The old man and his hat – an evening with Leonard Cohen in Hamburg

02 World, Hamburg, 14.07.2013

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It’s not one of these concerts that demand everything from you and leave you exhausted. It’s like a visit by a good old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time and that has a lot of stories to tell after all these years.

Leonard Cohen is what you call an old-school gentleman. And gentlemen are not a long time coming. On the contrary, the grand master of melancholy begins with only ten minutes delay. More is he not asking from his guests in the o2 World Hamburg – an audience whose majority is in the same age than Cohen. Even the one or the other walker can be seen standing close to the stairwells.

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However, not Cohen. Already at the beginning of the show the 78-year-old hops on stage so elated that you may not even recognize him. And in the following three hours, he will dance, swing, and fall on his knees dozens of times, almost as if there would not be such a thing as age. Cohen, who likes to gives his concerts kneeling, got the stage carpeted with a handful of Persian carpets, on that he sinks down countless times to get lost in his songs.

Already with the first performance, Dance me to the end of love, the man in the elegant black suit, the gentle hat and that omniscient, charming smile lifts all barriers between himself and the audience, which is growing ever closer in the course of the concert.

With love, the theme of the evening is already determined. And probably nobody is surprised at all, since everybody knows that Cohen loves women like no other – and he leaves no stone unturned to leave no doubt about it. Especially his three smartly dressed background singers are affected. He makes them the court again and again, but in a very nonchalant, flattering, even friendly manner. It does not matter, that they all could be his granddaughters.

And yet another relationship can be observed on this summer evening: the one between Cohen and his favorite object, his hat. He plays more around with it as a rock musician with the microphone. He lovingly puts it on, takes it off, kneads it in his hands like an old talisman and holds it over his chest when one of his musicians starts a solo.

Suzanne, Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, Famous Blue Raincoat – Cohen plays all songs that the audience wants to hear, poetic, mournful and full of deep melancholy. Yes, sometimes one has the impression that the old gentleman in the suit is standing right next to you whispering his words of wisdom into your ear. As his broken voice now sounds so perfect and so mysterious, it’s hard to imagine that some songs are older than 40 years.

Playing Hallelujah, the classic that many musicians have for decades honored with covers, the audience is stock-still. No more than a silent hum can be heard in the arena. And at this point, it’s obvious that Cohen’s works are primarily music for walking down memory lane and to travel back into one’s own past.

The three hours that Cohen delights his audience go over incredibly quickly. And yet you can hear the farewell in his voice at any time. A farewell, that he delays three times, three long encore rounds, until he finally takes off his hat, kneels down in front of his audience, wishes everyone a good night and dances from the stage for the last time.

Later in the shuttle bus to the train station, there is one more thing strikingly different, as with so many other artists’ concerts. Because what follows is not laughter, not animated conversation or excited phone calls, but just silence. There is only one artist, that sends his audience out into the night so thoughtfully and so elated.

What the most anekdotique concert you have ever been to? Leave a comment!

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