Leonard Cohen: Dodge Theatre, Phoenix, AZ 4/5/09

There was a point in the middle of Leonard Cohen’s performance at the Dodge Theater where he admitted,  “I’m very grateful to you all for keeping my songs alive after all these years. “  This was rightfully so, considering his last tour was back in ’94, as fifteen years is a long time to wait for this brilliant mind and voice to recreate his songs on the live stage.   

The dapper 74 year old, garmented in a fedora and tailored suit made like the consummate gentleman while soaking up the crowds’ praises through numerous standing ovations amongst receipts of rose bouquets and chocolate treats.   Clearly, Cohen knows his songs are special – but his leading man stage presence cried an enchanting sophistication and a maturity that only this Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, Buddhist monk come reborn live artist could deliver to his long-awaiting fan-base.  Cohen sounded in top notch form both vocally and physically: his baritone still a modern spectacle, as he proudly sang during “Tower of Song” much to the crowd’s approval, “I was born like this/I had no choice I was born with the gift of a golden voice.”    While his work holds prophetic leanings atop biblical references and insightful analogies, (“there’s a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in”), it was hard not to compare Cohen’s voice to a denominational quality.

As he tipped his hat and bowed to his band mates during introductions, sang on bended knee or skipped onto stage in between encores, Cohen proved himself quite the showman.   For those that missed it, his newly released live concert CD/DVD – Live in London – contains many of the same stage banter that he cracked in Phoenix – such as a playful nod to his past prescription drug habits or tinkering with his advanced age. Despite the used jokes, Cohen was unique and  welcoming,  and most importantly portrayed his mysterious persona through the somber tone of “Everybody Knows,” the foreboding “Who By Fire” and the prophetic “Anthem.”

Accompanied by six ‘top of the shop’ musicians and three smooth backup singers, Cohen flawlessly ruled the stage for three hours and fifteen minutes, with only a twenty-five minute intermission break.  It was so much for retirement, as the icon displayed more energy than most of his thirty/forty something audience, proving his upcoming Coachella headlining gig is no joke.

 And although Cohen was the star, his band-mates were the MVPs.  Led by musical director Roscoe Beck on bass, Neil Larsen provided subtle and rich chops on the Hammond B3, giving Cohen’s songs a cinematic touchJavier Mas delivered an old Spanish flavor though a variety of 12-string guitar and bandurria, while Dino Soldo’s wind instruments were bold and Bob Metzger’s electric guitar was reminiscent of Mark Knopfler’s smooth tone.  Cohen’s longtime collaborator, Sharon Robinson, led the Webb Sisters on background vocals and provided jazzy lead vocals herself on "Boogie Street."

 The highlights were many within the resounding versions of the classics and spoken poetry, but the climax was a rousing version of “Hallelujah” that had to have brought a goose-bump to nearly every attendee as Cohen sang “I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch/Love is not a victory march/It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah” in a trembling and deepening exalt.  It’s not often an artist gets a mid-set standing ovation, but for this rendition and the entire grand evening of the Leonard Cohen song book, it was truly deserving and long overdue.

Photo by Robert Yager


"Dance Me to the End of Love"

"The Future"

"Ain’t No Cure for Love"

"Bird on a Wire"

"Everybody Knows"

"In My Secret Life"

"Who By Fire"

"Chelsea Hotel"

"Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye"



"Tower of Song"


"The Gypsy’s Wife"

"Boogie Street"


"I’m Your Man"

"Thousand Kisses Deep" (poetry reading)

"Take This Waltz"


"So Long, Marianne"

"First We Take Manhattan"

"Famous Blue Raincoat"

"If It Be Your Will"


"That Don’t Make It Junk"

"Closing Time"

"I Tried to Leave You"

"Whither Thou Goest"



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