Image via iloveupstate.com
It has been 15 years since cabaret-folk king Leonard Cohen graced a Stateside stage, but he hasn’t lost one bit of his stamina. Amidst a shining field of pale, over-saturated hues, the deep-throated crooner emerged on Thursday evening, treating New York’s Beacon Theater to a three-hour set. His pipes were pristine (or, rather, characteristically ragged), and his knee-beginning shimmy-shake was absolutely adorable.
After the jump, ten had-to-be-there anecdotes that you can’t get from photos floating around the music blogosphere.
1. Bowler-rama: Like any other group of techies, Cohen’s men in black waited quietly in the wings. When they emerged in the twilight between tunes, it was in hats that matched their maestro. We knew COHEN was a class-act, but it’s nice to see that his crew is also classy.
2. Death of a Ladies Man: In the evening’s only uneasy moment, Cohen altered the “and the white man dancing” line from “The Future” to “and the white girls dancing.” His two Caucasian back-up girls proceeded to do cartwheels while the third, an African American, stood awkwardly on the side. It wasn’t quite what we’d call racially insensitive, but it sure was weird to watch.
3. Supplication Station: Cohen introduced his band members twice, brought out the entire crew at the end, and bowed in supplication to each throughout the evening. During the set itself, he spent more time on the side than any other Hall of Famer we’ve seen, lending room for long solos, and ceding several entire songs.
4. Heart with no Companion: While the rest of the ensemble was perfectly keyed in to Cohen’s minimalist performance style, swaying slowly without much other movement, horn player and multi-instrumentalist Dino Saldo had a tendency to shimmy and skank. Someone needs to tell him he isn’t in Tower of Power… anymore.
5. Like A Bird (Bird On A Wire): In a moment of sheer brilliance that took the crowd a few second to catch, Cohen finished an anecdote about how the economy is going to get worse with a trademark witticism: “Some say even worse than Y2K.” Get it!? Y2K wasn’t all that awful. Maybe you had to be there…
6. Baby loves his bottle: When he sang, Cohen’s head was tipped deeply into the mic, like like a baby sucking a bottle. Between his slouch and his tipped hat, the effect was like a noir detective slinking in and out of shadow.
7. Take This Waltz: While his stage presence is mostly staid, Cohen would randomly break into waltz-inspired knee bends, extending his feet and knees in opposite directions, like he was in the midst of a VERY slow sock-hop.
8. Dance Me to the End of Love: In his most animated moment, Cohen left the stage at a skip, only to return with equal enthusiasm for the encores. His songs were filled with deep, often pained emotion, but the movements showed another side entirely.
9. Last Year’s Man: While the stage was often draped in color, it was as if all the gels had been rubbed in dust. The perfect accompaniment to Cohen’s lamenting dirges, the lighting evoked a genuine late-‘60s aesthetic.
10. He really was amazing: Seriously, he really, really was.