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article imageReview: Leonard Cohen brings 'Old Ideas' to London Special

By Tim Sandle     Sep 9, 2012 in Arts
Leonard Cohen delivered a scintillating performance at London's Wembley Arena on September 8, as part of the European Leg of his 'Old Ideas' tour. Cohen captivated the crowd with a mix of more recent songs and classics drawn from his past albums.
In January 2012 Leonard Cohen issued his first studio album in eight years, called 'Old Ideas'. The album was well received and it consisted of self-reflecting lyrics weighing up love, loss and aging against a back-drop of different musical styles.
To support this new recording, Cohen embarked on a world tour. After playing the US and Canada the 77 year old poet and song-writer moved his touring party to Europe, where he is playing in various countries during September and October.
Cohen's troop of performers included three female backing singers. These were his occasional musical collaborator Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters, who sang beautiful harmonies and played several instruments (not to mention surprising the audience with occasional acrobatics). The six musicians were very talented, playing piano, the Hammond organ, bass, Spanish guitar, acoustic guitar, and mouth organ, among other instruments.
At Wembley Cohen delivered a superb three-part concert which lasted around three and a half hours. Cohen opened the concert with a powerful rendition of 'Dance Me To The End Of Love'.
Cohen played three songs from his 'Old Ideas' album, including the brooding 'The Darkness'. He also dedicated his song 'Democracy' as sober note to the coming US election. However, for the most part the concert was an upbeat affair focusing on love and family (although, being Leonard Cohen, loss and longing too).
The songs which seemed to be best received by the capacity audience were 'Hallelujah', 'Take This Waltz' (which the recent.Sarah Polley movie borrowed the title), 'Suzanne', 'Everybody Knows', 'I'm Your Man', and this reviewer's favorite, 'Tower Of Song'.
Many of Cohen's songs on record, particularly his earlier work, are often composed of relatively Spartan sounds, stripped back to just his voice and an acoustic guitar. On stage, the songs are reinterpreted as mulch-instrumental backed 'soundscapes' and enriched by the harmonic female choir-like voices.
The encore featured a riveting rendition of 'Famous Blue Raincoat', an audience led sing-along of 'So Long Marianne' which, to borrow an ungainly concert goers metaphor, brought the roof down with its intensity.
Cohen bid farewell with his only cover version of the night, 'Save The Last Dance For Me', citing the Wembley imposed curfew as the need to end the concert a few songs earlier than he would have liked.
Leonard Cohen is one of popular music's greatest lyricists. He is also a witty and generous performer (giving space to his fellow musicians). In his mid-seventies he continues to deliver an intense and creative, music driven set and his tour, as it continues worldwide, is well-worth catching.
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