Gig review: Leonard Cohen in Wellington

Last updated 08:42 21/01/2009
Reuters
WOW FACTOR: Leonard Cohen performs at the 42nd Montreux Jazz Festival. He wowed a Wellington audience with a three-hour set packed full of hits.

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If you were at Leonard Cohen's Wellington concert last night and didn't like it then you had your information wrong. Simon Sweetman was there.

Leonard Cohen
Where: TSB Arena, Wellington
When: Tuesday, January 20

Canadian poet and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen takes the stage with his nine-piece band. There is a huge ovation; many people get up out of their seats - for the first of several times.

The opening song is Dance Me To The End Of Love. From there it is to The Future, Ain't No Cure For Love and Bird On A Wire.

A living legend places his lyrical legacy at the feet of an adoring audience and the songs - poems, mantras, scriptures even - continue to fall in to place: Everybody Knows with its wry, subversive humour, In My Secret Life (acknowledging the 2001 "comeback" album Ten New Songs).

Cohen takes up an acoustic guitar for some delicate plucking (Who By Fire and Chelsea Hotel # 2).

The audience sits hushed as immortal paeans, prayers and odes float from the stage - Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye - and Cohen's band provides the musical colour with a brushed drum kit, saxophones, flutes, mandolin, guitars and three perfectly pitched backing vocalists to assist his below sea-level growl.

The sound is stunning in a venue that is so often awful for concerts; this time the right band is playing correctly and the audience is no longer suffering for the location of the musician's art.

A short interval, after Anthem - with its line "there is a crack in everything/that's how the light gets in" - and Cohen returns with Tower Of Song, telling people they are too kind for applauding his one-finger keyboard solo.

From there it is to Suzanne from the debut album, the start of the reverence and reverie, then to The Gypsy Wife, The Partisan and Hallelujah.

A Thousand Kisses Deep is stunning as poetic recital; the bard still possesses beguiling grace.

And then it is to Take This Waltz, band introductions and a series of encores including So Long Marianne, First We Take Manhattan, If It Be Your Will (Cohen recites the first verse and then his version of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, the Webb sisters, deliver the body of the tune) Famous Blue Raincoat and Democracy

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If you were at the concert and didn't like it then you had your information wrong.

It is hard work having to put this concert in to words so I'll just say something I have never said in a review before and will never say again: this was the best show I have ever seen.

* What did you think? Post your comments below.

- The Dominion Post

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