Prolific songwriter, Leonard Cohen, has been penning and performing music for over four decades. Saturday night at the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, he proved that, despite a fifteen-year hiatus from the live stage, his music not only holds up to the test of time, but transcends it to resonate with multiple generations of fans.
Upon arriving at the sleek venue, it was difficult not to notice the diversity of the crowd in attendance. Patrons ranged from the predictable baby boomers, who have been fans of Cohen since his early incarnations to the trendy, scenester twenty-somethings, no less appreciative of the resonating melodies and poetry encased in his work.
Shortly after eight o’clock, the lights were dimmed and the nine musicians composing Cohen’s band entered onto the stage, shortly followed by Cohen, himself. A classical guitar played an introduction to Dance Me to the End of Love as Cohen kneeled besides the musician, singing the opening melodies. And so began an epic, three hours plus journey through the haunting and seductive works of Cohen.
The twenty-eight song setlist drew heavily from Cohen’s extensive catalog of classics, including Bird on a Wire, Chelsea Hotel # 2, Suzanne, Hallelujah, So Long, Marianne, First We Take Manhattan and Famous Blue Raincoat. The show was defined by two sets and multiple encores that helped move the time along at lightning speed. The audience was also held captive by Cohen’s genuine charisma and humbleness, which repeatedly surfaced through his interactions with his bandmates as well as his ironic sense of humor.
Despite the fact that Cohen may be 74 in physical age (in reference to his last tour, he joked, “I was 60 then – just a crazy kid with a dream.”), Saturday night’s show demonstrated that age truly is just a number. The spry musician was repeatedly found skipping on and off stage, jubilant in the joy of performing. However, the true standout of the evening was Cohen’s own voice. Uniquely powerful, he was at all times in full control of his instrument, oscillating one moment to the next between forcefully sensuous and delicately vulnerable. He undoubtedly can still outperform any artist in their prime with his emotional range.
The reason that such an eclectic group was in attendance became quite clear upon experiencing the tremendous performance Saturday evening. Cohen truly is that rare breed of musician, whose songs are able to transcend time and space to appeal to all generations. As many Cohen fans can attest to, His music is akin to a fine bottle of wine: you may not realize what you’ve missed before you experienced him live but, once you do, your outlook on music will never be the same.