Top positive review
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A Slow, Majestic Dance to the End of Time
on 1 February 2016
I was never a Leonard Cohen fan - he was someone who was just "there" but who I considered, with his, um, idiosyncratic vocals and his downbeat style, as something of a joke when I was growing up. You know, the whole "Laughing Lenny" bit. My sister had one of his early albums and I'd hear it through my ceiling when she'd play it at night, in her bedroom above mine. I never understood the appeal; even though in later years when I heard (and quite liked) "First We Take Manhattan", I wasn't interested enough - or brave enough - to take the plunge with an entire album.
Then he went away, and then he came back. He'd already done a round of concerts in London, and I'd heard they were great. Another round was announced and I asked my partner,almost jokingly, if she wanted to go. We both laughed at the idea, but we went. And it was....revelatory. It was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I'd ever seen, and this double live album captures this very special experience beautifully.
Now, bear in mind the context: Cohen returned to touring because his business manager waltzed off with $5 million of his money and he needed to put something back in the bank and fast. He could have easily have knocked together a "Greatest Hits" tour: an hour and a half of the familiar, "Thank you and goodnight" and take the money. But he didn't - these concerts were over two hours long, pushing nearly three hours, and the dapper and urbane Cohen, backed by an eclectic mix of World and Jazz musicians, presented a more-than-generous overview of his career, unfolding with warmth, with love and with intelligence. As this 74 year-old man rushed on and off stage, doffed his hat to the audience, joked drolly in between songs and acknowledged the contribution of each and every one of his band members, I was in awe at his energy and his obvious, radiant enthusiasm for what he was doing and who he was doing it for. It was a thrilling, magical night and the music was rapture-style uplifting. I became a fan that night and treasure this album and the pleasure it gives me and the memories it evokes. And the songs? They remain articulate, intelligent expressions of the passion and pain of being a human being, riveting dissections of the human psyche and the soul performed with melancholic,barbed humour and slow-burning passion. If you care about music and you care about anything, you should have this album. I not only went back and dusted off the CDs in my partner's collection, but went ahead and ordered the box set of everything he'd done up until then and now buy every new release since.
Look, I'm no spring chicken, and have seen many of my idols fade or fall by the wayside. I feel lucky, however, to have lived in a time when Leonard Cohen is making music as good as this. Now, when I hear his songs I laugh - but it's a joyous laughter.