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Cohen's charm warms hearts

The man with the golden voice has the floor. He wants to thank his "friends" - his many thousands of followers who have braved the first truly bitter night of autumn to hear an old man's "melancholy ditties".

BUT mostly, Leonard Cohen wants to know why it is that the Irish are always so keen for Canada's finest to play outdoors. Because, you know, it is September. And it's freezing in Dublin. What's more, Cohen (77) doesn't do short gigs. Tonight, he'll play for three and a half hours, stopping only for a 20-minute break. He returns wearing a scarf and sunglasses, and though you fear that you may just wake in the morning with a tickle in your throat, it will be almost worth it.

Indeed, a Leonard Cohen concert is often regarded as something of a religious experience for those unfortunate enough to have broken down in tears halfway through Hallelujah. And it's easy to see why. Musically, Cohen plays by a set of rules that could only be mastered by a chap who might very well have borrowed his vocal cords from the Man Upstairs. It's a marvellous instrument -- a wine and cigarette-soaked beauty of a voice that is just as powerful when delivering those mournful stories of his as it is when telling jokes or complimenting his audience. Because he is one heck of a charmer.

Knees

He'll dance. He'll run. He'll even get on his knees and lose himself in the wonder of his work. But he'll also remind us that it's not just the Leonard Cohen show. There are all kinds of talent on display this evening, such as the Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson -- easily the finest group of singers that an artist could ever wish to be accompanied by on tour.

After dark, though, is when things really kick off. Candles surround the stage as a dapper Cohen stands behind his keyboard and smiles. "You ain't heard nothin' yet." Through Suzanne, Democracy, and the timeless So Long, Marianne, Cohen's band presents a masterclass in rich and, at times, gorgeous rock and folk instrumentation. It's a subtle yet wonderfully crafted celebration of an exceptional songbook, courtesy of its warm and charismatic creator. Under a roof, it might have been perfect. But it was pretty damn close. HHHHI


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