Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leonard Cohen in Wellington

From Dave Barnes:
Dear nz-folk,
Well, last night I had the delight of attending Leonard Cohen's concert in Wellington. I am happy to say it surpassed all my expectations.
Held in a venue reputed to have possibly the worst acoustics in the entire universe, LC and his crew produced an exquisite sound. That voice was captured and presented to us in all its impossible depths. Perhaps one key point was holding the volume to absolute perfection rather than blasting us out of our seats. We were there for his voice and his words, and we got them in style.
And the man himself - a nimbleness that belied his 74 years as he skipped onto the stage and as he knelt to add an emphasis to various of his lyrics. Supported by 9 outstanding musicians who played with consumnate skill to showcase his performance, he delivered a mix of the old favourites along with newer works. Perhaps some of his most poignant presentation, though, was in a couple of his renditions of his unadorned poetry - just him speaking it. That reminds you of the power of his lyrics.
Whilst I, being one of the long-time converted, would be totally happy with the man and maybe just one guitarist, I have to acknowledge that brilliance of the presentation undoubtedly allowed his work to be absorbed by a far wider audience. And they were there - from 1 month old to over 80, with all generations between being well represented. An emotive night - the newer numbers, and there were many that as a devotee particularly of his first two albums I was not familiar with, were wrapped with a warmth that made them instant old friends. And for those familar ones the power of his voice brought them oh so much closer.
He displayed a superb relationship with the crowd despite not undertaking a concert for some 15 years ("when I was a young man with a crazy dream")prior to this tour. And his warmth spilled over to the "handrail crisis" (the papers had obviously had not enough real news) with the comment "I suggested that they removed the handrail, thus removing the visual barrier [for the "vertically challenged" in the front row of the galleries], but the management felt that due to the nature of my work some of the audience might choose to hurl themselves over the edge". You certainly couldn't feel short-changed - an immensely long performance that would shame many younger acts, with an impressive range of encores. He thanked all of us for keeping his songs alive - I for one will endeavour to continue to do so!

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