Leonard CohenLive in Dublin(Columbia/Legacy)5 out of 5 stars Concerts by veteran musicians, even ones as respected as Leonard Cohen, don’t get any classier than this. The 80 year old singer/songwriter says more with a momentary raised eyebrow, a dip down to one knee or a tip of his trademarked black fedora than Mick Jagger does in a show of frantic dashing around an enormous stage. This 3CD/1DVD or Blu-ray set captures Cohen, his remarkably talented 6 piece band and a trio of female backup singers in a full 2 ½ hour performance in front of an adoring Dublin audience.
"Are you humoring me?" asks Leonard Cohen with a warm grin shortly after the first intermission of Live in Dublin, a new concert film and triple album captured in September 2013 at the Irish venue now known as 3Arena. He's partway into "Tower of Song", originally from 1988's I'm Your Man, where he plinks out a rudimentary keyboard solo over canned percussion, in between vocals about Hank Williams a hundred floors above him and being "born with the gift of a golden voice. " He adds, "If these are the crumbs of compassion that you offer to the elderly, I am grateful.
There already have been six official Leonard Cohen live albums, dating back to 1973, and a number of bootleg and record company promo releases as well. Despite Cohen’s persona as a somewhat misanthropic individual, his records show that he establishes a warm rapport with his audiences and treats them with respect and deference. This is not a trick created by the music editors and recording engineers to fool the public.
Leonard Cohen seems singularly determined to document his adventures in live performances which began when he returned to the concert stage in 2008, and Live in Dublin is the third live album Cohen has released in just five years. Given how satisfying 2009's Live in London was, one might reasonably wonder how badly one would need another concert souvenir, especially in such a short period of time, but comparing Live in Dublin with Live in London and 2010's Songs from the Road, one can readily see how Cohen's live show has seasoned since he returned to duty. If Live in London documented an unexpectedly revitalized and engaging performer, Live in Dublin shows he's since grown into a showman in the best sense of the word.
Leonard Cohen's return to the stage in 2008 after a 15-year absence remains one of the most impressive comebacks in music history. By the time he cut this new three-disc live album in September 2013, he had about 350 more shows under his belt. A great deal of the material here was covered on 2009's Live in London, but it's well worth the price to hear backup singer Sharon Robinson's exquisite take on "Alexandra Leaving," Cohen's hilariously self-referential "Going Home" and a finale where he covers "Save the Last Dance for Me." It's the only song in the three-hour set he didn't write, but he makes the Drifters classic sound like an outtake from I'm Your Man.
As one of the most celebrated, singular and intelligent songwriters of the last 50 years, Leonard Cohen does not need to continue to write and release music as he enters his ninth decade. Yet his two most recent albums, 2012’s Old Ideas and this year’s Popular Problems, have been met with such unanimous acclaim that such trivialities as age seem simply irrelevant. His second release of 2014, Live in Dublin, is a quietly triumphant live album that reiterates Cohen’s continued relevance – as if this needed reinforcement.