Auckland, Vector Arena December 21
There are so many Leonard Cohen lookalikes at Vector Arena, you think you'll be desensitised when you see him. The trademark hats are everywhere. The place smells like a mixture of expensive perfume and incense. Thirty year olds feel young.
These walls are used to the travelling pop star circus and a crowd of youngsters who capture the spectacle behind the glow of their phones. But last night, Vector Arena enjoyed a different crowd as Leonard Cohen and his band gave the final show of their world tour.
"Tonight, and especially tonight," he said, "we're going to give you everything we've got."
No great light show, no dramatic costume changes, no giant props, just the man and the music. It was everything.
He sang all the greats. He called us his friends. He belted out a great deal of the set from down on his knees. When he was upright, he bopped. He took his hat off to every band member and gave each plenty of time to dazzle us. In return, they expertly propped Cohen up without stealing the limelight. They all worked beautifully together.
Leonard Cohen's songs are so great that sometimes you have to close your eyes. Suzanne was one. And Anthem. And Tower of Song. You look back to see others with their eyes closed, smiling, like they are holding their faces up to the sun. A few try capturing it on their phones, but nothing would come close to having been there.
The spoken word version of Thousand Kisses Deep was another highlight. Cohen sings and speaks as though he's whispering in your ear.
"I loved you when you opened, like a lily to the heat, you see I'm just another snowman standing in the rain and sleet, who loved you with his frozen love, his second hand physique, with all he is and all he was, a thousand kisses deep."
The crowd fell more in love with the man as the evening progressed. At times you wonder how he pulls it off - being 79 years old and singing an enormous amount about sex - but he's been a charmer his whole life and tonight was no different.
Somewhere around the middle of the show, a keyboard was placed in front of Cohen. He apologised for it. It's not teched-out and digital, he said, "but it speaks of an earlier time, a gentler time." And that's exactly how the night felt.
At the end, after countless standing ovations and four encores, he thanked us for all the years we have paid attention to his songs and said, "drive carefully home and don't catch a cold. May you be surrounded by friends and family all the days of your life ... or god bless you in your solitude."
He took his hat off to us and bowed deeply through our cheers and we all fell in love with him a little more as we watched him skip like a young man, off the stage.
- © Fairfax NZ News