Leonard Cohen Old Ideas

February 12, 2012 by staff 

Leonard Cohen Old Ideas, When Leonard Cohen opened his world tour here in Fredericton at The Playhouse on May 11, 2008, it was a glorious event. While it could have been simply a last love-in for a senior taking a farewell jaunt, the wiley veteran proved he had the chops to continue, and had lost none of his abilty to captivate. What should have been a retirement trip was in fact the start of a new phase, one that would see him on the road for two years, and most surprisingly, offering new tunes on stage, and the promise of another album.

That was welcome news, but not entirely exciting. After all, his most recent releases, after the later-period thrills of I’m Your Man and The Future, were the underwhelming Ten New Songs (2001) and Dear Heather (2004). He made nods to them on the tour, but really his reputation for a new generation was anchored in legend, and the unexpected revival of Hallelujah. The idea of a new, and stunning Cohen album seemed chancy at best. Of course, I never thought he’d start a world tour in Fredericton, either, let alone play possibly the greatest concert event I’ve ever witnessed, when he was 73. Now he’s 77.

Old Ideas is not only better than I had expected, it is a significant work by a vibrant artist, obviously bouyed by his recent success. Everything you want from Cohen is here, plus a few surprises. There are songs of the highest lyrical quality, his hallmark since the start of his music career. With his experience, he learned long ago that economy is more important than verbiage, and the search for the perfect word and phrase would serve him better than haste. Cohen’s wit is present as well, playing off his image, as he did with I’m Your Man. The disc opens with Going Home, and the very first lines we hear are “I love to speak with Leonard/He’s a sportsman and a shepherd/He’s a lazy b**tard/Living in a suit.” It’s a fascinating number that seems to be about the difference between the public and on-stage Cohen and who he feels he really is: “He wants to write a love song/An anthem of forgiving/A manual for living with defeat.”

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