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by Bree Perlman

Dapper in black suit and fedora, Leonard Cohen grinned like a man on a mission. Opening with an arresting Dance Me to the End of Love, he commanded a stage he seemed truly grateful to be back on. At 75, the concert served as a retrospective of a life fully dedicated and devoted to living. An authentic life of an authentic man, born to sing; to write; to communicate the collective human experience.  

He was a beautiful figure to behold, dancing and hopping a bit from side to side like a magic deer in a fairytale. The fairytale, as anyone that knows Leonard Cohen knows, was about love, and after all these years, nobody seems to have more of a lyrical command of it than he does. At times the high priest, the court jester, the doe-eyed creature, the destroyer, he sings about the power of love and all its cruelty in a way that makes it undeniably cool to be in it; to feel and experience it to its fullest capacity. From the first note, his voice grabbed holed of the hearts of the sold out crowd, at once caressing them, then stroking them, then poising to rip them out so that we might throw them on stage in place of roses.

Supported by his longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson and the lovely Webb Sisters, who performed a stunning, “If it is Your Will”, and back up band lead by Austin’s own Roscoe Beck, Cohen deftly revisited a repertoire that spanned his entire career. Everybody Knows, My Secret Life, Chelsea Hotel, Ring the Bells, I’m Your Man, Suzanne, Gypsy Wife, One of Us Cannot Be Wrong, A Thousand Kisses Deep–at over three hours there was something for everyone. He is no less brilliant. We were no less grateful, dotting our wet eyes, when a song resonated particularly true. At one point he stopped to address the audience, “It’s been 14 years since I took the stage. I was 60. Just a scrappy kid with a dream. Took some time off. I turned to religion and philosophies. But the cheerfulness kept pushing its way through.” The Webb sisters did a cartwheel. Mr. Cohen did a little shuffle. He performed like a man who had survived the sheer burden of living so closely to the heart–and having gotten through it was here to reflect in a way that was lighter, less imminent, the words easier to sing. There was a sense of ease, or perhaps relief, of the survivor who had made it, passing his wisdom on to those who still had many more to learn.

On both nights it was the exact same show and from what I’ve seen on You Tube, the same everywhere else. He’s 75. It works. No complaints. Well OK, maybe one: there is an increasingly popular format popping up with big name acts: the extended encore. So extended, that it is longer than the actual show.  I wish someone would get rid of it. One encore is exciting. Two encores, is still exciting. Hell, even three, you feel like you are getting a special treat. But when you get into the seven and eight encore territory…. there is something about the flow of it, that well, doesn’t.  It’s a strange choice for such an intimate performer and by the last song (and final encore),  I Tried to Leave You, even he seemed to find it amusing. He sang, “I tried to leave you, I don’t deny.” The audience let out a laugh.  “I closed the book on us, at least a hundred time” They laughed louder and began to applaud.  “Goodnight, my darling, I hope you’re satisfied.” We were.


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