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One year on, artists show breadth of Leonard Cohen life
A mural of musician Leonard Cohen is seen on a building on November 7, 2017 in downtown Montreal. Leonard Cohen's songs strived for the universal and his voice was often solemn, yet the courtly songwriter had plentiful moments of joy and deadpan humor. One year after Cohen died at age 82, an array of artists testified to his far-reaching impact with a concert the evening on November 6, 2017 whose somber yet graceful tone befitted the celebrated singer and poet. Before more than 21,000 people at the Bell Centre arena in Cohen's native Montreal, the tribute built around short videos of his well-traveled life which included years of artistic retreat on the Greek island of Hydra and a late-age stint as a Buddhist monk in California. Marc BRAIBANT / AFP.

by Shaun Tandon


MONTREAL (AFP).- Leonard Cohen's songs strived for the universal and his voice was often solemn, yet the courtly songwriter had plentiful moments of joy and deadpan humor.

One year after Cohen died at age 82, an array of artists testified to his far-reaching impact with a concert Monday evening whose somber yet graceful tone befitted the celebrated singer and poet.

Before more than 21,000 people at the Bell Centre arena in Cohen's native Montreal, the tribute built around short videos of his well-traveled life which included years of artistic retreat on the Greek island of Hydra and a late-age stint as a Buddhist monk in California.

Cohen gazed down on the audience in the form of an illuminated portrait atop an image of a tower.

Mist billowed over his picture which shrunk and disappeared at the end as the choir from his Shaar Hashomayim synagogue sang to Cohen's recorded voice on "You Want It Darker" -- the title track from his final album and the concert's only foray into Cohen's widely acclaimed but less-recognizable recent material.

The three-hour show was the only official event for Cohen since he was buried near his parents in Montreal a year earlier in a simple Jewish ceremony.

It was anchored by repeat appearances from Adam Cohen, his son who spearheaded the evening, and two giants of British pop, Sting and Elvis Costello.

Sting paid homage to a classic Cohen, one who evoked an erstwhile world of pop standards, as he opened the concert with "Dance Me to the End of Love."

Costello packed a harder punch, covering the riddle-laden "The Future," the song's force built by the back-up orchestra's string section and one of several powerful solos during the night on the bandurria lute by Javier Mas, a Spaniard who had toured with Cohen.

'Hallelujah'
The evening's most effusive applause went to k.d. lang, who revived her richly emotional version of "Hallelujah," the hymn of spiritual searching which Cohen took years to write.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared with his wife Sophie Gregoire, who recalled that she walked the aisle at their wedding to "Hallelujah."

Canada's photogenic first couple also revealed that their wedding's first dance was to Cohen's "I'm Your Man" and proceeded to sing a few lines.

Recalling Cohen's friendship with his father, late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the Canadian leader said: "I like to think of the two of them together somewhere watching with a smile."

US flags lit up the stage as members of The Lumineers covered "Democracy," one of Cohen's most overtly political songs.

The 1992 track sounds newly pertinent in the age of President Donald Trump -- elected a day after Cohen's death in Los Angeles -- with lines such as, "It's coming to America first / The cradle of the best and of the worst."

Proceeds from the concert, dubbed "Tower of Song," will support cultural groups including the Canada Council for the Arts, which backed Cohen's early trip to Europe that ended in his long sojourn in Hydra.

On the Greek island Cohen fell in love with Norwegian woman Marianne Ihlen, about whom he penned another of his best-known songs, "So Long, Marianne."

Adam Cohen, born to his father's later relationship with artist Suzanne Elrod, sang "So Long, Marianne" and added as a verse Leonard Cohen's final letter to Ihlen, written before her death in July 2016, in which he confided, "I think I will follow you very soon."

'I remember you well..."
Adam Cohen, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, dueted with Lana del Rey on "Chelsea Hotel No. 2," in which Leonard Cohen reminisced of a brief New York dalliance with Janis Joplin.

Even if del Rey's melancholic voice bears little resemblance to Joplin's, the sparse rendition seemed to dramatize another chapter in Cohen's life.

In a heavier turn, grunge rocker Courtney Love, in her first concert performance in nearly two years, delivered a rapid-fire rock take on "Everybody Knows."

Other performers included singers Borns, Coeur de Pirate, Feist, Bettye LaVette and Damien Rice.

In a lighter moment, Canadian-born Hollywood star Seth Rogen recited from Cohen, who in his early career had tried his hand at stand-up comedy.

"As a Canadian Jewish person, there is no higher honor than reading a Leonard Cohen poem in the middle of a hockey arena," Rogen quipped.


© Agence France-Presse





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