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Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen performs at Perth Arena 13 November 2013Perth Arena

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

At the age of 79 years, the legendary Leonard Cohen skipped out onto the stage  at Perth Arena, played for three hours and change – not counting a 20 minute intermission – like it was nothing and then danced off appearing as grateful to the assemblage of fans for listening to him as we were to be allowed to listen. Younger performers, take note; your tantrums and truncated shows do not impress.

It was, simply, a fantastic night, utterly bereft of filler. The first four songs alone – Dance Me To The End Of Love, The Future, Bird On A Wire, Everybody Knows – were better than most entire gigs. Cohen, still sprightly in his neat suit and fedora, is one of those rare old legendary birds who deserves the status and accolades heaped upon them. A master raconteur in the medium of song, he gets extra points for leavening his emotional, complex poetry with a healthy does of humour and self-deprecation, as when he paused following applause during Tower Of Song to ask whether the audience was humouring him, or the timeless line from Chelsea Hotel #2, ‘You told me again you prefer handsome men, but for me you’d make an exception’.

The setlist ranged across Cohen’s career, reaching right back to The Songs Of Leonard Cohen for his early, spiritual beat poet musings through to the darkly apocalyptic prophecy of Waiting For The Miracle and First We Take Manhattan (which we didn’t get until the first encore). You could have heard a pin drop during the achingly beautiful Suzanne. Long-time collaborator Sharron Robinson duetted with Cohen on In My Secret Life before taking on lead vocal duties on Alexandra Leaving, while the second encore saw backup singers the Webb Sisters deliver beautiful lead harmonies on If It Be Your Will.

And yes, he sang Hallelujah.

It’s interesting to speculate what Cohen’s cultural cache is these days. The crowd was mostly north of 40, a few individuals aside, and the Arena was less than full. Of course, this is the third time he’s played to Perth crowds in the last few years after financial malfeasance by his former manager left him close to broke, so maybe he’s been a bit overexposed around these parts. The thing is, can you be overexposed to one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time?

According to the crowd that night the answer is a resounding no. A few made a break for the exits in between encores -and what’s up with that, anyway? – but the majority hung on to every syllable until Cohen finished on Closing Time and told us all he’d see us ‘…down the road.’  Whether that’s on the cards is debatable – it’d be nice if the dapper old gent could enjoy retirement again – but if the opportunity does arise to catch Cohen live, you’d be a fool not to grab it with both hands. It was the show of the year, hands down.



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