The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Leonard Cohen

Nicholas Anderson | Friday, April 24, 2009

Social security is hemorrhaging money. Over the past couple of years, it has become clear that solid financial planning is necessary for an easy retirement. Sob stories about retirees going back to work evoke sympathy from even the coldest of hearts. Fortunately, one of these stories has turned into an enormous gain.Twelve years ago, Leonard Cohen was doing well: Moderate mainstream fame, a legion of religiously devoted fans and the most impressive catalogue of songs this side of Bob Dylan. Cohen, best known for writing the ubiquitous “Hallelujah,” decided it was about time to take a break. For him, this meant spending a decade living as a Buddhist Monk. Emerging in late 2007, Cohen found that a former manager had embezzled his lifetime of earnings. His new retirement fund became his first tour in over 15 years. At 74 years old and years out of practice, a live show was far from a sure thing. As early shows gathered raving reviews, plans to film a concert in London formed. The resulting DVD proves that it is impossible for Cohen to be in it for the money; he’s there to share his passion, his pride and his life. For a man who’s primarily known for his songwriting, Cohen displays the abilities of an excellent performer. Dressed in a double-breasted suit and fedora, Cohen looks like a member of the Rat Pack, about 50 years too late. From the moment Cohen runs on the stage, he commands it with a presence that is both powerful and understated. Cohen takes the packed 20,000-seat arena and makes it feel like a 300 person club. The show runs an impressive three hours but moves at an incredible rate. Cohen packs the stage with performers who perfectly compliment his style. While Cohen is the center of attention, each member of the group provides a deep and appropriate solo spread throughout the concert. Javier Mas opens and carries “Who by Fire” with an intricately wonderful melody from a 12-string guitar and Dino Soldo’s woodwinds create an atmosphere across several songs that carry the listener effortlessly. Every musician on stage masters their instrument and bends it to Cohen’s will. While the instrumentation already takes the concert to an extreme level of art, Cohen’s vocals go beyond it. His voice has become deeper and grittier with age, working perfectly with the style of his songs. The chasm between his rasp tone and the feminine voices of Sharon Robinson, Charley Webb and Hattie Webb illustrates the divide between heaven and earth and the interplay is just as beautiful. Throughout his life, Cohen struggled with bouts of depression. These dark moments are reflected in his songs. At their initial recordings, many of his songs are best described as haunting, heavy and enchanting. With age, Cohen has mellowed without having the same effect on his music. In fact, the years have only increased the authenticity of his songs. He’s a man who’s been to the depths his lyrics explore but has also been healed. He owes a debt to his songs and this concert is his best attempt at payment.In such a large crowd of people, Cohen achieves something rare: a moment of silence. With the crowd still cheering from the previous song, the opening notes of “Hallelujah” are heard. After an upturn in crowd noise in anticipation, the stadium goes quiet for most of the remaining song. The souls of those onstage are offered to the song. Cohen hits every note with a power fueled by a mixture of pain and joy, which can clearly be seen on his face. Leonard Cohen truly is a rare artist giving a rare performance. A five-decade career is delivered over 26 songs. “Live in London” serves as both a great introduction and end piece to his work. Cohen has surpassed the goal of finding music that is enjoyable and found music that matters

Leonard Cohen “Live in London”Sony Music4 out of 4 shamrocksRecommended tracks “Hallelujah”, “First We Take Manhattan”, “Everybody Knows”