Dressed in a black suit and black fedora pulled down to shadow his eyes Cohen embodied the legendary status his name has reached. Leonard Cohen won the hearts of his audience by showing his kindness and love towards his fellow musicians onstage, bowing deeply and humbly to each member of his nine-piece musical ensemble and to the fans alike. Cohen’s intense onstage presence allowed for no distractions as the audience was completely enraptured by his voice, his style, and his surprising youthfulness. Prior to the show, ticket purchasers received both emails and phone calls in reminder that the show would begin promptly at 8pm and not to be late. At 7:50pm the vendors closed shouting to eager fans that “Leonard has instructed we close and you go to your seats.”
Opening with Dance Me to the End of Love, the crowd was awe-struck by the lasting power and soul of his 74-year-old voice. Not a note was missed and he was entirely present throughout the show placing just the right emphasis on particular words to add a personal tone to the songs.
One hour into the show Leonard Cohen introduced the nine members of his ensemble leading many concert-goers to believe the show was over. Had Cohen finished at that moment not a fan in the house would have left disappointed, however, he went on to inform us that this would be the intermission as he skipped off the stage.
Twenty minutes later Leonard Cohen returned to the stage, seemingly possessing more energy than the first half of the show. The second half was high-energy as he sang Hallelujah for which the crowd gave a standing ovation. The show was just as much an ecstatic religious experience as it was a concert of greatest hits.
At 74 and still looking in the prime of his life, not a fan in the house questioned the myriad sexual inferences made but laughed along as he spoke of love, sex and age in a comical way. Referring to himself as a “crazy kid with a dream” when he was just sixty, the last time he toured, he opened the crowd up to laugh along with him as if he were an old friend, turning him into more than a man of legendary status and success.
Leonard Cohen seemed to want to stay just as much as the crowd wanted him to stay prolonging his thank-yous and seemingly stalling as he thanked everyone from his band to the fans to those who “take care of our hats.” As if in a prolonged practical joke he gave six encores skipping off stage after each one only to rejoin us moments later. Finally in his fifth encore he comically sang: “I Tried to Leave You” which was met with laughter and cheers from the crowd.
Cohen’s musical career can be summed up by his statement: “I’ve studied deeply in the philosophies and the religions but cheerfulness kept breaking through.” At the heart of all Cohen songs, beneath the despair and the grief, lies an intense and profound happiness, which Cohen brought to life for the fans.
In classic tender style Cohen made his set intimate and interactive leaving us with the words: “It’s getting chilly so be sure not to catch a cold.”
Leonard Cohen will be stopping in Victoria April 21, 2009 before moving onto Seattle.