Leonard Cohen Songs From the Road Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Live recordings from Cohen’s superbly acclaimed 2009-09 world tour.

Andrew Mueller 2010

The nigh-universally rapturous acclaim that attended Leonard Cohen’s 84-date world tour of 2008-09 was motivated by two things. One was an entirely laudable desire to make some offering of thanks, in the twilight of Cohen’s career, for the work of one of the most intelligent and literate songwriters of any era. The other was a straightforward acknowledgement that Cohen, sauntering assuredly through his mid-70s, appeared to be in the form of his life.

Songs From the Road, packaged as both a CD and a DVD, collects songs from shows on that tour (London’s instantly legendary O2 Arena show of November 13th, 2008, is the only one represented twice, with That Don’t Make It Junk and Famous Blue Raincoat). The DVD especially makes it clear what an astute decision this tour was, Cohen intoning his words from beneath a raffishly tilted trilby, resembling a character from an Edward Hopper painting. His songs have always been ones of experience, and on some of his earlier recordings especially he didn’t sound like he’d grown into them. But the performances here of Chelsea Hotel and Lover, Lover, Lover, delivered with an old man’s gravitas and Cohen’s luxuriantly weather-beaten voice, make it clear just how wise before their time they were.

The only possible quibbles with this are the inevitable ones concerning the tracklisting – the total lack of any selections from his 1988 masterpiece I’m Your Man seems an especially perverse dereliction. In this case, however, to fuss about what isn’t here rather than celebrate what is would amount to ingratitude of almost heroic proportions. This amounts to a terrific testament to – and from – a man whose adroit negotiation of the fine line that separates tragedy from comedy where matters of the heart are concerned has bequeathed a peerless catalogue of warm, funny dispatches from love’s fraught frontiers. And they’ve rarely sounded better than this.

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