Leonard Cohen live

I’m just back from London’s O2 arena and a Leonard Cohen extravaganza. It was awesome.

Cohen toured the UK earlier in 2008 for the first time in over 14 years. I didn’t go then because I resisted the notion of seeing a performer like him in a large stadium. Then I read the reviews. They were very good. So when he added some more London dates, I got a ticket.

Cohen was the absolute epitome of cool. He and his band were dapper, smooth, and charming. They were elegant and professional, and if it had been anyone else singing other than this bass poet it would have been boring. But Cohen is profound, and defies any crass attachments. He is old – 74 years old – and had lessons to teach us.

Intensely classy lessons that went on for more than 3 hours, as it turned out. He started the evening by acknowledging both the economy and the O2 as he thanked us for braving such dizzying financial and architectural heights. It was quiet, you could hear every word of his vocals. The musicians were given chances to solo, but tastefully, and quietly. Everyone wore a hat. “Bird On A Wire” was stunning and moving. “Who By Fire” had a great Spanish guitar intro. The backup singers delivered “If It Be Your Will”. “Tower of Song” and “Hallelujah” were touching. “First We Take Manhattan” is simply the coolest song ever recorded.

Given the recent American election, “Democracy”‘s refrain – ‘Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.’ – got an enormous cheer every time it was repeated.

Despite his 74 years, Cohen never walked on or off stage; he ran and skipped, full tilt, each time. He was, simply, class. His songwriting is in the league of Dylan, but his sauve delivery is unparalleled.

He sang:

  • Dance Me To The End of Love
  • The Future
  • Ain’t No Cure For Love
  • Bird On A Wire
  • Everybody Knows
  • In My Secret Life
  • Who By Fire
  • Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
  • That Don’t Make It Junk
  • Anthem


  • Tower of Song
  • Suzanne
  • The Gypsy’s Wife
  • The Partisan
  • Boogie Street
  • Hallelujah
  • I’m Your Man
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep
  • Take This Waltz

1st encore

  • So Long, Marianne
  • First We Take Manhattan

2nd encore

  • Famous Blue Raincoat
  • If It Be Your Will
  • Democracy

3rd encore

  • I Tried To Leave You
  • Whither Thou Goest

Leonard Cohen

Photo from jonl1973 via Creative Commons license.

Left to my Cohen devices

Back in January I got very excited when I found out that Leonard Cohen was touring Europe. I’m a bit fan, and I planned to go.

However, when I saw that he was to play at the immense O2 stadium (20,000 capacity and decent tickets at £75), I lost a lot of excitement. I didn’t bother getting tickets.

Then I saw the reviews of some of his UK shows this summer. They’re allbrilliant. I regretted not going.

Then yesterday they announced a tour extension with repeat dates in Europe in October and November. Excitement back up.

So this morning I got a pretty good £60 seat for Leonard at the O2 on November 13th.

Is it just me, or is he starting to look a lot like another Leonard (Nimoy)?