He's your man

Justin Brake
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Charming Cohen sweeps audience off its feet, time and time again

The future of the Holy Heart Auditorium may be in doubt, but its legacy is even greater this week as Canadian poet and musical icon Leonard Cohen graces its stage just two weeks after ending a 15-year performance hiatus.

The 73-year-old will embark on a summer tour of primarily European dates but is warming up on Canadian soil in preparation, including the three-day stop in St. John's.

Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen performs at Holy Heart of Mary Auditorium in St. John's Sunday night. Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

The future of the Holy Heart Auditorium may be in doubt, but its legacy is even greater this week as Canadian poet and musical icon Leonard Cohen graces its stage just two weeks after ending a 15-year performance hiatus.

The 73-year-old will embark on a summer tour of primarily European dates but is warming up on Canadian soil in preparation, including the three-day stop in St. John's.

At the first concert Sunday evening, Cohen and his nine-piece band took to the stage dressed nattily in black and white attire and were greeted with thunderous applause.

He promptly removed his hat and bowed to the audience, which, by the end of the night, would repeat their standing ovation a good number of times.

"Some excellent musicians have gathered around these songs and we're going to present them to you," Cohen said, addressing the still-cheering crowd. "We just hope you're not disappointed."

As the band started into "Dance Me To The End Of Love" from 1984's "Various Positions," the woman seated next to me gasped in excitement.

The red and blue floodlights created an intimate ambiance and Cohen, singing passionately, with both hands on the mike, swanked a deep and slightly withered voice, but with the distinct intonation he always offered in his songs.

"The Future" was performed with poetic passion, but Cohen repeatedly relied on lighthearted comedy to moderate the mood, which at times was seductive and dark, especially during poetry interludes and song introductions when he would recite selected lyrics.

"It's been a long time since I've stood on a stage anywhere," he said after the first few songs, hiding from the bright light in the shade under the brim of his hat. "I was 60, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I've taken a lot of Prozac," he added, naming about a dozen different forms of the antidepressant as the audience took to his comedic disposition while he segued into "Ain't No Cure For Love."

The band's three backup vocalists, Sharon Robinson and sisters Charley and Hattie Webb, earned significant recognition for their refined harmonies which gave to the songs an at-times familiar, and other times unfamiliar, distinctive backdrop.

The first set spanned all eras of Cohen's career, but with "Bird On The Wire" being the only song from the '60s, leaned more toward material from the '70s and '80s.

"Everybody Knows" from the 1988 album "I'm Your Man" was poignant as Cohen sang with deep, dark conviction, his eyes emerging from the shadow of his hat and peering towards the balcony.

The second set opened with Cohen standing at a keyboard, centrestage.

"I don't want you to get alarmed, but I'm going to start this thing up here," he said pressing a key that initiated a beat. "It's not as easy as it looks. Actually, it is," he joked.

It was "The Tower of Song" from 1988's "I'm Your Man" and was warmly greeted by the audience.

"Suzanne" followed, with Cohen on guitar - possibly the most anticipated number of the evening. The audience went silent when he played the opening notes.

The song, perhaps Cohen's most well-known, was sombre in tone, and judging by the many tear-filled eyes around me, it was an emotional experience for some.

"I'm Your Man," "Hallelujah," and "Take This Waltz" were second-set highlights. The former saw Cohen at his most seductive, combining sexual references with a yearning for love.

As he left the stage, his band finished the last song and followed suit, but the encore break lasted mere seconds.

A countrified rendition of "Heart With No Companion" featured a resounding steel guitar performance by band member Bob Metzger.

A masterfully reworked version of "So Long, Marianne" followed, as did "First We Take Manhattan," two of Cohen's biggest musical achievements.

When he came back for the second encore, he paid homage to the venue.

"There's rumours that this theatre has a limited time," he said, speaking of ghosts and music and memories before starting into "That Don't Make It Junk" from the 2001 album "Ten New Songs."

"If It Be Your Will" featured sound vocal and musical performances by the Webb sisters, who played guitar and string harp for the song.

An upbeat "Closing Time" indicated the show was coming to an end, more than three hours after it began.

But the resilience of the Holy Heart audience brought Cohen back for one more song.

"I tried to leave you, I don't deny," he sang, introducing the 1974 song "I Tried To Leave You" to a laughing audience.

During the song he introduced the band members as they took turns executing solos.

Javier Mas' rich performance on a number of string instruments, including the bandurria and archilaud, was an integral part of the band's collective ambient sound, as was Dino Soldo's, which was distinguished by his sax solos.

The concert in its entirety was flawless and the vocal performances of Robinson and the Webb sisters and those of each of the musicians, coupled with Cohen's enthusiastic integrity, made for an evening those in attendance likely won't forget.

Having attended hundreds of concerts in this era of over-inflated ticket prices and having experienced some of the world's greatest living musicians, for the first time ever, the $75-$100 cost of admission was warranted.

Cohen and his band conclude their St. John's visit tonight at Holy Heart Auditorium in St. John's.

Organizations: Holy Heart Auditorium

Geographic location: St. John's

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Bill
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Two icons of the music world performed in St. John's this week. Having attended the Bob Dylan concert, he just played his set , ignored the audience, and left. Some say that's his style, dare I say it is rude and arrogant. Leonard Cohen was truly a master. I agree with Karla in her comment, He was vibrant, witty, and utterly engaged with the audience. With commentary to the audience throughout the whole performance, with praise and thanks to his band members and singers, and three encores to show his appreciation for the warm welcome, Cohen demonstrated he is a true master.

  • CJ
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I agree with Bill... although I enjoyed the Dylan concert, I didn't realize how rude he was as a performer until I saw Cohen perform. Cohen addressed us as his friends, charmed the crowd, and downright made himself the most popular man in St. John's.

  • larster
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    And I bet there wasn't one shoe thrown.How wonderful to have Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in our province in the same week!

  • Christine
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    It's truly wonderful to hear so many great reviews of Mr. Cohen's St. John's performances. I'll be attending tonight's show and I'm confident it will be an absolutely thrilling experience!

  • CJ
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    One of the best performances I have ever seen in my life. I cried my way through Suzanne, it was beautiful.

  • Chad
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    The Monday night show was absolutely fantastic. I would agree with Karla that Leonard's voice is still in top form. The entertainment provided was easily worth the cost of admission.

  • Karla
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    As one of the many with tear-filled eyes, I simply have to say this was the best show I've ever seen. Cohen exceeded every expectation. He was vibrant, witty, and utterly engaged with the audience. I must contest Brake's description of LC's voice as slightly withered, however. I listened to First We Take Manhatten on the drive home and last night's live rendition was every bit as good - if not better. Cohen is a master. May he live forever.

  • Tony
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    No hypnotist required - it was EASILY the best, most professional show that I have ever seen, anywhere. The only low point was the seats at HHM are not terribly comfortable.

  • Donny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Was there a hypnotist at the Cohen show or what? When I snap my fingers you will tell anyone that asks that this show was the best performance you have ever seen...................SNAP!

  • CJ
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I agree with Bill... although I enjoyed the Dylan concert, I didn't realize how rude he was as a performer until I saw Cohen perform. Cohen addressed us as his friends, charmed the crowd, and downright made himself the most popular man in St. John's.

  • Bill
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Two icons of the music world performed in St. John's this week. Having attended the Bob Dylan concert, he just played his set , ignored the audience, and left. Some say that's his style, dare I say it is rude and arrogant. Leonard Cohen was truly a master. I agree with Karla in her comment, He was vibrant, witty, and utterly engaged with the audience. With commentary to the audience throughout the whole performance, with praise and thanks to his band members and singers, and three encores to show his appreciation for the warm welcome, Cohen demonstrated he is a true master.

  • larster
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    And I bet there wasn't one shoe thrown.How wonderful to have Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in our province in the same week!

  • Christine
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    It's truly wonderful to hear so many great reviews of Mr. Cohen's St. John's performances. I'll be attending tonight's show and I'm confident it will be an absolutely thrilling experience!

  • CJ
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    One of the best performances I have ever seen in my life. I cried my way through Suzanne, it was beautiful.

  • Chad
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    The Monday night show was absolutely fantastic. I would agree with Karla that Leonard's voice is still in top form. The entertainment provided was easily worth the cost of admission.

  • Karla
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    As one of the many with tear-filled eyes, I simply have to say this was the best show I've ever seen. Cohen exceeded every expectation. He was vibrant, witty, and utterly engaged with the audience. I must contest Brake's description of LC's voice as slightly withered, however. I listened to First We Take Manhatten on the drive home and last night's live rendition was every bit as good - if not better. Cohen is a master. May he live forever.

  • Tony
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    No hypnotist required - it was EASILY the best, most professional show that I have ever seen, anywhere. The only low point was the seats at HHM are not terribly comfortable.

  • Donny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Was there a hypnotist at the Cohen show or what? When I snap my fingers you will tell anyone that asks that this show was the best performance you have ever seen...................SNAP!