MY LEONARD COHEN
My Leonard Cohen is exactly what it says in its title; a collection of Cohen favourites delivered in interesting new musical settings. Much as I love the stripped back simplicity of Cohen’s original versions it would be pointless to try to replicate the hushed intimacy of his recordings as much as it would have been pointless for Jimi Hendrix to cover Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ with acoustic guitars and harmonicas.
Different interpretations are necessary otherwise the whole project could descend very quickly into cheap karaoke or more correctly, considering the price of a Fringe ticket these days, expensive karaoke.
To this end Stewart D’Arrietta and his band provide drastically different re-imaginings of some of the great man’s greatest songs. Gruffer and more impassioned than Cohen’s languid deep tones D’Arrietta’s vocals , at times reminiscent of Joe Cocker, are well suited to the more expansive arrangements.
Starting with an upbeat Everybody Knows followed in swift succession by Famous Blue Raincoat, Tower of Song, Bird on a Wire- prefaced with a touching acknowledgment to the song’s subject matter and muse of several Cohen songs Marianne Ihlen who passed away only last week- Suzanne, Dance me to the End of Love, Chelsea Hotel No.2 which regurgitated the old tale of the infamous blowjob as performed by Janis Joplin before an up beat and sing-along to one of Cohen’s greatest songs- probably my personal favourite- and yet another inspired by Ilhen , So Long Marianne which actually made me want to ‘Laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again’.
For me this was the highlight and anything after was never going to live up to this but Ain’t No Cure for Love made a valiant attempt as did everything else that followed.
One thing that became clear to anyone who hadn’t already realised was that Cohen was and remains one of the greatest lyricists in modern music but also that his songs which seem to be quite simple actually are big enough to take on bigger arrangements with added parts for emphasis without losing any of their simplicity.
Although this show is in no way groundbreaking it is still thoroughly impressive. Great performances and great songs and of course that version of So Long Marianne!
My Leonard Cohen is on at Assembly Hall at 18.15 until August 28th (not 16th)