TONY CLAYTON-LEAreviews Leonard Cohen at the O2, Dublin
WHEN LOU Reed – another master of life’s troubles and woes – inducted Leonard Cohen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, he said: “We’re so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is.”
It’s a good point, because there are very few music artists of Cohen’s age and status left by which to remind us that we are slipping out of the Golden Age of Popular Music into muddied waters of no small depth.
This is not to say, by any means, that there isn’t a wealth of brilliant new music around; it’s just that Cohen – unlike, say, Bob Dylan – appears to have no interest in deconstructing the blueprint or redefining the mythology.
He doesn’t mess around – his early material (some would say his best-loved, which has earned him the indelible title of The Bard of Bedsit) such as Suzanne, Sisters of Mercyand So Long Mariannehas aged much better than those of most of his contemporaries because the work originally existed outside the usual parameters of folk rock.
Some 40 years ago Cohen was no musician scrabbling around for words to fit tunes; he was (and, arguably, still is) a poet, whose exacting, precise and subtle output was high on quality and low on ego.
More than 40 years on, and the song (as well as the casually strewn philosophy and the lugubrious baritone) remains the same – still as simplistic, sombre and sensual, yet also strangely, magnetically comforting.
Forced back into touring in order to stave off the onset of dire financial problems (caused by a period of mismanagement), there is, perhaps, a sense of lack of enthusiasm.
But only a sense – it flits in and out of the set like an aural aurora borealis, and before you know what has happened, you’ve slipped into the refined swing of things and you’re stuck there until the song finishes. The dignity, poise and graciousness of the enterprise impresses almost as much as the music, which is dressed up – like the musicians, singers and the occasional roadie – in a sharp suit and an optional smart hat.
Are there some tickets left? Yes, there are, so do yourself a favour.
Leonard Cohen performs at the O2 this Wednesday (sold out) and Thursday (see Ticketmaster for tickets 0818-719300).