Each crafted word resonates as it lingers just above the music with a deep and elegant poignancy in Leonard Cohen’s new DVD, Live in London. It takes just one song to command the viewers complete attention in this live performance as Cohen, who is now in his early 70’s, sings in his trademark bass-baritone with enormous precision. The singer shows off his tremendous stage presence with beautiful, soulful melodies, even though he might be more well-known to mainstream audiences for his writing than his actual performance (with songs like “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne” often covered).
The performance was filmed in July 2008 at London's 02 Arena and opens up with a classic rendition of “Dance Me To The End Of Love”. He follows it up with some of his trademark songs such as: “The Future”, “Bird On The Wire”, and “Everybody Knows”. The first set includes wonderful versions of “Who By Fire” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” featuring some outstanding accompaniment by Javier Mas on the archilaud and Dino Soldo on the harp. The first set ends with Leonard stating that it’s a privilege to be able to “gather in moments like this when so much of the world has plunged in darkness and chaos” as he introduces “Anthem”.
The second set begins with a very humble Cohen talking about growing old followed appropriately by “Tower of Song” which opens with the phrase “Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey, I ache in the places where I used to play”. The show continues with all the favorites such as: “Suzanne”, “Hallelujah”, “Democracy”, and “So Long, Marianne”. The set includes a sorrowfully smooth version of “Sisters Of Mercy” and a heavenly rendition of a song that Leonard states is more of a prayer than a song, “If It Be Your Will”, which is sung by backing vocalists Charley and Hattie Webb. The show concludes with “Closing Time” and an encore featuring “I Tried To Leave You” and an A Capella version of “Whither Thou Goest” sung by the whole band.
In all, the show is a startlingly powerful performance by Cohen who proves he is as much a brilliant singer and performer as a writer. The band which is stocked with excellent musicians is perfectly in-tune to his every moment and brings the songs alive with their musicianship and diverse instrumentation. As an added bonus the DVD comes complete with all the song lyrics which allows the viewer to go back and appreciate the subtle craft of each line.