Photo by G.
When I saw Leonard Cohen live in February 2009, I knew very little about the man. I knew that he wrote songs such as “Hallelujah,” “Coming Back To You,” and “Bird on a Wire,” but I actually knew cover versions (by Jeff Buckley, Martin Gore and Willie Nelson, respectively) better than the originals. Still, those songs are so great, I wanted to check out Leonard Cohen perform. The night of the show the temperature was frigid, and when I arrived at the Beacon Theater for the concert, there were hundreds of people in front of the venue literally begging to buy tickets off anyone who would be willing to part with one. These fans were not waiting in the bitter cold to see the latest pop tart, but instead for the prospect of sharing the evening with a singer/songwriter! I’d never seen anything like that in all of my concert experiences and lord knows, I’ve had quite a few.
From the second the 74 year old Leonard Cohen took the stage until 3 hours later when the show was over, I was literally mesmerized by Cohen’s words. Sitting nearby were people upwards of 50 years old and as Cohen would launch into one of his signature tunes, people would break down into tears, as these songs have meant so much to these people’s lives. I have chills thinking about it and I remember at the time proclaiming that it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. I’ve since purchased most of Leonard Cohen’s back catalog and it’s no longer a surprise why the audience had the reaction they did – his words are simply brilliant!
Columbia Records‘ Legacy Division has released a CD/DVD document of this world tour called “Songs From the Road,” and if you missed seeing Leonard Cohen live on the last go-around, this is the 2nd closest thing you’re going to get to seeing him in person. The first closest thing is the CD/DVD combo “Live In London,” a complete show from this tour, which is also an excellent release. Each song on the “Songs From The Road” collection is taken from a different venue (most are taken from stadium shows in Europe) and as Cohen launches into his classics, the CD/DVD captures the audience losing their minds. Lots of great memories came flooding back as I watched the DVD and I imagine you’ll have the same reaction when you hear 20,000 people applaud in unison as Leonard Cohen sings the opening notes to classics such as “Suzanne,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and “Chelsea Hotel.” “Hallelujah” is taken from Cohen’s headlining slot at the Coachella Festival in California in 2009, and it is so interesting watching a wide shot of a sea of cell phones as well as point and shoot cameras trying to capture the moment.
There’s a 20 minute bonus feature where the band is interviewed as they trekked across the world on this 195 show tour and this package is a must have for Leonard Cohen fans old and new. When you think of the fact that over a nearly two year span, Leonard Cohen toured the world and performed for 3 hours every night, at the age of 74, respect must be given to his stamina as well as his talent. For those just discovering the wonderful world of Leonard Cohen, I hope “Songs From The Road” encourages you to dig deeper into his vast catalog. I also hope it reminds the masses that substance over theatrics is a still a concept that can sell out arenas across the globe. “Songs From The Road” by Leonard Cohen, whose birthday is a few days (September 21), is out now. Happy birthday Mr. Cohen and many happy returns!