Leonard Cohen’s show last night in London, Ontario left me with so many long lasting memories that it was difficult to choose an angle for this piece. The concert was spot on from start to finish. The setlist was perfectly crafted with an ideal melange of old and new, brooding and poppy, songs and poetry. The whole operation was so perfectly organized down to the last detail that oftentimes it felt more like a theatre piece than a concert. And the hardcore Cohen fans were definitely not put off by the rather lengthy show, lasting over three hours including an intermission and four encores. With each encore, Cohen would defy his 75 years, skipping jovially on and off the stage.
But even given all these wonderful things that added up to definitely one of the best concerts of my life, the thing that struck me most was the way in which the spotlight was intentionally shared amongst all the singers and musicians. The way that by the end of the show, many likely felt that there should have been more than one name on the ticket stub.
There is no doubt that this show was all about Cohen. At the same time however, he was surrounded by amazing musicians, singers, and songwriters. And Cohen was not about to let them go unnoticed. In a gracious, unpretentious, and modest move, (you couldn’t come up with three better words to describe the man) Cohen decided to share the stage. It was clear from the beginning that the idea was to showcase not only him, but everyone around him as well.
Every time a musician had a solo, of which there were many, Cohen calmly took off his fedora, placed it on his heart, and backtracked into the darkness of the stage to give the soloist the full attention of the crowd. You could only make out his dark silhouette as the spotlight shone brightly on the musician. He was not shy about introducing the band and the backup singers as well, having honoured each and every one with his wise low voice filled with poetic compliments and sincere appreciation at least three times, each time letting the crowd clap for as long as they wanted. The three female backup singers were each given a full song each, once again with Cohen in the shadows, fedora off, smiling in appreciation at the beautiful female voices that we all knew were making his heart dance. In case you didn’t know, throughout his life, Cohen has always held a high appreciation for the females of this world. And to cap it all off, at the very end of the show, Cohen brought everyone connected to the show, roadies and technicians included, onto the stage to really drive home the fact that while Cohen’s name is front and centre on the ticket stub, this magical night was clearly a team effort. It becomes secondary whether you like or dislike his music and poetry because for these kind gestures, you have no choice but to tip your fedora to him.