Leonard Cohen Performs In Israel Despite Political Controversy

Never mind that there were thousands of people Saturday night (April 11) at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre; Leonard Cohen wanted to confide in each and every one of them. It had been 15 years since his last American tour, he explained to the nearly-packed audience of gray hairs and hipsters at his second consecutive L.A. show. "I was 60 at the time, just a kid with a crazy dream." So what had he been doing all these years? Taking antidepressants (Cohen recited a list of them worthy of one of his poetic verses); and engaging in a "deep study" of religion, he added. "But cheerfulness kept breaking through."

It was the wryly funny, self-deprecating Cohen that got the biggest reaction from an adoring audience, which gave him a standing ovation as soon as he stepped onstage. The 74-year-old more than earned the upfront acclaim, holding forth for three hours in his trademark scratchy baritone, as he regaled fans with intimate stories (both personal and political) of love, lust, faith and freedom.

Wearing a dark suit and hat, with one hand clutching a microphone and the other held close to his face, the slightly hunched poet talked-sang through his four-decade repertoire and occasionally closed his eyes and swayed slightly, as if in prayer.

If Cohen was carried off by the music of his superb backing band, he wasn't alone; his musicians--including musical director and bassist Roscoe Beck, co-writer and vocalist Sharon Robinson and backup singers the Webb Sisters--were virtuosos in their own right. But if there ever was a concert where the words mattered, it was this one, whether they came in the form of fragile beauty ("Bird on a Wire," "Anthem," and a goosebump-inducing recitation of "A Thousand Kisses Deep") or fondly delivered, down-and-dirty gems ("Chelsea Hotel," "I'm Your Man"). And like the memories of lovers that haunt his songs, Cohen kept coming back for encores. "I tried to leave you," he sang, after several near-goodbyes. "This I don't deny/I closed the book on us at least a hundred times/And here's a man still working for your smile."