Concert Review: Leonard Cohen Vector Arena

By John Roughan

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Cohen doesn't know when he'll be back. Photo / Dean Purcell
Cohen doesn't know when he'll be back. Photo / Dean Purcell

Where: Vector Arena
When: Last night

Leonard Cohen is a revelation to those who knew him only on records long ago.

At the age of 76, the dark poet is a warm, gracious, comfortable performer on stage.

Many of the near-capacity crowd last night had already discovered that last year. This time, they were perhaps looking for something extra.

Essentially they got the same.

Cohen took the stage with the same players, same dapper suits and trilby hats, same song order for too much of the concert.

But every so often the pace was quickened with a moment of magic.

The first came six or seven songs into the programme, the first time Cohen picked up a guitar.

Over his signature rolling rhythm, Spanish guitarist Javier Mas played an extended introduction to Who by Fire and the band came alive.

Cohen was less engaging than last year, eyes hidden by his hat brim and few comments to the audience.

There was a ritual nod to nuclear-free New Zealand and to the "wisdom and sanity of your Government - and the luck of geography here".

After the interval, the treats came regularly. The lovely Gypsy Wife, a rousing rendition of The Partisan, and Collaborator Sharon Robinson's Boogie Street.

After two rounds of band introductions, the audience knows them well. Cohen treats them all as co-stars, doffing his hat to them through their solos.

But his velvet voice is the undertow of all the tunes. He is the show. His timing and the intensity of his singing are the essence.

On occasions, he is a little too intense for the material. A song such as Chelsea Hotel #2 is not exactly profound. It could be better done as simply as others, such as Rufus Wainwright, do it.

There were tired moments - Suzanne was a struggle - but many more great ones, such as Tower of Song with just Cohen, his little synthesizer and the female chorus.

He was a published poet before he turned to song, and last night, his spoken version of his poem to age, A Thousand Kisses Deep, was the moment to exceed them all.

He was on stage for more than three hours. We couldn't ask for more. He is 76. He said he does not know when he will be back. He has left his fans forever satisfied.

- NZ Herald

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