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5.0 out of 5 stars Look at Me, Leonard, One Last Time, 22 Mar 2009
This review is from: Leonard Cohen: Live In London [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Mar 2009 23:22:10 GMT
I had the experience of a life time,seeing,listening feeling his touch almost. He had me crying on the first song. That was at
the O2 Arena last July. We saw him again in November at the NEC,but not quite the same. We still enjoyed it though!
Roberto and Helena in Peterborough

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2009 03:01:11 BDT
Mark Murphy says:
I wish I had seen Leonard on his latest tour. I've been a fan for over 20 years - just couldn't get the tickets. I did manage to see 'Book of Longing' with Philip Glass at the Uni of Texas this year, which was great. Thanks for all the great reviews. Long live Leonard! Long live the maestro!
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Mr. M. A. Reed

Location: Argleton, GB

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