5 December, 2013 9:35AM AEDT
Leonard Cohen And The Art Of Ageless Music
Review by Justin Huntsdale
One of the most influential lyricists of the past 50 years delivered a marathon performance of his classics in a voice that gets richer by the year.
Leonard Cohen performs in concert. (Adrian Thompson - Flickr.com)
Venue: Wollongong Entertainment Centre
Duration: 210 minutes
Rating: 5 stars
Leonard Cohen addressed the elephant in the room early last night at his concert in Wollongong.
"Friends, I don't know when we'll meet again, but I can promise you tonight we're going to give it everything we've got".
But at 79 years of age, still jogging on stage for a three and a half hour show and now on his third Australian tour since audiences thought they'd never see him live again, no one is game to suggest he won't be back.
And it becomes apparent over the course of the night that a three hour show is virtually required to properly honour his endless suite of music.
Surrounded by a carefully chosen band of virtuoso musicians, the touring Cohen of today is out to provide a smorgasbord of quality to accompany his poetic lyrics.
His voice has never been his trump card, and while it seems to have found even richer depths with age, it's the exquisite harmonies of his female back-up singers (Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters) that lift and complement the Canadian poet.
As expected, the set-list was a greatest hits onslaught, each drawing a new round of applause from the almost full Wollongong Entertainment Centre.
From his opening 'Dance me to the end of love', then 'The future', 'Bird on a wire' and 'Everybody knows', it was a concert drawing on tracks from the 1967 'Songs of Leonard Cohen' to last year's 'Old Ideas'.
But you soon realise it doesn't matter when a song appears in a Leonard Cohen set - there's always another trick up his sleeve.
While most bands save their biggest hits until last, Cohen has amassed a career of them he can afford to drop in anywhere.
'Suzanne' early in the second set? No problem - simply go straight into 'Chelsea Hotel no. 2'.
'Hallelujah' before the first encore? What about following it with 'Take this waltz'?
While the crowd was varied in age, it was largely baby boomers enjoying the soundtrack to their adolescence and early adulthood played by a man who can still do his songs justice, but oozes humility.
And there is the enduring beauty of Leonard Cohen - his strength is his lyrics, each word carefully chosen and dripping with imagery and meaning, while he brings in a brilliant band half his age to carry those words.
And as he comically dances and jogs off stage after a third encore, you get the sense it'll be Cohen's decision rather than his body that tells him when it's time to say 'so long' for good.