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Leonard Cohen

Edinburgh Castle
4 stars
There may be a red velvet armchair onstage for Leonard Cohen’s first tour in fifteen years, but there’s nothing cosy about the 73 year-old Jewish Buddhist’s itinery. Dressed like a 1940s mobster fronting a similarly styled ensemble, the one-time soundtracker of bed-sit melancholy raises his homburg in greeting before going down on one knee for the gentle sway of Dance Me To The End Of Love. The three hours of his back catalogue that follows is delivered with humility, grace and twinkle-eyed charm.

From the rinky-dink lounge bar shtick of the opening numbers, things ease into a gorgeously arranged low-key baroque framing Cohen’s voice, even deeper these days, as familiar lines are punctuated with a wry chuckle. It’s as if the wisdom experience has brought with it has added an extra nuance of clarity to his fragile hymns of hope and despair. On a wonderful So Long, Marianne, Cohen’s voice is raw and impassioned, and hearing him incant his poem, A Thousand Kisses Deep, before eight thousand people is oddly humbling.

Cohen is a magnanimous host, name-checking each band member if they do anything remotely interesting, watching over them benignly, yet never forgetting who we’re here for. Special mention must be made of the Kent-born Webb Sisters, Charley and Hattie, who, as well as supplying backing vocals with Cohen’s musical collaborator Sharon Robinson, take the lead on a sepulchrally inclined encore of If It Be Your Will. By this time the rain’s started, and after a funky ride through Closing Time, Cohen really does call time. “Don’t catch a summer cold,” he implores dryly as he exits. It sounds like a blessing.

The Herald, July 18th 2008

ends

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