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Leonard Cohen live @ Kilmainham
Stuart Clark reports live on Laughing Len's latest Irish visit...
Stuart Clark, 12 Sep 2012
It’s a strange old rock ‘n’ roll world where 19-year-old Azealia Banks is too exhausted to play for 45 minutes and Leonard Cohen, 77, can perform for just shy of three hours and still look like he could jog back to his hotel.
Four years after first charming the collective pants off the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Montreal’s finest ever export is back with more songs of love won, lost and occasionally drawn. As pointed out recently by John Cooper Clarke in the Hot Press Chatroom, his is a voice that grows ever better with age – one part gravel to two parts soothing balm, and quite like any other save for his son and musical heir Adam.
“Thank you friends for sitting in the cold and damp to listen to my melancholy ditties,” Leonard deadpans after opening with the delicious double-whammy of ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ and ‘The Future’, which gets extra marks for the cartwheels backing singers The Webb Sisters somewhat incongruously perform during it.
Picking highlights is like picking a favourite child, but there are particularly loud cheers tonight for the stripped down ‘Sisters Of Mercy’; ‘Democracy’ which should be played at Guantanamo torture levels to anyone who’s considering voting for Mitt Romney; an impossibly tender ‘So Long, Marianne’; the disco-fied ‘First We Take Manhattan’ and a version of ‘Hallelujah’ that’s even more “praise the Lord!” wonderful than the Alexandra Burke original (just my little joke!)
While the likes of the Rolling Stones and The Who are happy to live off former glories, some of Cohen’s best work has been produced over the past decade as demonstrated this evening by ‘In My Secret Life’; the Sharon Robertson-sung ‘Alexandra’s Leaving’ and ‘Going Home’, the standout from his new Old Ideas album, which in “I’d like to speak with Leonard /He’s a sportsman and a shepherd /He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit” boasts one of the finest opening couplets of all time.
The musicianship, as always, is impeccable with Spanish guitar virtuoso Javier Mas picking up a storm on ‘My Gypsy Wife’ and Hattie Webb making her harp gently weep during ‘Who By Fire’.
With just over three months to go, it looks like a straightforward duke out between Leonard and Mr. Springsteen for gig of the year.