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Leonard Cohen by the numbers last night at radio City Music Hall

Earlier this year I went to see Van Morrison perform “Astral Weeks” twice, once at MSG and once and for days later at the Beacon. The MSG set was excellent, glad to have seen it. The Beacon Theater was electrifying -mid way through the second set Morrison took off and everybody knew it, the band, us, him: he had reached that place even the greats don’t always get to (Funnily enough I saw Maroon 5 do the same thing a coupla years ago so it can happen to any one).

But it is tough to do when you have bleed all improvisation from your set. Even if you’re one of the master as Leonard Cohen certainly is.

This is New York, Cohen. Don’t tell the same jokes that are all over “Live In London”. Don’t throw “New York” in the middle of “Hallelujiah” (and don’t kill the rhymes -you wrote em, sing em). Don’t wait for the applause when you sing “First We’ll Take Manhattan”…. in a word, don’t go on automatic, we’re NYC, we know when you’re faking it.

Having said that, if you’re gonna see a guy not bringing his “A” game, this is the guy to see. The material is for the most part sheer brilliance and while it’s true he has always had a tenor voice this cracked tenor voice is not the same as the recorded voice and in many ways it suits the songs much better; the band is great; the back up singers brilliant and he is as charming as an aging roue can possibly be.

The three hour set is long, the songs are all too long, and the intermission interminable.

But with all those caveats Leonard Cohen is (Canada’s) national treasure and if you get the chance….

Plus I dissed the “Live In London” awhile ago and i take it back entirely. It’s a very, very good live album and I recommend it.

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