on 30 March 2009
Though somewhat dismissive about his years as novice in a zen monastry, talking about how he went around with a hard on under the safron robe, none the less Leonard Cohen seems to have imbibed something. Transmitting an authentic humility and coming across like a human being at rest with himself and the universe.
Like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits kind of a brilliant songwriter and a less than startling vocalist, but Cohen has perhaps in many ways never sounded better than here in his older days.
And as for the music and the musical arrangements it's as close to perfection as you can get. This is world class players like bassist Roscoe Beck who is also the director and arranger, Neil Larson on keys, Bob Metzger on guitar and Javier Mas on diverse exotic string instruments. All virtuosic player who show their true musicianship in the understated way they manage to underscore Cohen's great songwriting. Metzger really able to say more with 2 - 3 notes than many a progressive shredder with a flourish of scales and appegios. And add to that the beautiful choir of long time collaborator Sharon Robinson - who has also co-written a couple of songs - and the Webb sisters Charley and Hattie.
A great mix of new and old songs, the familiar and the more obscure, each one a true gem. Some are poignant commentaries to the mad world of today, some bordering on the religious, others dissecting the male psyche and the male attitude to love, showing same kind of meticiously and honest introspection Joni Mitchell and Aimee Mann has excelled in from a female perspective.
I shall freely admit that from time to time I have found Cohen somewhat overrated by idolizing critics, but here he certainly shows his mettle and his artistic brilliance. Awesome sound, awesome visuals. An absolutely essential offering - of great art to the Cosmos.
on 30 March 2009
I received my copy today and just finished watching it. I saw him at the Albert Hall last November, and this is the same line up, the Webb Sisters, Sharon Robinson, Javier Mas (playing the archilaud, similar to a mandolin.) From the very beginning when he first comes on stage, you know you're in for something special.
Each and every song is delivered with such energy and enthusiasm, and if the hairs don't stand up on the back of the neck at the intro to 'Who By Fire' then you can't be a true Cohen fan :) Javier Mas's intro is absolutely mindblowing, and when the familiar: "And Who By Fire" rings out, the audience go crazy. There's a wonderful atmosphere, not just from the obvious respect and appreciation from the audience, but from seeing Cohen so obviously enjoying himself.
I didn't think anyone could replace Julie Christensen and Perla Batthala (from 'The Future' tour), but the Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson do a very fine job. After seeing him on that tour in 1995, I was so disappointed when there was no dvd release, and was absolutely over the moon to see a release from the 2008 tour.
The playlist is phenomenal, "Dance Me To The End Of Love", "The Future", "Everybody Knows", "Bird On A Wire", "Tower Of Song" and a host of others. And I don't know about anyone else, but I love how his voice has mellowed over the years, it's very hypnotic :)
If you've been waiting for years to see this great guy perform live, do yourself a favour and get the dvd immediately. I swear you'll be drawn in from the very first moment, and you'll be glued to the screen until the very last note rings out! It's that good, and as a bonus, the recording quality is excellent too.
I recommend this dvd from the bottom of my heart to each and every Leonard Cohen fan, it's an absolute masterpiece. I defy anyone to watch it and not be totally moved by his performance, the whole concert is just wonderful, so wonderful, I have to go and watch it again right this second. Buy it! You'll be so glad you did.
on 3 April 2009
I saw Leonard 3 times last year on what was a remarkable tour.This DVD is a momento of that tour by a supreme artist giving an outstanding concert.However this DVD as a reminder for posterity is so disappointing.As someone else has noted'why did they shoot it in 4x3 and not 16x9 anamorphic'.Also Leonaed does not like cameras on stage so the shots are very static from cameras for the most part just below front stage.There are superb close ups, warts and all, but the performance has the feeling of being filmed in a goldfish bowl separate from the audience.Audience shots when 'inserted' are very 70's.I keep willing this DVD to be better for Leonard's sake because the concert was sublime.
This may very well be the end.
Having virtually retired from live performance a decade and a half ago, retreating to occasional album releases and a sedate lifestyle, this DVD captures Cohen on what is in all probability, the final stretch of his long and brilliant career. Occupying the space between an obtuse but effective poet, and a understated balladeer, Cohen has produced a large body of work that was always profound, touching, and unique.
Forced by financial sodomy of his former manager to tour, Cohen does not behave, or perform, like an artist reluctant for the experience, or skimp with a brief performance. He serenades and sings, talks, and recites. His intellect sparkles like a star, he twirls with an enthusiasm enfeebled only by weak flesh, and effortlessly presents the body of work as a cohesive, vital whole.
For almost everyone here though, this was a Once In A Lifetime event.
His ten piece band provide a surprisingly sparse musical accompaniment, where less is more, where space and breath is as important as sound and clutter, and where there are often understated elements of effectiveness. For "Tower of Song", which sees just Cohen and the three singers (Cohen on a tiny keyboard, performing the song solo himself), rapturous applause sees a simplistic single-fingered keyboard solo.
The majority of this set is no nostalgic reprise of past glories. Whilst resembling, and not deviating from the recorded works, "Boogie Street", is sung in whole by Cohen's most recent musical colloborator Sharon Robinson, and "In My Secret Life", which reveals itself a little more with every listen, an apple peel of a song, a mosiac that perhaps will never have all of its textures ever understood.
An evening with Leonard Cohen, which may have a simple staging and a lack of frills and bells and whistles and inflatable dinosaurs and flying beds, offers more than enough in intellectual food to keep the attentive listener fascinated and focused on the rich imagery in his work. But it's no mere artistically redundant smash'n'grab fuelled by money and ego. In this context his work sits as one cohesive whole, a sonic art gallery where you can appreciate not only the original works, but also the context that they have when placed next to each other. Visually this document is anaccurate representation of Cohen live, a faithful rendering of an evening unexpected by all.
And to be honest, this is probably the last opportunity we will have to hear this voice and look at Leonard, one last time. If this were a work of art, it would be shredded in a few years : never seen again - terminated by mortality.
But if that is the case, what a fine exhibition this is. On occasion, Cohen's voice belays his age : he rests for a few moments, spotlighting the other singers, or allowing his band an opportunity to extend existing parts with their own interpretations - though thankfully no tedious jazz noodling - and occasionally, Cohen misses a word or a line from a song, and occasionally his voice cracks and weakens. But this is consistent with the age of the body : There are few experiences as epic, and the length and commitment Cohen demonstrates over 160 minutes is impressive.
Half of the selections are taken from his most recent albums, from the opening "Dance Me To The End Of Love" to a climatic "Democracy". The band are tight, well rehearsed. There are moments where Cohen may appear to be improvising, but these seem rehearsed, the crowd played like a piano, with well-timed, but understated showmanship. It's an impressively minimal performance that is vast in scope and scale and yet wonderfully intimate.
As Cohen serenades us with "Wither Thou Goest", his band resembling an traditional big band in the quiet style of the greats such as Sinatra , the man himself thanks us profusely for our sustained interest, an intimate serenade, and then the recording is over, the artist departs us, our lives continue... but whatever happens from here, the art will remain forever.
on 8 April 2009
I was lucky enough to see Mr. Cohen on his summer 2008 tour, and looked forward to this DVD as a memento. While Cohen and his band turn in a superb performance here -- as they reportedly did throughout the tour -- this DVD is a letdown.
Firstly, I was surprised to receive an NTSC DVD from Amazon UK. Fortunately, I have a multi-system DVD player and TV, as most people probably do, but I'm sure there will be at least some disappointed customers out there.
What is truly disappointing, as others have noted, is to pop in this long-awaited DVD, likely the only official release from what is surely Cohen's farewell tour, and find it presented in 4:3 aspect ratio. 4:3, Sony? In 2009? Really? Cohen surely deserves better, and so do we.
Somewhat less surprising but equally disappointing is a complete lack of extras on the DVD, unless you count song lyrics as extras. One would have hoped for a short interview, or perhaps some backstage footage, but there is nothing of the sort. As at least one reviewer suggested, perhaps we have to wait for the Blu-Ray "deluxe" DVD...
on 27 August 2009
As one whose introduction the Leonard Cohen was the dirge like tones of Suzanne and Bird on a Wire on CBS samplers, I was intrigued to discover (via my daughter, no less) that LC had written such stompers as First We Take Manhattan, beautiful haunting songs like Hallelujah (which Buckley and Simon Cowell tried so hard to destroy) and many others. So it was with some hesitation that I bought tickets to a concert at Brooklands earlier this year (2009) featuring Leonard Cohen supported by Suzanne Vega. To say I was blown away by the lyrical beauty of LC is an understatement His youthful enthusiasm at 74 and the musical virtuosity of his supporting musicians only added to the magic of that evening which ended with us standing in the pouring rain soaked to the skin but enthralled by the whole show. Imagine my delight when this DVD practically reproduced the atmosphere of that evening but without the rain, from the fantastic solos from, Neil Larsen, Dino Solo and the magnificent Javier Mas. With gymnastics both vocal and actual from the Webb sisters and deep rich vocal accomaniment from Cohen's co-writer Sharon Robinson it was a special night and this DVD serves to refresh the memories of a mystical experience. If you've shunned Leonard Cohen because of his propensity for encouraging self-immolation then awaken your consciousness and give him another chance. You wont be disappointed.
Lyrically adroit, musically accomplished, humorous, joyful and life-affirming.
on 31 March 2009
I've just watched this DVD and it's brought back all the emotion and excitement of the evening itself. Not only is Leonard one of the greatest lyricists of our time but he has surrounded himself with a band of musicians so tight and accomplished that at times watching this you have to pinch yourself to remember that this is a live performance, the quality of music and harmony is astonishing.
For anyone who has seen the tour this is a must have, it brings the whole magical evening back in to your living room undiminished.
From a personal perspective I saw him 5 times on the tour and although brilliant, this was not the best performance I saw. It's a pity that they were not filming in some of the smaller venues early in the tour such as Moncton in Canada. From a UK perspective a recording at the far more intimate and emotionally charged Manchester Opera House would have been an incredible DVD. Having said that, this recording still gets a full 5 stars as a reminder of a unique greatness walking in our midst.
I hope they will follow this up with a DVD from later in the tour to reflect the set changes and the performance of other classics such as 'Famous Blue Raincoat', 'The Partisan', 'Avalanche' and 'Chelsea Hotel' amongst others. If Leonard still needs to top up his pension I'd be more than happy to oblige.
on 26 February 2012
Having first puchased "Songs from the Road" Blu-Ray DVD, I first resisted buying the Live in London disc as I thought it may come out in that format in the future. As other reviewers have commented, it is a great pity this DVD is not Blu-Ray in 16:9 format. I too cannot understand why, when the equipment must have been there to record Songs from the Road. This DVD is about 150 minutes, so it probably would have had to go on to two discs in Blu-Ray. I am not techy enough to know, but still think it would have been worth the extra. I am glad I purchased it, must have played it twice a week since. This must be Leonard Cohen at his best, with superb backing from top-class musicians, who make this in my opinion, the most musical and moving performance I have ever seen. The comments of other reviews about his acknowledgements of his musicians, I don't find distracting at all, they are usually at the ending of the number and is a nice way of recognising their superb contribution to this performance, In fact, they make it and without these musicians, Leonard would, I am sure not be able to interact to the same extent. It is this combination which makes this performance what it is. I would fully recommend the purchase of this DVD, The sound is top-notch and as for the video, yes, it's not as good as the Blu-ray, but you don't really need to see every whisker on his face to appreciate this. I now watch this DVD more than Songs from the road, as the live performance adds to the all atmosphere of the music.
A poet who progressed to song,
The path to this varied and long,
At 77 we all do care for
and love that voice like Demerara.
(sorry - not as good as the master) Just buy this DVD!
on 5 September 2009
Two regrets come to mind: why can't I give this more than five stars, and why on earth didn't I go to one of his concerts...
If you are familiar with Leonard Cohen you don't need anyone to try to describe his gift with words; phrases and metaphors that hit the spot like nothing else. Combine that with a group of musicians who have talent to burn and who work together like one being and you have an utterly captivating performance. Cohen himself is amazing: powerful, tender, vulnerable and modest, and so at one with the band and the audience. I'm very touched by his attitude to the band and his "angels": he mentions them individually numerous times through the performance, with obvious affection and respect; notice the admiration and love in his eyes as he watches Sharon Robinson perform "Boogie Street" for example.
If you are not familiar with his talents, or think him a peddler of gloom and despondency, buy this. Put aside an evening to watch it, and you will be amazed.
I know a number of reviewers have commented on the quality of the video and the methods used to create it. Frankly, the content is so beautiful that I couldn't begin to care about the technical aspects of the video (and even if I try I can't see much wrong with it...)
There are only really two things to worry about with this DVD. One is that, for me at least, it makes the studio recordings of these songs obsolete ; there is so much soul in his live performace (compare the dynamic, driving live version of "First we Take Manhattan" with the studio one). The other snag is that it is addictive.
In short, superb, the best DVD I have bought; ever.
on 6 August 2009
I grew up with Leonard Cohen: not geographically, nor even generationally (although by only a few years), but through playing his songs on my guitar and poring endlessly over his lyrics. I've bought most of his music over the years so I suppose I was always going to be a prime candidate for this DVD.
The question is: do YOU want to buy it? In the Sixties, everybody knew that he was something special. Everybody knew that you had to own at least one of his albums to be "with it" and everybody knew that he was "downright depressing and would make you suicidal". The best kept secret of all was that, despite all the doom and gloom, cheerfulness just kept on breaking through.
Today, that extraordinary love of life and love, of love and life, is stronger than ever. Stylishly clad in a double-breasted, pin-stripe suit, Mr Cohen wields his microphone like a Thompson sub-machine gun, spraying the audience with pithy epithets and one-liners - "it looks like freedom but it feels like death" - like .45 rounds. How can one man have come up with so many superb images and phrases in one lifetime?
The second, well-kept secret about Mr Cohen is that he writes superb tunes. He's renowned as a poet, the writer of great lyrics, but it's those catchy little rhythms and tunes that bring so many people back to his music. No one concert could do justice to the enormous bulk of good music that is Leonard Cohen's back catalogue but this one gives it its best shot.
I first saw L. Cohen in concert in Southport over thirty years ago. I've been to many concerts, before and since, but the impression he made that evening has stayed with me over the years. There are some artists that you simply have to see in concert because they make each concert something special. In the same way, this DVD records a special event. Even if you already have a lot of his music on CD, it's worth buying this as well because you're buying a small piece of history. If you've always shied away from buying "depressing" music, think again! There is an irrepressible sense of fun, a lightness of touch and a delightful demonstration of musical skills that belies the heavy punches of those lyrics.
Here is the Godfather of Music taking care of business with wit and style. Surely that's an offer you can't refuse?