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The Monkey and The Plywood Violin
, 31 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Live In London (Audio CD)
Last year I saw this tour twice. The first time in the intimate surroundings of the Manchester Opera House. I'd gone half expecting to see an old man go through the motions (I guessed I'd never get the chance again especially as he has not toured for the best part of 15 years). I wrote a review elsewhere (which follows) of the concert which turned out to be the best gig I've ever attended.
As for the CD. It is a joy. The band are absolutely superb and Cohen's voice 'pours down like honey'. Whilst the sound at the concerts set new standards for live gigs so does the CD for live audio quality. It is brilliantly recorded.
In an age of reality tv stars, cynical reunion tours and ringtone music give yourself a treat, get this CD and listen to a truly great songwriter, a very humble man accompanied by one of the finest bands going. You wont be disappointed. My only personal disappointment is that the setlist does not include 'The Patriot' and 'Chelsea Hotel' which have also been performed on the tour (although there was a legal mp3 of these streamed from the NYC Beacon Theatre Show).
Leonard who? younger friends are probably going to ask.
Cohen was 32 and an established Canadian poet and novelist in the 1960's before taking up song writing. Often described in terms such as "the poet laureate of pessimism", "the grocer of despair", "the godfather of gloom" and "the prince of bummers" his albums were once staple fare of lovelorn students in bedsit land.
Suzanne is one of those songs that sent shivers down my spine when I first heard it as a teenager and it still does now. He once called it "journalism", as the details were drawn from life in Montreal. Suzanne was a friend, Suzanne Verdal, who really did serve him tea and oranges in her loft by the river. Cohen wrote the line "I touched your perfect body with my mind" because she was married to a friend of his. Suzanne is apparently still alive and living in an old camper van in California somewhere.
His return to touring after 15 years or so was brought about because he had apparently been swindled of all his money by his manager whilst he was living in seclusion in a Buddhist monastery.
Cohen came on stage not far of his 74th birthday (in fact we share the same birthday but he is a tad older!) and put on one of the best concerts I've ever seen (and I've seen a few). Seeing him in such a small theatre was perfection.
Surrounded by probably the best musicians I've ever seen assembled on stage in one place he made the rest of the world seem so very average. A special mention must go to the playing of Javier Mas; sublime.
What was particularly striking was how Cohen's voice, never as "golden" as he ironically observed on Tower Of Song, has matured into an instrument that's wholly appropriate for these songs.
The set boasted such songs as The Future, Suzanne, Anthem, So Long Marianne and Hallejulah. And whilst those of you of younger years may know the Jeff Buckley or even Rufus Wainright versions of the later; Cohen wrenched his own song back from the young pretenders. I don't mind admitting that I was close to crying when he delivered a spoken-word version of A Thousand Kisses Deep and the version of If It Be Your Will, sung by two of his backing vocalists the Webb sisters. It was simply an astonishing night.
Even more astonishing was the fact that despite everything the man was so humble; he genuinely looked surprised that people were on their feet before he had sung a note. He thanked us profusely for keeping his music alive after playing a set that lasted over 3 hours with a short interval. Now I've seen Springsteen do that but at a time when many 'stars' can only just give over an hour or so of indifference this was nothing short of amazing from a septuagenarian performing his fourth concert in 4 nights.
So if you've never heard of Cohen take a listen sometime, and if you've dismissed it as music to slit your wrists to give it another listen because really it is truly uplifting, almost spiritual and on Friday's evidence sung by an all time great.
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
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