Cohen's diamonds among the rough

Last updated 08:52 18/12/2013
Leonard Cohen performs in Wellington
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

STILL GOT IT: Leonard Cohen performs in Wellington.

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Leonard Cohen

TSB Bank Arena, Tuesday, December 17

Reviewed by Colin Morris

The sprightliness belies his age.

This dapper man in a dark suit, the ubiquitous trilby (circa James Bond, From Russia With Love) at a cocky angle and that baleful voice full of gravel and flowers, an instrument of pure joy - yet the bane of much criticism by his detractors - graces the stage once more and, while far from conventional, his pearls of wisdom that drip slowly from his pen via his mouth provoke more discussion than perhaps any songwriter other than Dylan himself.

The art critic Robert Hughes famously once said, "it takes art to make life bearable" and on the surface that seems terribly melancholic but then nobody does melancholy like Mr Cohen.

But to quote Leonard himself: "You know me, I'm the journalist of the inner dismal condition."

Behind the facade of seemingly depressing songs - though there is plenty of humour for those willing to look - there lie diamonds. This lodestone is hewn out of rock whilst Dylan's are formed on the back of napkins.

The result of all this mining is a concert that pleases everybody. The songs are all well known by this most appreciative of audiences, resulting in a Zen-like glow usually reserved for the likes of the late Ravi Shankar, which I'm sure is a result of Cohen's perceived reclusiveness.

There is a sense of admiration for an artist who doesn't hang his washing out for all to see.

Cohen doesn't shatter myths but creates illusions with lyrical ambiguities, songs about unrequited love (Suzanne), the bitter prophesies in Everybody Knows, and My Secret Life reminds us that we all have a secret love in the past we cling to and that may have made us a perfect person.

Then there is Bird On A Wire, Who By Fire and Dance Me To The End Of Love, all from a measly 12 albums over a period of 40-plus years.

As Cohen hinted that this might be his last trip Down Under, we can only say a big, big thank to you and your flawless band, it's been a wonderful love affair.

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