Friday, 18 July 2008

The world's greatest living Canadian

The queue snaked all the way down below Edinburgh Castle, right the way along to Princes Street. I had come down from Inverness and some people next to me in the queue had come up from Leeds. There were some people who must have been in their 70s, as well as a few who might have been yet to reach double figures. There were men in suits, and I also saw a guy with a pink mohican.

The reason for such a diverse crowd? The world's greatest living Canadian, Mr Leonard Cohen.

His gig at Edinburgh Castle on Wednesday was really fantastic. Although Cohen is now in his 70s, he's lost none of his ability to wrench meaning from every word he sings.

The concert got under way with Dance Me To The End Of Love, which I think is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. He followed that with his bleak vision of The Future, a song written in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall which has proven to be unfortunately prophetic ("I've seen the future, brother, it is murder"). Then came his powerful Everybody Knows. Other highlights of the first half included an excellently understated Bird On The Wire and concluded with his superb song Anthem.

And the second half was just as good - Suzanne, Democracy and First We Take Manhattan were all brilliant. His reference to his "Golden Voice" on Tower Of Song brought a cheer from the crowd, and there were even a few wolf whistles for him on I'm Your Man, not bad for a 73-year-old!

Cohen showed just how powerful and yet delicate his voice can be with his signature song Hallelujah and proceedings eventually came to an appropriate end with the lively Closing Time.

With a lifetime of songs to choose from, there were always going to be some notable absentees, and none of Coming Back To You, Chelsea Hotel, Light As The Breeze (surely the best song ever written about cunnilingus?) or The Story Of Isaac made it in.

And although the rain began to come down in the last half hour or so, I'm sure that mattered not at all to everybody there. This was a superb gig and it was a truly memorable occasion. This is the only time I've ever managed to see Cohen live, so for me it was a unique privilege to be there.

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