Blog On The Tracks
Last updated 11:45 09/11/2010
Last year I went to Leonard Cohen. I paid my own way. And then wrote a review - because I was asked to. We'd asked for comps or review tickets as we call them in our house (as nothing comes free). We were denied. That was of no issue - I was going to Leonard Cohen no matter what. The first time.
Besides, I've told you all about that - about how lame it was to have the promoter tell me, after I'd written a review that he'd used for advertising around the world, how my writeup had "resonated around the world".
So, I was less interested in seeing Cohen a second time. But I was very excited about him coming back to New Zealand. The way I figured it, he was coming back for all who missed him the first time. Right? I think I even said something along those lines here. http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/bl ... nard-Cohen
Well, in the end, I was given tickets this time - an amends of sorts for last time. And I was asked to write a review of it at the last minute. So I did.
Here is that first review - from last year. http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/mu ... ews/804015
And here is what I wrote this time:
TSB Arena, Sunday, October 31 and Monday November 1
Reviewed by Simon Sweetman
January 2009, Leonard Cohen played a show in Wellington. The review concluded "it is hard work having to put this concert into words so I'll just say something I have never said in a review before and will never say again: this was the best show I have ever seen".
Cohen's return to the capital, 22 months later, has resulted in two sold-out shows and clearly it's hyperbole to suggest a tie, another best show ever, so much of what made that first time so special, as with so many first times, is because you figure it could never be like that again; because you are experiencing something you have never experienced before, a once in a lifetime opportunity. And as the writer of that review, having already quoted myself here, I don't want to repeat that sentiment. I want to focus on this particular performance. That said, a big part of what made last year's show so special was knowing that so many audience members had a similar feeling, a connection with so many of the songs. It was palpable: nostalgia, and beyond that, a feeling of pride in seeing a survivor, a true legend, one of a kind. Cohen is so easy to like in performance, the voice gives shivers, the wit is dry, the words mean so many things to so many people. The band is flawless.
And that remains the case this time, with, presumably, several first-timers in attendance as well as many of the faithful from the church of Cohen returning to hear the master murmur more mantras.
He bows to the band members when introducing them; he bows to the audience, doffs his hat and says, several times, "thank you friends". And you can tell he means this - the sincerity is the hook. That and the knowledge that you will never see anything like this again. But it is, for many, a second shot at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I didn't think the show stood up to repeat scrutiny, not when during Tower of Song the audience applauded at the exact same moment as last time, following Cohen's one-finger keyboard noodling. And in the same breathy, velvet fog of a voice, with exactly the same mix of seduction and soulfulness to his sound, Cohen cooed "you're too kind". The exact words he said last time, delivered note for note, just as the songs were.
The playing was immaculate - it possibly could have been dirtied up some - but Waiting for the Miracle was a treat, as was Chelsea Hotel #2, as was basically every song played, across several hours. The poetic recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep sent chills down the spine, an example of how Cohen's lyrical gifts have never left him. Ah, but I'm starting to repeat myself. I said this last time. If I keep this up I'll be able to take the show on the road, charge hundreds and expect people to see me again and again.
I just could not get excited about this a second time. Of course it was flawless - or close enough to it. But that was part of the problem. No one wants to see a magic trick again, after the magician has explained how it works. Or do they? Do you?
I've seen acts more than once - sure. I love that. Especially if they have new material and they take it in different directions. That was part of the point of yesterday's post. I've even watched a band back-to-back, two nights in a row. But that's different. That's a different thing from seeing practically the same show nearly two years later.
I guess I've never been the type to buy the live DVD to show off to my friends and put on when they come around - to tell them this is what the show was like. And I imagine that, maybe, a lot of fair-weather Cohen fans are that type. With their Live in London DVD keeping them company between tour-legs.
So I want to know if you went to Leonard Cohen both times - and if you enjoyed it at least as much the second time - and, outside that, I want to know if you've had a similar experience with any other artist. The first time was mind-blowing, special; magical...the second time was the same (so much so that it was of far less excitement). That ever happen to you?