Las Vegas Review-Journal Jason Bracelin column: CONCERT REVIEW: Leonard Cohen stirs passions during spirited Caesars show
By Jason Bracelin, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nov. 14--He sang the songs as if he were whispering them into a lover's ear.
His voice was husky, seductive and more than a little worn around the edges, a coiled snake of sensuality.
In song, Leonard Cohen once claimed to have a heart of ice, and yet his tunes could melt a glacier with all their libidinal heat.
The man's crazy for love, his repertoire being his padded cell.
"Love is not a victory march," he purred at one point Thursday at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. "It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah."
"Hallelujah," the song in question, was a triumphant sounding, lump-in-the-throat hymnal that Cohen sang from his knees in a penitent pose.
"I did not come to the palace of Caesar to fool you," he added moments later, earnest as can be.
Cohen's skilled at filling a room with lots of dark clouds, but in the end, most of them prove to have a nickel-plated lining.
He sees the beauty in decay, the promise in imperfection.
"Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering," he sang on "Anthem." "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
As such, his show on Thursday was a joyous, spirited occasion, even when Cohen was questioning his own fate.
"I see no future, I know my days are few," he growled during the hard-eyed blues swing of "The Darkness," a new tune that sounded far more invigorated than resigned.
This was a constant of the evening.
Playing with a six-piece band and a trio of backing singers, including longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson and the sublime Webb Sisters, Cohen turned in loose-limbed, slightly more full-bodied versions of standards like "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" and "Bird on the Wire," rendering many of them spry, self-aware waltzes that somehow managed to feel both upbeat and downcast at once.
Cohen seemed determined to match the energy of his band, skipping on and off the stage like he had bedsprings for legs, smiling broadly, singing with his knees pressed together, harnessing the full force of his dapper frame.
Performing on a sparsely appointed stage, bathed in red and purple hues, Cohen and his band often appeared as dark silhouettes in an even darker room.
It created an intimate, unguarded atmosphere that suited Cohen's material well and to which the rapturous, near-capacity crowd responded as if he were serenading each and every one of them individually.
If Cohen's catalog is capable of stirring such passions, it's no secret why. There is precious little ambivalence in his works. He thrusts himself headfirst into the love, longing, rapture and defeat that defines much of it.
There's seldom any middle ground amidst it all, and this kind of uninhibitedness can be intoxicating.
"Give me Christ, or give me Hiroshima," he sang during the punchy shuffle of "The Future," and that pretty much says it all.
And yet, it's all delivered with a knowing wink, a palpable lack of pretense despite the poetic license in which Cohen freely indulges.
To wit, he ended his nearly three-hour performance with an extended "I Tried to Leave You," a song that took on a double meaning as Cohen sung it in a voice so deep, it occasionally mimicked the drone of a didgeridoo.
"Good night my darling, I hope you're satisfied," he sang, addressing a former flame and the crowd in the same breath. "Here's a man still working for your smile."
And then he left the stage, knowing that his work was complete.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.