Wed, Jan 9, 2013.
Well. Once again, I'm in shock. I tell ya, this whole experience with Leonard Cohen the last few years has been, quite frankly, pretty unbelievable. It was around this time five years ago that word came out that not only would Cohen be touring again for the first time in years, but that he would also be coming to the Maritimes. And, he would be beginning his world tour right here, first with a show at the Playhouse in Fredericton, and then at the Capitol in Moncton a few days later. It was the very first show of a tour that went on for over two years, and would grow to take in the biggest festivals and arenas in the world. It was a triumph, reviews all ecstatic. And we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, we got to see it up close. It's certainly in the top three of my concert experiences; last night I was talking to a few people on-line about the latest news, and heard others say that it was their very favourite show of all-time.
Oh yes, the latest news. I still can't believe that Cohen is returning, five years after that triumph. It's been announced that he'll play two more New Brunswick dates, but this time in much larger venues. He's coming to Harbour Station in Saint John on the 15th of April, and then the Moncton Coliseum on the 17th. Tickets go on sale January the 18th. Let's look at the numbers. Back in 2008, I remember thinking how implausible this was; the man was 73, how will he be able to stand up for these shows? Okay, he's now 78. Since playing here last, he toured from 2008 to 2010, in bigger and bigger venues. Then, instead of taking a break, he released a new album, critically acclaimed and one of my very favourites by him, called Old Ideas. Then, instead of stepping back, he reconvened the touring band, and he's been on the road ever since.
Now, here's the crazy part. The shows are even longer. Like, Springsteen-length. Cohen has worked songs from the new album into the act, and seemingly dropped almost nothing. With a break, they are clocking in at close to four hours. Of course, he's not running around on stage like Bruce, but he's 15 years older too. And are the shows as good as the ones we saw here last time? My teenage kids just saw him in Calgary before Christmas, neither one knowing anything about him, and came away thrilled. In these five years, I've never heard anyone say they didn't absolutely love the show.
I'm not sure if everybody knows that you can buy some of that very first Fredericton concert. It turns out they had tape rolling, and a couple of years back, iTunes offered five tracks from it for free for a day, which was very nice. And then last year, for Record Store Day around the world, those same five tracks were released on vinyl. Yup, a good old-fashioned album, 16 minutes on one side, 13 on the other. It sounds great, and it really takes me back to that show at the Playhouse. Now, Cohen does sound, to me, a little tentative, but it was his first time on stage in over a decade, and he was noticably nervous. But it's a joy to relive the opening song of that night, May 11, 2008, when he came on stage to sing,
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).