Leonard Cohen at Manchester M.E.N.

I think last night I may have witnessed the best concert of my life.  Not only was Leonard himself superb – but so were his band, the sound and the big screen video. I was really surprised at the immaculate, velvety quality of the sound in the enormous MEN Arena. The impact of the performance was also enhanced by the excellent video on the giant screens. Leonard reminded us that it was 15 years since he’d last played Manchester: “I was 60 then – just a crazy kid with a dream.”

At the end of Tower of Song it really seemed as if he, Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters were the only people in the room as he urged them to ignore our applause and sing for him.

The final ensemble Whither Thou Goest with all the crew on stage was moving, as was Leonards heartfelt thanks to them for their work on the tour.  He bid us farewell by saying he didn’t know when we would meet again before dancing off stage.

Here’s the Manchester Evening News review:

If this year has found many of the elderly stateside stalwarts of classic songwriting hitting the road again for the first time in a long time, with relative recluses Tom Waits and Neil Young possibly scared into action by the credit crunch klaxon, Leonard Cohen’s return has certainly courted the most headlines.

Some 15 years since he last had to size up tour buses, Cohen’s early summer four-night sold out stand at the Opera House drew plaudits and frothing enthusiasm from all those lucky enough to get hold of tickets, and some six months on having travelled full circle around the globe he’s still able to astound.

While few artists beyond normal retirement age would hardly even consider such a lengthy schedule the sight of Cohen – who recently celebrated his 74th birthday – almost skipping to centre stage for opener ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ is a strange sight that defies his undeserved sullen reputation.

Still as dapperly dressed and prominent now as on previous album sleeves, the only thing that seems to have changed beyond those dusty vinyl covers is his once unremarkable voice dropping to a gentle calming low baritone adding further gravitas to even Cohen’s more emotionally charged expert word play.

Dipping into hits and fan favourites from his impressive back catalogue the force of early set songs such as ‘Bird On A Wire’, ‘Who By Fire’, ‘Anthem’ – each delivered with a surgeon’s precision by his expert nine-piece backing band – has the devoted M.E.N audience transfixed.

Whether through the angelic vocal harmonies of regular collaborator Sharon Robinson and the “sublime” Webb sisters, “shepherd of strings” Javier Mas’ virtuoso Laud/ nylon string runs or “master of breath” Dino Saldo’s woodwind expertise the musicianship on display is near perfect.

Soon hitting his stride following the short interval with knockout numbers ‘Suzanne’ and ‘I’m Your Man’, ‘Tower Of Song’, ‘Chelsea Hotel No.2’, a staggering reading of ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ and not to mention his hijacked masterpiece ‘Hallelujah’- soon to be given the X Factor treatment (i.e. ruined).

Remaining genial, enthused and humble throughout, even moved to removing his trademark hat in gentlemanly fashion as the vocal harmonies take centre stage, Cohen soaks up the thunderous applause that follows each song.

Whilst it may have taken some persuasion for the Canadian poet to once again take to the stages following such a long lay off the three encores this evening – each met with a standing ovation – suggests he has taken to performing again with gusto, lets hope it lasts.

Set list

First set

  • Dance Me To The End Of Love
  • The Future (with cartwheels!)
  • Ain’t No Cure For Love
  • Bird On The Wire
  • Everybody Knows
  • In My Secret Life
  • Who By Fire
  • Chelsea Hotel #2
  • Anthem

Second set

  • Tower Of Song
  • Suzanne
  • Gypsy Wife
  • The Partisan
  • Boogie Street
  • Hallelujah
  • I’m Your Man
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep (recital)
  • Take This Waltz

First encore

  • So Long, Marianne
  • First We Take Manhattan

Second encore

  • Famous Blue Raincoat
  • If It Be Your Will
  • Democracy

Third encore

  • I Tried To Leave You
  • Whither Thou Goest?

Here are some clips from You Tube while we wait for next spring’s CD and DVD:

The opener: Dance Me To The End of Love

Tower of Song


If It Be Your Will

Closing words


One thought on “Leonard Cohen at Manchester M.E.N.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.