Saturday, February 27, 2010

Leonard Cohen - Live in London

By Bob Roper

Two things about this album, firstly it is one of the most enjoyable live recordings I have ever heard and secondly it is by an artist whose time has come. Recorded on 17th July 2008 at London's O2 Arena, 'Live in London' was released as a DVD and a two-CD set in March 2009. It has received rave reviews by the media and now in early 2010 he has received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award after being a singer/ songwriter/performer for over 40 years.

I have to admit that more often than not I find live recordings disappointing. How often have we heard artists who can't hit their notes correctly on stage? The balance and sound quality is invariably not quite the same and the crowd noises are annoying. In addition, the live recording doesn't help you enjoy the atmosphere that was present. None of these criticisms apply here.

Firstly, you have to say that the Cohen voice is still as powerful and deep as it always has been, in fact there is probably an added timbre that now comes with over forty years of performing. Unlike other artists as they get older, this septuagenarian's singing now seems to suit his work more than it has ever done. Cohen has always had a maturity of thought way beyond his contemporaries, so the aged voice is somehow even more appropriate.

Secondly, the live audio quality of this recording is the best I have ever heard. There has been plenty of criticism about the acoustics at the O2 Arena but you can't detect any problems here at all. What's more listening to the album you wouldn't know it's a massive arena as the warmth and intimacy of the event is captured perfectly.

Lastly, the instrumentation on this album is absolutely exquisite. Cohen collaborated with ten of the finest musicians including Bob Metzger (guitar, steel guitar), Javier Mas (bandurria), Dino Soldo (saxophone, wind instruments) and the sublime voices of Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters, Hattie and Charley. The accompaniments alone make this album worth buying, even if you have the original versions you can't help but be impressed with how beautifully and sensitively these songs have been re-arranged. My only gripe and it's not really a criticism is that Cohen hasn't made use of strings in his little band, I would love to hear a violin or cello as I'm sure this would add another dimension.

My other point was that Cohen is appreciated by his audience more now than he has ever been. The music,
spiritual but not sentimental, reflects the current popularity of poetry and anything related to mind, body and spirit. Cohen spent five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Japan between 1996 and 2001 and it has undoubtedly had an impact on his whole being. He has always had a presence but there is now an inner calm and peace which he can use to mesmerise his audience.

Cohen uses all his experience to win over the crowd. There's cleverness right from the start, welcoming his audience like guests with "it's wonderful to be gathered here just on the other side of intimacy." He chooses his words between the songs very carefully and his use of humour and wit never detracts from the mood he is trying to create. He ridicules his former depressions by naming all the anti-depressant drugs he has been on and reminisces about the last time he performed in London, 15 years previous when he says he was "a kid with a crazy dream." The patter is laid-back and droll but you can't help but love it.

He pampers the audience but his team of musicians as well. He knows exactly when to get the applause for his skilled performers. He has the timing of a true professional.

In the second half he recites some of this poetry including the incredibly moving "A Thousand Kisses Deep." You feel that this brings together a lot of aspects that are so important to him at the moment including love, anti-ego and ageing, "The ponies run, the girls are young The odds are there to beat You win a while and then it's done Your little winning streak And summoned now to deal With your invincible defeat You live your life as if it's real A thousand kisses deep."

There are too many excellent tracks on this album to mention them all. Suzanne, Bird on the Wire and So Long Marianne are classics from his two albums 'The Songs of Leonard Cohen' and 'Songs From A Room' in the late sixties. There are all his later favourites as well including Everybody Knows, The Gypsy's Wife, Anthem and Democracy. For anyone who has not yet found the works of this unique master there are 26 of his greatest songs over two and a half hours. If you missed the concert but have some of his records from the past, there is still plenty to enjoy here though.

Bob Roper has a great love of music and listens for several hours every day, as he works as an accountant. It would be good to think that these positive reviews might bring some of the artists a bit of extra recognition. In these days of finding it difficult to make money from recordings talented musicians need as much help as they can get. Please visit his music library and journals at

Article Source:

No comments:

Post a Comment