Leonard Cohen, Brighton Centre, 29 August 2013
There’s not a lot of point in doing a full review of a Leonard Cohen concert these days. If you’re at all interested in the man, you’ll know he’s been back on the road during the last six years, playing wonderful, warm and lengthy shows to adoring audiences. And if you’re not interested, you don’t care.
But the consistent quality, wit, sparkle and sheer stamina of rock’s most remarkable soon-to-be-79-year-old really has to be acknowledged. He was on stage for the best part of three hours at the Brighton Centre last night: 20 songs in the main set and a final total of eight encores (count ’em and weep, Bruce…), after he couldn’t resist trumping the neat trick of following ‘Closing Time’ with ‘I Tried To Leave You’ with a sprightly final twirl through The Drifters’ ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’.
Len and I go back a long way – as far as Manchester’s Belle Vue in 1972. I’ve never seen him play a bad show, but I think yesterday’s may well have been the best. Five songs from last year’s Old Ideas were seamlessly interwoven with the old classics, with ‘Going Home’ particularly effective sandwiched between storming versions of ‘So Long, Marianne’ and ‘First We Take Manhattan’ in the first batch of encores.
The band are all superb. I missed Dino Soldo, the maestro of ‘instruments of wind’ who was in the band who played on the Live In London album, but the addition of fiddler Alexandru Bublitchi adds some new and different textures. New guitarist Mitch Watkins (an alumnus of Lyle Lovett’s Large Band and sometime tutor at the University of Texas) is also very fine, particularly when he takes up a hollow-bodied Telecaster for some stinging country-tinged licks. And what to say about the wonderful Javier Mas? He is almost certainly the finest exponent of the laud, archilaud and bandurria I have seen, but then I’ve just had to look up those names. The archilaud is pretty much like an oud and the bandurria like a Spanish mandolin – and Mas is simply glorious on anything with strings. (Check out his contribution to Jackson Browne and David Lindley’s Love Is Strange urgently if that classic collection has not yet found a place in your life…)
What else to say? The Webb sisters and Sharon Robinson sing beautifully. Leonard is endearingly humble in the face of adulation. The way he rises effortlessly from his frequent kneelings and skips off-stage Eric Morecambe-like would still have been impressive were he a couple of decades younger. But at the heart of all of it he is still reliably nailing absolute killer songs in peak performances – last night ‘Suzanne’, ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ and ‘The Partisan’ were all spine-tinglingly good, and I could say the same of more than half a dozen others.
See now, while stocks last: he’s promising to start smoking again when he hits 80…
(from Eden On The Line)