Leonard Cohen – [CD, DVD]

Friday, 27 March 2009

Sometimes it doesn't take much, but sometimes it takes something gigantic to make a pensive man smile. One would think that after all he's seen and done – toured the world, found love, religion, intimacy and isolation – the effort required to make the single most stoic musician on Earth smile would be one of epic proportions. Preconceived notions get bucked, however, when novelist/philosopher/poet/musician/monk Leonard Cohen boards the stage at a sold out O2 Center in London, and the first thing the singer does is smile a great big, toothy grin.

In that one gesture, Leonard Cohen lets everyone watching that this is going to be fun.

“Thanks so much friends, it's wonderful to be gathered here, on just the other side of intimacy,” rumbles the singer in that inimitable alto after an ecstatic reception of “Dance Me To The End Of Love.” “I'm so pleased that you're here – I know many of you endured a lot of financial and geographic inconvenience.

“We're honored to play for you tonight.”

It's tough not to get the impression that those in attendance at the O2 Center on July 17, 2008 are the ones who felt honored though, it certainly feels that way as the DVD of the show unfolds. From the very outset, Cohen revels in the fantastic atmosphere he so effortlessly crafts with songs that everybody knows including “Bird On A Wire,” “The Future,” “Ain't No Cure For Love, “Sisters Of Mercy” and, of course, “Everybody Knows,” but the really incredible thing about this set is how much gets done with so little; cutting a striking image in a pinstripe suit and short-brimmed cap, occasionally dancing a busted shuffle and sharing a deadpan joke with the crowd, Cohen captivates his audience and contracts one of the best music venues on Earth to the point that even those in the back row feel as if the singer might be able to reach out and touch them – it's just that intimate. The largely unadorned stage offers no distractions from the songs or performance, but Cohen doesn't need those trappings to fill an arena with their presence; as is illustrated here, Cohen's persona alone is enough to fill the room and the elegant, tasteful instrumentation fleshes out the images that the singer conjures to make them real. It's a breathtaking experience – even in the removed, third-person voyeurism that the DVD represents.

After “Sisters Of Mercy” fades and the denouement to Cohen's set begins, his backing band seeks to seal in viewers' minds that they have just witnessed something unique and remarkable not by overplaying or shooting for some epic 'moment to remember' trip for attendees, but allowing Cohen to be the sole conductor for every ounce of attention; they never attempt to overshadow him and almost seem to bow with his presence – not in a literal sense of course, but Cohen's gentle nature is also very urgent and the band seems determined not to chance distracting from that. So they hang back and, in in so doing, make it a moment to remember because Cohen doesn't shirk his responsibility or let them down either.

As the set draws to a close with the archly appropriate “Whither Thou Goest” and the singer takes his final bow, viewers of this DVD are left with the same warm feeling inside that those in attendance must have felt as they were leaving as well; even on the screen, the power and gentility of Leonard Cohen's set at the O2 Center is captivating. If you weren't there – or even if you were – this DVD is a must-see experience for any fan.


Leonard Cohen online

Leonard Cohen myspace
Leonard Cohen facebook


Both the Live In London 2CD set as well as the Live In London DVD are available on March 31, 2009. Pre-order them here on Amazon .

Comments are closed.