Leonard Cohen – [Album]

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Some may argue this (including very possibly the singer himself), but Leonard Cohen has truly established himself as a musical treasure during his 45-year tenure as a performing artist. His is not the biggest or most senses-shattering name to grace a marquis, but that is at least due in part to how his fans treat him on the road; the shows are whispered of in awe, not bellowed about from mountaintops because such a jarring noise as that would very possibly destroy the ambiance of the proceeding or somehow scare the singer away. Don't think it's true? How else would one explain the fact that, when Cohen took the stage at Coachella in 2009, the organizers set it up so that no other stage would be active; no one else played when Cohen played. That's only one example; shows are always reservedly and respectfully savored with attendees marveling at their luck that they were able to secure a golden ticket, and those attendees' friends who find out about their missed opportunity quietly murmur and covet that which the lucky few possess. Not many artists can say that they inspire such attention, so when Cohen embarked upon a nearly-year-long tour around the world over 2008 and 2009, it felt like fans were being offered an extended examination of ambrosia. It was special in any language, and the availability of tickets quickly and quietly evaporated. For his part, Cohen made every date worth the while and delivered an inspiring set every night; in retrospect, the tour was a genuine happening in that regard. For those not lucky enough to secure seats at a show, Columbia Records/Legacy has issued Songs From The Road – a CD/DVD chronicle of the tour that compiles some great, stolen moments from shows at every point along the tour's course.

What's interesting about Songs From The Road (and, by extension, the tour) is that no particular focus is given to any portion of Leonard Cohen's songbook; there are hits, there are fan favorites and there are songs performed that were retired from active duty by the singer, but no special attention is given to any one of those angles, the songs simply come together as something to experience in a set to be absorbed in its' entirety. That absorption is easy to achieve though – from the beginning of “Lover, Lover, Lover,” Cohen erects a romantic aural backdrop that comes off as warm between the treatment of the songs and the singer's own dry-eyed baritone. That warmth endures no matter how dark or cold the songs get thematically. Tracks including “Bird On A Wire,” “Heart With No Champion,” “Waiting For The Miracle,” “Avalanche” and “Suzanne” all present this warm but forlorn atmosphere as they should, but each of those songs is bolstered and emotionally deepened by Bob Metzger's lush, flamenco-touched guitar that, were it backing anyone other than Leonard Cohen, could easily steal whole shows; the combination of those two elements makes for an otherworldly performance in which it is very easy to immerse oneself. Easy to forget as listeners lose themselves in that interplay is that this set is a compilation too; because of the way it was produced (no gaps, no fades; the audio simply streams), Songs From The Road could easily be mistaken for a great one-night-stand performance, which makes it that much easier to enjoy. With no breaks, listeners are left with the impression that this presentation could have happened in its' entirety one night but with the knowledge that Songs From The Road is a compilation album in hand, it supports the idea that every night was this good, which makes those who did catch a date that much luckier and those who weren't so lucky want to see one all the more.



Songs From The Road is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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