the o2, Dublin
You know what they say about familiarity breeding contempt? Since his much lauded comeback tour of 2008, Leonard Cohen has returned to these shores time and time again. It is noticeable that on this occasion there isn't nearly the sort of excitement he generated on previous visits and the banks of empty seats in the arena suggest the veteran Canadian is no longer the hottest ticket in town.
But any concerns that Cohen is getting complacent in his old age – he turns 79 later this month – are quashed within moments because it soon becomes abundantly clear that he is in the form of his life.
For three-and-a-half hours he offers reminder after reminder of his supreme talents as a songwriter. He dips into that extensive, career-spanning back catalogue and virtually every song is a success. His wonderful vocals and consummate showmanship are apparent from the off, but much of the magic is fashioned by his great band – virtually all of whom have been with him on the journey over the past five years.
At times tonight his delivery of some songs is even more captivating than what he managed at those fabled Royal Hospital Kilmainham shows in '08 and the sustained quality comfortably eclipses that of his last appearance in this venue three years ago.
Highlights? So many. How about the plaintive, haunting rendition of 'Suzanne' or the arresting, spoken worded delivery of 'A Thousand Kisses Deep'? How about the theatrics of the portentous 'Everybody Knows' or the brilliantly playful take on 'I'm Your Man'?
'Chelsea Hotel', 'Famous Blue Raincoat', 'So Long Marianne', 'The Future' – one iconic song follows another. His band have grown in confidence too and are now not merely interested in faithfully reproducing those old recordings but instead offering new and inventive ways to bring them alive.
Once again, Cohen's generosity of spirit is plain for all to see as he allows each of those musicians with him to have their moment.
Backing singers Charley and Hattie Webb offer a beautifully pure interpretation of 'If It Be Your Will', while in the night's single most memorable performance, Sharon Robinson reminds us of her own rare talent with a sublime version of 'Alexandra Leaving' – a song she co-wrote with Cohen a dozen years ago.
Cohen hints that he may not be back in Ireland for some time – one never knows with this singer – but if this is to be his Irish swansong, what a way to go out.