Over The Weekend: Leonard Cohen at Nokia Theatre
Nokia Theatre, Grand Prairie
April 3, 2009
Better than: Pretty much anything.
In total, Leonard Cohen treated his quite adoring audience at the Nokia Theatre to over three hours of music on Friday night: an opening set of an hour and ten minutes, a second set of an hour and fifteen minutes and an encore that seemed to last forever--but, in reality checked in a cool 45 minutes long.
It could have gone longer, though. And, undoubtedly, not a single soul among the captivated crowd would've minded.
This, it was clear from the onset of the performance, was to be a special night, one filled with world-class musicianship and top-notch showmanship, and one that, over the course of the evening, would touch on near every emotion known to man.
For whatever reason, Cohen--the poet, the performer, the golden-voiced crooner--took to the stage at Grand Prairie as if he had something to prove to the fans who'd willingly paid the lofty admission prices to see his show. It was as if he wanted to go far beyond ensuring that the audience got its money's worth from the performance. It was as if he wanted to make sure that, by the time the crowd would leave, there would be no doubt in its mind that Cohen deserves a place in the pantheon alongside the greatest songwriters of all time.
Thing is, by the time he'd hit his set list triplet of "Bird on the Wire", "Everybody Knows" and "In My Secret Life"--a sequence that came just a few songs into his performance--all doubt was already lifted. Everything after that... well, it was just icing on the cake.
Even at 74 years old, this was not a man out to show that he's not just a shadow of his former self. If anything, Cohen's performance confirmed him as a man at the top of his game. Only once--among all the dancing, all the affecting posing, all the falling to his knees in passion, all the skipping on and off stage in glee--did Cohen ever show his age. And, just as quickly as he'd have the audience in near tears later in the evening as he, without warning, launched into a crushingly beautiful take on his "Hallelujah", this particular reveal found the audience responding with uproarious laughter.
"It's been a long time since I've stood on stage," Cohen told the audience. "About 14 or 15 years. I was 60 then. Just a crazy kid with a dream."
But for the audience at the Nokia Theatre, which got a solid leg workout from the number of standing ovations it performed throughout the night, this performance was a dream. The backing band created by bassist/musical director Roscoe Beck taught a lesson in instrumentation, capably backing its frontman with lush, almost-Tejano arrangements and dazzling the audience with its solos, but never overshadowing the man it had paid to see.
Even at the show's end, as Cohen breathlessly thanked everyone involved in the show (right on down to the caterer) more than three hours deep into the night, the act still felt fresh. Mostly, because this performance was everything a touring show should be: a well-practiced, finely tuned presentation, perfectly suited to fit the needs of its draw.
It was less of an on-stage improvisation, more of a tight, professionally packaged spectacle. If anything, the entire show just felt unreal--like attending the taping of Cohen's last-ever show, and not just another stop on his current, lengthy (and likely last?) tour. I dunno, it just felt...special. And important. It's a rare occurrence to be able to understand as much about something as you're witnessing it. But that was the case on Friday night.
I kinda wish it was a taping, actually. This was a show worth taking home and keeping.