Leonard Cohen / April 11, 2009 / Los Angeles (Nokia Theatre)
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."