Sunday, April 5, 2009

Musicalia: Leonard Cohen - Austin, TX (2nd Show)

I will gladly admit that immediately after having seen a much anticipated musical act in concert that I perhaps heave praise in their direction that can go well past effusive. Having proffered that qualification, Leonard Cohen was amazing Thursday night.

As many know, Leonard Cohen is not one for touring. If not for his former business manager basically robbing him, he probably wouldn't have to begin with. A lesser man would surely bear a noticeable resentment for having been thrust back into touring as a victim of circumstance, but Leonard Cohen is clearly greater than that.

What he gave the audience at the Long Center was a three-plus hour masterpiece. There was not a single moment in the show where you felt like you were watching anything less than a living legend who seemed to show no ill effects of being 74 years old. He was nimble on stage, dancing on-and-off stage during his shockingly energetic encore, and worked the audience like a consummate showman.

They went on pretty promptly at around 8:00 pm, broke for a twenty minute intermission at 9:20, and then played until 11:30. Three hours covers a lot of material to be sure, and barring a song or two that I really wanted to hear off of New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Cohen & Co. played just about any song I could have asked for. The setlist was pretty much without a flaw, and each song's rendering was marked with a command that was nothing short of arresting. As the show became more and more epic, the amazement at their ceaseless showmanship became more and more overwhelming, each song becoming marked with that feeling you get towards the end of a transcendent show where you simply cannot fathom that this song is going to be the last song, only at this show you were greeted with another and another and another.

It is difficult for me to objectively look at a show that I have seen so recently without being a little over-excited, but I can't imagine my personal concert-going history bearing out that this was easily one of the five best shows I have ever been to, and in the past year alone I've seen Bruce Springsteen (who I'm seeing again tonight), Tom Waits (three times), Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Wilco to name a few.

As we got up to leave, the Rangers fan next to me (who I'll refrain from naming in the interest of preserving his privacy) turned and said, "I've never cried at a concert, and I cried twice tonight." That pretty well sums it up.

Do what you can to see this. You may not get another chance to be overwhelmed by the vitality of Leonard Cohen.

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