attempt the acrobatics that the Webb Sisters performed during The Future. In addition, Cohen delights us with an extra saucy rendition of I’m Your Man and a special performance of an underappreciated song of which he has performed only twice in twenty-five plus years.

From the Songs of Leonard Cohen to Old Ideas, themes of love, sex, and mortality resonates throughout his work. The gravelly voice speaks from years of wisdom and experience that are far beyond my years, but his songs still hold a powerful degree of intimacy with the entire audience, the type of which only stems from lyrics that go deep below the surface. The band, which supports Cohen throughout the entire tour, is more than a perfect accompaniment to the man himself. Javier Mas’ stunning guitar solo opens Who by Fire in tremendous style and Alexandru Bublitchi plays some staggering and beautiful solos on the violin. However, it is perhaps Sharon Robinson (a frequent contributor to Cohen’s work, having written Everybody Knows, Waiting for the Miracle and others) who gets the loudest round of applause (with the exception of Cohen himself) with her outstanding and haunting rendition of Alexandria Leaving. Like Suzanne, it reduced the audience to a state of absolute silence, followed by resounding applause when she concluded the song.

Cohen treats us to a passionate affair, it is possibly due to Cohen’s former agent screwing Cohen out of millions of dollars that prompted the rise in his productive output, but now it is clear from the way he hops merrily on stage that he is loving every moment, and money is an afterthought. From the silence during Suzanne to the crowd singing to So long, Marianne, Cohen’s live performance at Wembley Arena will always be a highlight of my life for many years to come. It was a shame when it ended as I wanted that night to go on and on.

For those interested, this is the song list for the Old Ideas tour: Please note that the chronology of the songs and song choices may vary.
  1. Dance Me To The End Of Love
  2. The Future
  3. Bird on a Wire
  4. Everybody Knows
  5. Who By Fire
  6. Darkness
  7. Sisters of Mercy
  8. Amen
  9. Come Healing
  10. In My Secret Life
  11. I Can’t Forget
  12. Going Home
  13. Waiting for the Miracle To Come
  14. Anthem
  15. Tower of Song
  16. Suzanne
  17. Night Comes On
  18. Heart With No Companion
  19. The Gypsy’s Wife
  20. The Partisan
  21. Democracy
  22. Coming Back To You
  23. Alexandra Leaving
  24. I’m Your Man
  25. Hallelujah
  26. Take This Waltz
  27. So Long, Marianne
  28. First We Take Manhattan
  29. Famous Blue Raincoat (Not performed on the concert dated 09/09/12)
  30. Save The Last Dance For Me.

1 comment:

  1. You're lucky you got to see him. I've got the DVD of Leonard Cohen Live in London. That is likely to be the closest I will ever be to seeing him in concert.