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Monday, April 13, 2009

Leonard Cohen

Live in London (Columbia)

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Given the intimacy of Cohen's songs, and the worn warmth of his voice, there's something slightly off-putting about picturing him performing in a 20,000-seat arena. Maybe that's why it's so charmingly reassuring when, announcing a set break during the close of "Anthem," Cohen offers a "Thanks for your kind attention… Thank you, friends."

Cohen is charismatic and gracious throughout this two-disc set, sometimes to the point of distraction, with a generous "Ladies and gentlemen, so-and-so on the insert-instrument-here" for nearly every song. But then, his nine-piece band's performances (along with his own) are deserving of accolades. The set focuses on Cohen's post-1970s recordings, with a few early career highlights like "Suzanne" and "Who By Fire" sprinkled throughout.

Before the recording of this album Cohen had avoided the road for nearly 15 years. Now in his 70s, and still full of vitality, he's capable of filling a three-hour performance with charm, class and beautiful, beautiful music.