The ecstatic reviews I'd been reading of this year's rare, surprise Leonard Cohen tour were not wrong. Last Saturday's concert at Birmingham's NEC was an unforgettable evening. Cohen, Canada's legendary poet, singer and songwriter - his songs the musical soundtrack to a million 60s bedsits - was relaxed and in good form, and really seemed to be enjoying himself. His voice still seemed in pretty good shape considering he turned 74 this year. And his band was superb (especially Javier Mas, who played a variety of ethnic stringed instruments in styles which showed gypsy, Greek, Indian and Arabic influences) - not to mention his 3 excellent, understated female backing singers (Sharon Robinson a wonderful presence - she's the co-writer of some of Cohen's more recent songs).
The show started promptly at 8 o'clock - and it was a little after 11 pm when he skipped (yes, I said skipped!) off stage after 25 songs and numerous encores and standing ovations. During band member solos Cohen doffed his fedora and gazed intently and admiringly into the eyes of each individual performer, smiling beatifically. At the end of The Tower of Song he impishly made Robinson corpse and break out into laughter, much to the delight of the audience. And every now and then he made some wrily humorous remarks and observations - such as his advice to the young: "After studying all the religions and philosophies for years I've just one word to say: Duck!" At the end of the evening he urged us all to wrap up warmly against the cold (it was indeed cold - it snowed later that night), and then the old romantic skipped (yes, I said SKIPPED!) off stage after poignantly wishing us this: "May the blessings find you in your solitude".
What an evening. I must truly say it was one of the best and most emotional concerts I've ever been to. Something to do with reconnecting with one's youth?
And he did sing Democracy ...