Leonard Cohen’s first UK tour in 15 years has been captured on this album and was recorded at one of his London O2 Arena shows, on July 17, 2008.
Part of the reason Cohen, who was 73 at the time, went on tour in 2008 was to rebuild his finances after being swindled by his manager Kelley Lynch. Sylvie Simmons explains in her 2012 biography on Cohen that Lynch “took care of Leonard’s business affairs…[and was] not simply his manager but a close friend, almost part of the family.” However, Simmons notes that in late 2004, Cohen’s daughter Lorca began to suspect Lynch of financial impropriety, and when Cohen checked his bank accounts, he noticed that he had unknowingly paid a credit card bill of Lynch’s for $75,000 and also found that most of the money in his accounts was gone (including money from his retirement accounts and charitable trust funds). Cohen would discover that this theft had actually begun as early as 1996 when Lynch started selling Cohen’s music publishing rights despite the fact that Cohen had no financial incentive to do so at the time. Cohen, who was on a five-year retreat at the Zen center Mount Baldy near Los Angeles at the time, remained oblivious.
On 8 October 2005, Cohen sued Kelley Lynch, alleging that she had misappropriated over US $5 million from Cohen’s retirement fund leaving only $150,000. Cohen was sued in turn by other former business associates. These events placed him in the public spotlight, including a cover feature on him with the headline “Devastated!” in Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. In March 2006, Cohen won a civil suit and was awarded US$9 million by a Los Angeles County superior court. Lynch, however, ignored the suit and did not respond to a subpoena issued for her financial records. As a result, it has been widely reported that Cohen may never be able to collect the awarded amount.
In the meantime, Cohen published a book of poetry, prose and drawings called Book of Longing in 2006 and produced Anjani’s 2006 album Blue Alert (he also provided lyrics for the songs). Cohen was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Lou Reed in 2008. In his book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, biographer Anthony Reynolds observes that throughout the ordeal, Cohen remained calm: “In public, at least, Cohen did seem remarkably sanguine about the loss. He was never angry or accusatory, and his stock answer to the calamity was the dry one-liner, ‘It’s enough to put a dent in your mood’ but when pushed he admitted, ‘I don’t know what helped me deal with it…I guess it just hasn’t hit me yet.'”
Cohen, who had always professed to interviewers how much he enjoyed the discipline imposed by hard work, recognized the economic necessity of getting back on the road and announced a tour in January 2008. The first show took place at the Fredericton Playhouse in New Brunswick. Cohen played dates in Canada and Europe to enthusiastic crowds who were delighted to see him on stage again.
The album was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize. Cohen’s humility and self-deprecating sense of humor is evident in the between-song banter throughout the London performance, with him telling the audience, “It’s been a long time since I stood on a stage in London. It was about 14 or 15 years ago. I was 60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Ritalin, Focalin. I’ve also studied deeply in the philosophies of the religions but cheerfulness kept breaking through.” (by wikipedia)
As more than one writer has pointed out, in 2008 and 2009 Leonard Cohen’s loss became his audience’s gain. After spending five years living as a monk in a Buddhist monastery during a sabbatical from music, Cohen discovered in 2005 that his former business manager had embezzled nearly all his savings, and two years later, in order to put his finances back in order, he warily agreed to an international concert tour, his first in nearly a decade and a half. Given the circumstances that prompted Cohen’s return to the stage as well as his age — 73 when the tour began — one would have the right to wonder just how enthusiastic the great songwriter would be about meeting his audience again. But judging from Live in London — a two-disc set recorded during a rapturously received appearance at London’s O2 Arena on July 17, 2008 — these concerts have unexpectedly given Cohen a chance to remind the world of his strengths as a musician and a performer, and he’s embraced the opportunity with joy.
The notion of Leonard Cohen playing a 20,000-seat arena may seem a bit surprising (at least in America), but Cohen and his nine-member supporting ensemble give 25 songs from his catalog a treatment that fills them out enough to work in a massive room (at least compared to the intimate arrangements of his early work) without crushing the nuances of gentler numbers like “Who by Fire” and “Suzanne,” while “The Future” and “Democracy” sound just as big as they need to be. There’s sometimes a bit too much David Sanborn in Dino Soldo’s horn solos, but otherwise the band is superb — especially Javier Mas on banduria, laud, archilaud, and guitar, and the vocal ensemble of Sharon Robinson, Charley Webb, and Hattie Webb — and despite the craggy, weathered state of Cohen’s voice, he sounds sure and committed from the first moment to the last, often finding notes that seem elusive at first, and his performance here is genuinely engrossing. It’s also surprisingly witty; Cohen may have a reputation as one of the most dour performers in contemporary music, but his between-song patter is charmingly droll, and he finds a passion and a humanity in his songs that sets them apart from their studio counterparts.
Cohen sounds genuinely moved by the affectionate reception he receives from his audience, and he seems determined to give them a show to match their loyalty, and with his band (who he frequently lauds during the performance) he truly gives of himself; if this isn’t quite the strongest live performance Cohen has released for public consumption, it’s certainly the warmest and the most emotionally resonant. Perhaps fate forced Leonard Cohen’s hand to stage the tour documented in part on Live in London, but it seems that fate knows just what it’s doing, and this album eloquently demonstrates how much Cohen still has to offer, and how clearly his music still speaks to him (and us). (by Mark Deming)
For over four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. His songs have set a virtually unmatched standard in their seriousness and range. sex, spirituality, religion, power – he has relentlessly examined the largest issues in human lives, always with a full appreciation of how elusive answers can be to the vexing questions he raises. But those questions, and the journey he has traveled in seeking to address them, are the ever-shifting substance of his work, as well as the reasons why his songs never lose their overwhelming emotional force. documentaries, awards, tribute albums and the ongoing march of artists eager to record his songs all acknowledge the peerless contribution Cohen has made to what one of his titles aptly calls The Tower of Song.
In 2008 Leonard Cohen embarked on his first tour in 15 years. quickly recognized as musical folklore in the making, 29 of the original dates sold out almost immediately, leaving fans and critics alike hailing the show as a once in a lifetime experience. The Live in London release fully captures and recreates the extraordinary show from that tour that earned Cohen more than 80 five-star reviews for his performances. (by roughtrade.com)
Roscoe Beck (bass, background vocals)
Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Rafael Bernardo Gayol (drums, percussion)
Neil Larsen (keyboards, accordion)
Javier Mas (banduria, laud, archilaud, guitar)
Bob Metzger (lead guitar, pedal steel guitar, background vocals)
Sharon Robinson (vocals)
Dino Soldo (saxophone, clarinet, harmonica, keyboards, background vocals)
The Webb Sisters:
Charley Webb (guitar, background vocals)
Hattie Webb (harp, background vocals)
01. Dance Me To The End Of Love (Cohen) 6.20
02. The Future (Cohen)) 7.20
03. Ain’t No Cure For Love (Cohen) 6.17
04. Bird On The Wire (Cohen) 6.15
05. Everybody Knows (Cohen/Robinson) 5.53
06. In My Secret Life (Cohen/Robinson) 5.03
07. Who By Fire (Cohen) 6.35
08. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Cohen) 3.48
09. Anthem (Cohen) 7.21
10. Introduction 1.30
11. Tower Of Song (Cohen) 7.07
12. Suzanne (Cohen) 3.47
13. The Gypsy’s Wife (Cohen) 6.43
01. Boogie Street (Cohen/Robinson) 6.57
02. Hallelujah (Cohen) 7.20
03. Democracy (Cohen) 7.09
04. I’m Your Man (Cohen) 5.41
05. Recitation (Cohen/Larsen 3.54
06. Take This Waltz (Cohen/Lorca) 8.38
07. So Long, Marianne (Cohen) 5.25
08. First We Take Manhattan (Cohen) 6.16
09. Sisters Of Mercy (Cohen) 4.56
10. If It Be Your Will (featuring The Webb Sisters) (Cohen) 5.23
11. Closing Time (Cohen) 6.15
12. I Tried To Leave You (Cohen) 8.34
13. Whither Thou Goest (Singer) 1.27
Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)