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Monday, October 26, 2009

Concert Review: Leonard Cohen at Allen Theatre

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 9:36 AM

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If there were a lounge in heaven, rest assured that Leonard Cohen would be the only choice to be the divine house band. Not that Cohen, now 75, is anywhere near ending his reign as de facto poet laureate of rock here on earth anytime soon, as his show last night at the Allen Theatre proved.

For over three hours (with one brief intermission) Cohen showed everyone that he's still one of the coolest people on the planet. Dressed to the nines, performing with a nine-piece accompaniment (three backup singers and six musicians), and staged in front of curtains that completely circled the back of the stage, Cohen rolled through his extensive collection while making everyone in the room wish he would tour more, but thankful that they were in attendance for this show.

He was dapper and charming and spry and energetic and earnest. He crooned in his own particularly entrancing way, running through romantic songs powerful not for their romanticism, but for their searing imagery, honesty, and otherwordly poetry. When love is good, it's great. When it's not, it's still worth it. We are flawed creatures -- beautifully flawed creatures. And it's lovely.

“I don’t know when we’ll be passing through here again,” he said early in the show. “So I want to tell you that it is our intention to give you everything we’ve got tonight." He did, and more. Cohen hit all the career high notes — "Suzanne," "I Am Your Man," "Take This Waltz," and "So Long Marianne," among many others — and, of course, played "Hallelujah," a piece as close to divine as you're going to find even with the cover-song and soundtrack saturation, made more powerful in concert with Cohen at his age, displaying youthful showmanship in the figure of a worn, experienced, but strident old man. It was times like this that you appreciate when Cohen performers these songs, these songs so often covered, beautifully I might add, by others. But rarely if ever do they come out like they did last night.

After multiple of encores, each lasting a couple songs or more, Cohen finally took his fourth or fifth bow to a standing ovation from the crowd. No kidding — three hours might sound like a long time, but the crowd would have stayed for five.

(Personal highlight of the night: "Chelsea Hotel 2" — our favorite Cohen song.)

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