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Music Review: Leonard Cohen

July 18, 2008

By Fiona Shepherd

LEONARD COHEN, CASTLE ESPLANADE, EDINBURGH ****

LEONARD Cohen’s loss is our gain. On realising that a substantial portion of his fortune had disappeared, Cohen opted to undertake this first major tour in years to claw back a few of those lost pennies. His solvency depended on our attendance, if you like. And the crowd, in turn, were certainly not short-changed.

Though his hand may have been forced, Cohen’s concert on Wednesday night on the Castle Esplanade felt more like the act of a liberated man. This was a classy production, with all the band in sharp tailoring and his mandolin player ensconced in an armchair. But none was more distinguished than Cohen, 73, looking the consummate sophisticate in his rakish fedora, which he graciously removed between songs to acknowledge the crowd’s applause.

From the off, the veteran torch singer showed he still had the moves to seduce the audience, periodically going down on one knee to deliver a beseeching line, engaging in a sublime vocal pas de deux (or pas de quatre, really) with his trio of backing singers and delivering the line “I need to see you naked” (from There Ain’t No Cure For Love) with a gruff, knowing chuckle.

Vocally, he was as virile as ever, his velvet baritone invested with gravity, adoration or playfulness as required, and his diction exquisite, the better to drink in his often uncanny way with words.

He warmed the senses with a full complement of his best-loved songs, including Bird On A Wire and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye in the first half. After the interval, he set his keyboard to autopilot for the fiendishly humorous Tower of Song, romanced the assembly with a flirtatious I’m Your Man and brought the audience to their feet with a statuesque Hallelujah, before offering So Long Marianne in farewell.

He then literally skipped off-stage – but only after delivering First We Take Manhattan with the verve of a man half his age.

Not a bad way to re-earn your living, though, in the end, it was the fans who were in his debt.

A shorter version of this review appeared in later editions of The Scotsman yesterday.

(c) 2008 Scotsman, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.