Why the hell Leonard Cohen appeared at BankAtlantic Center rather than, say, the Fillmore Gleason is anybody's guess. But if he had staged it at a theater instead of in an arena, his show would've been even more remarkable. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the BankAtlantic Center — Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, and Foo Fighters, to name but a few, all perfectly hit the hot spot, and no doubt Kiss will do likewise Thursday. But like I said, it's an arena. And Leonard Cohen is no arena act.
Cohen does happen to have a voice that could fill the Grand Canyon, even at a whisper, so he had no problem reaching the rafters here. He's also one of the all-time great entertainers (if somewhat understated), so he was fully capable of handling the stage and the crowd. It's just that Cohen's music is best served up-close and personal, just as it was written — and just as he sings it. So his performance Saturday in a large venue, even one as well-appointed as BankAtlantic, does take something away from the proceedings. Other than that, though, the only thing taken away during Saturday night's concert was my breath.
Anybody with an iota of feeling in their bones will gasp from the first moment his voice booms over, into, under, and through the room. Imagine having sound not only tell the story of your life but read everything about you and you'll have some idea of its effect. Picture a merging of the deep of the blue sea and the high of the moon and you'll have some notion of its breadth.
Of course, that voice of his wouldn't render half as heavenly if it weren't in the service of some of music's most celebrated songs, and there, Cohen's got a lock on things. The crooner performed all his most beloved classics — "Suzanne," "Bird on a Wire," "Hallelujah," "Everybody Knows," and "I'm Your Man" — as well as "Dance Me to the End of Love" (the set opener), "Anthem" (a particular favorite), "In My Secret Life" (a track fit for Bryan Ferry), and "First We Take Manhattan" (one of several encores), among many others. The master even took time out to recite the chilling "A Thousand Kisses Deep," a poignant reminder that his "Tower of Song" was built syllable by syllable.
Cohen came and wowed us with grace and charm few can fathom in this day and age of brashness and bombast, and witnessing the event made for one unforgettable evening. There are few class acts in the world today, so anytime one alights in our neck of the state, it's cause for celebration. Yes, Leonard Cohen may have been better at a smaller venue. But he was in town. And for that, we've no choice but to be utterly thankful.
Better than: Any singer you've ever heard before.
Personal bias: I've been a fan of the man since my first New York City girl turned me on to him way back in the late '80s.
Random detail: Cohen often knelt to the ground to better bring his songs up from his soul, and each kneeling had the feel of righteous supplication.
By the way: If you missed the show — or if you'd like to relive it — Cohen's Live in London pretty much covers all the same ground, albeit somewhat differently.
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