Concert Review: Leonard Cohen

When I’m 74 years old, I hope I am as spry as Leonard Cohen.  Susan & I saw Cohen and his band perform at the Wang Theatre in Boston on May 30th.  He sang many songs while gracefully sinking to his knees and skipped off the stage at the end of the sets.  Oh, and he performed for over three hours.

There was no opening act but instead of a back-up band of no name musicians Cohen pulled together a diverse group of artists, many of whom would be worth going to see in concert on their own.  Despite their varied styles and talents, they came together as a tight band with an old-fashioned type of showmanship evident in coordinated dance moves by the back-up singers and stylish haberdashery worn by all.  Cohen frequently stood back to let his band members shine on their solos and a few of their own performances.

Stand out members of the band include Javier Mas, a Catalan guitarist who played an instrumental piece that sounded classical as a prelude to “Who By Fire.”  Sharon Robinson took the lead vocals on “Boogie Street,” one of the many songs she co-wrote with Cohen (others include “Everybody Knows” and “Waiting for the Miracle”).  The other two-thirds of the back-up singing trio were Charley and Hattie Webb who are a folk-pop duo from England known as The Webb Sisters.  In addition to doing back flips during “The Future” they sang a stunning, ethereal rendition of “If It Be Your Will” after a reading of the song/prayer by Cohen himself.  Rounding out the band were bassist Roscoe Beck, organist Neil Larsen,guitarist Bob Metzger, drummer Rafael Gayol, and Dino Soldo on a variety of wind instruments and keyboards.  Soldo was the exception to the old-school professionalism as he struck rock poses and contorted himself into various positions throughout the performance.  For this lack of subtlty he was the only member of the band I didn’t like that much.

Despite Leonard Cohen’s efforts to deflect attention to the supporting artists, he was the center of attention for the adoring fans.  The audience cheered at recognition of the songs, laughed at the funny bits in “Tower of Song” and “Democracy”, and gave lots of long ovations, which were deserved.  Surprisingly for Boston there wasn’t any singing along except for the chorus of the first encore “So Long Marianne,” which made it extra special.  “Anthem”, probably my favorite song, demonstrated that the lighting technicians were working hard as they slowly raised the lights on the stage until they were blinding bright to coincide with the line “That’s how the light gets in.” Cohen and the band played two sets with an intermission and then came out for countless encores although he didn’t really leave the stage for long and milk the applause like some mucisians do.  Really, the “encores” were a third set.

We splurged on tickets for this concert as it had been 15 years since Cohen last toured the United States and he’s getting up there in years.  As Cohen himself put it, the last time he was in Boston he was 60 years old, “just a crazy kid with a dream.”  It seemed like this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us.  Now I think I’m going to see Leonard Cohen again, when he’s 100-years old and his voice an octave lower, tripping lightly across the stage and defying time.

1st Set

Dance Me To the End of Love
The Future
Ain’t No Cure For Love
Bird on the Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
(Guitar piece by Javier Mas)
Who By Fire
Chelsea Hotel No. 2
Waiting For the Miracle

2nd Set

Tower of Song
Sisters of Mercy
The Partisan
Boogie Street
I’m Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep
Take This Waltz

Encores/3rd Set

So Long Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will
I Tried to Leave You
Whither Thou Goest

Other reviews of Leonard Cohen at the Wang Theatre in Boston:

One thought on “Concert Review: Leonard Cohen

  1. Reblogged this on Panorama of the Mountains and commented:

    Learning of the passing of the great singer/songwriter/poet/humanitarian Leonard Cohen, who died on Monday, made me want to reshare this review of one of the most entertaining concerts I’ve ever attended. I recently wrote a review of his new album You Want It Darker, released in October, but didn’t get around to posting it. I was going to note my awe at how vital he remained at the age of 82 and that possibly there was more to come. Nevertheless, it was clear he was ready to go and left on his own terms.


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