Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas World Tour, Colisée Pepsi

Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas World Tour, Colisée Pepsi

Main pic: Leonard Cohen. Photo credit: Rama

Article by Catherine McKenna

Is it credible for a 78-year-old performer to open a show by inviting his audience to Dance Me Till the End of Love? And to spend long moments down on his knees throughout a concert? Probably not. Unless you are the legendary Leonard Cohen.

At the Colisée Pepsi on December 2, the poet/singer/songwriter appeared as vital as ever on stage in his signature suit since his return to touring in 2008. Greeted by a full house with a standing ovation, the elegant, handsome septuagenarian easily and seamlessly glided across an array of musical genres – from jazz to gypsy to hymn/gospel to blues, even a little dash of country – infused with a touch of cabaret and pop influence that added up to a dazzling, melodic complexity that kept a rapt audience wondering what he would offer next.

Admittedly, the old Colisée is an unconvincing venue for a musician and band of this stature, but the cold discomfort of the seating was immediately forgotten, and the atmosphere transformed under the spell of Cohen’s formidable stage presence.

Leonard_Cohen_Old_IdeasAnd then there is the voice…so different now from the staccato of his early albums, when many fans prayed for cover versions – please, Leonard, just write, and quit pretending to sing. The poet singing has evolved. Cohen charms and seduces with a low, increasingly deep baritone voice that leaves the listener nothing short of transfixed.

Long-time collaborator Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters – the muses Cohen removed his hat to on several occasions during the show – provided unparalleled accompaniment to the excellent six-member band.  The welcome addition of a violinist definitely enhanced the generous, well-paced and fluid three-hour evening that spanned decades of music.

While we may still dote on Hallelujah, if any one new composition represents Cohen today, I wager it to be the opening song of his most recent, arguably best album, Old Ideas. Going Home reveals an almost endearing Cohen; we can imagine the artist shaking his fist at God, an unknown narrator, muse, or perhaps alter ego for dictating to him what to write. Self-deprecating and ironically humorous, this reflection on mortality is a song (originally published as a poem in the New Yorker) that could only come with the wisdom of age, and a self-knowledge gleaned from a life well lived now flavoured with acceptance, but bereft of resignation.

Other highlights included an achingly beautiful rendition of Famous Blue Raincoat (which Cohen notably ended with …sincerely, a friend rather than L. Cohen). A Thousand Kisses Deep was such an emotionally charged moment with the poet that one could have heard a pin drop. All in all, the show was a journey through the themes of love – both enduring and past, darkness, things broken and gone wrong, mortality, forgiveness, regret, loss, suffering and healing, compassion, sex, belief, and more.

Described by one reviewer as “a work of genius”, the Old Ideas World Tour – which takes in 41 cities – has received accolades of the highest order from around the globe. The consistently lavish praise and reception he and his band has enjoyed city after city may just perhaps hearten Cohen to continue touring as loyal fans hope.

If it be (HIS) will… Amen.

Categories: Arts & Culture, News, Opinion

About Author

Catherine McKenna

Catherine McKenna is a Quebecker of Irish descent who returned to her native city in 2002 to live inside the walls after many years in Toronto and the United States. Following her studies in literature and languages at York University, she rode Thoroughbred racehorses for 22 years, worked for The Pollution Probe Foundation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness, as well as in the arts, among other diverse endeavours. Her book, Jeanie Johnston Journal, was published in 2005, and she continues to write for various publications in Québec, Montréal, and Toronto. She has worked as an ESL teacher for ten years and a translator for five. The Défilé de la St-Patrick is an organisation dear to her heart; she has been a member of the Board of Directors since the revival of the parade in 2010.


  1. jobp
    jobp 7 December, 2012, 08:12

    Great article, I was there and it was indeed an emotional and heartwarming concert. Job Patstone

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