It’s been less than five months since the release of Leonard Cohen’s Live In Dublin, a sumptuous, four-disc chronicling of one of his many gigs at what is now the 3Arena.
His new live album is a quirky companion piece — it shirks the hits and focuses on the fan favourites and obscurities Cohen has dusted down during his never-ending comeback of the past decade. Thus, it makes a perfect jumping off point for anyone wishing to delve deeper into the oeuvre while, at 10 tracks, it does not wear out its welcome.
A footloose sensibility characterises the ‘readings’— many recorded during sound-checks, or in smaller venues off the beaten trail. Cohen’s husky baritone is the perfect delivery mechanism for the previously unreleased ‘Got A Little Secret’ (performed backstage in Auckland) and a melancholic ache infuses ‘Field Commander Cohen’.
Cohen in concert is strikingly warm and empathetic — qualities he breezily conjures here, most strikingly on ‘La Manic’ and ‘Night Comes On’. There is one Dublin recording — ‘Light As The Breeze’ pairs Cohen’s transcendental mutter and a keening violin with goose-bump raising results. Live albums do not often capture the majesty of the original performance — here, it is almost as if Cohen is in the room with you, his vocals rising from a croak to a sigh.
‘Can’t Forget’ is a reminder that, despite his reputation as the bard of misery, Cohen’s winning asset is his tremendous humanity. He sings about life, love, loss, what it is to alive, and somehow breathes new energy into dry cliches.
At 80, it is an open question how much longer he will tour (though if Tony Bennett can keep going at 88, why not Cohen?). This album should be cherished as a testament to his remarkable power and grace as a performer.