198 of 203 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2009
I swore I would not open this DVD until after seeing L. Cohen in Oakland the Monday after next. But I'm so glad I broke my vow.
This is one of the most wonderful concerts I've ever seen captured on DVD.
The band and Leonard's singers are top-notch, and one senses that they feel as though they are a part of something special.
The songs span nearly 40 years of a canon that is second to none.
Most amazing of all,though, is how a digital disc can cut through its own technology and exude so much warmth and passion. Even when the camera shows a close shot of Cohen, one can still sense the warmth, love and admiration coming from the ecstatic London audience.
As for Leonard Cohen...if he were to do nothing but sing, that would be enough given the wonderful breadth of material performed at this concert.
However, his gentle and gracious command of the stage provides this show an added depth and dimension. Within the span of minutes he can be hilarious, self-deprecating, humble, poignant, appreciative...and I could easily go on with the superlatives to describe his on-stage demeanor.
Very often I make a point of remembering to trust the art and not the artist. In the case of Leonard Cohen, I tend to trust both. His warmth seems genuine. Unlike so many of his stature, his humility comes across as real. His spoken words are every bit as powerful as those that are sung. Given the way that the barriers are broken down between the singer and the band and the audience...to the point where it feels as though they are all part of one celebratory evening...such humility, graciousness and warmth cannot be anything but genuine.
The highlights are too many to mention: "Suzanne" sounds as fresh as it did 40 years ago. "Anthem" sounds more urgent today than when it was first penned. "The Future" & "First We Take Manahattan" are even more biting now in the 21st Century than when they were first penned. Cohen's increased age gives songs such as "Boogie Street," "Tower of Song," & "Democracy" a world weariness that makes these songs all the more penetrating. His lovely "If It Be Your Will" sounds as much like a prayer as it does one of the loveliest songs ever written. If I don't stop now, I'll wind up writing accolades about every song on this DVD. Yes, it is that wonderful!
I've been fortunate to see so many of the greats in my lifetime - legends whose works will be remembered for decades to come. Some have been surly and stand-offish. Others have been appreciative and welcoming toward their audience.
It is refreshing to see the best of everything embodied in this Leonard Cohen concert. Songs that are amongst the best ever written, still performed with a passion (as well as with the added wisdom that comes from Cohen being 74 years young), with a band & audience & singer all equally committed to one another.
There are moments when I laughed out loud at Leonard's deadpan, wry humor. There were times when tears welled in my eyes from the sincerity of the words that came out of his mouth, either spoken or in song.
In a day and age where so much seems packaged and perfunctionary, it is refreshing to see & hear someone such as Cohen whose observations can warm the heart or cut like a knife to get to the heart of a matter. He is the real deal. No airs, no faux modesty...just a man with four decades' worth of majestic material, with an excellent band whose respect for Cohen is reciprocated by their singer with his respect for their talents & abilities, along with a genuine warmth & sense of humanity that allows Leonard Cohen to turn a large London venue into a setting that is as intimate as being in one's living room.
Without a doubt, one of the finest, most moving and most satisfying concert DVDs I've ever seen.
I'm glad that I opened this prior to April 13. Seeing this makes me look forward to seeing Cohen in a small Oakland theater even more so than I already was.
However, had I not been fortunate enough to have gotten a ticket for his upcoming concert, I have to say that this DVD would have been a more than fine consolation. It is worth every cent. The staging, lighting, musicianship, song selection and sound are painstakingly stellar, obviously given great care & much thought.
This is a true gem, a most worthy representation of one of the greatest songwriters of our time.
84 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2009
This is pretty much a bare bones DVD featuring extended London concert footage. I have no beef with the camera work. It is simple, but effective, and much preferable to so many concert videos where the camera moves so much and cuts from one angle to the next occur so quickly it threatens to give one vertigo, or at least a headache.
The choice of 4:3 aspect ratio, in an era where even run-of-the-mill TV shows are widescreen, is inexplicable. The video quality is good, but not great. [A customer has reported that some sets offer a 16:9 version. That is good news, but be sure what you're getting before you buy. Mine is only 4:3. With a widescreen disc, I would bump up the rating to 4 1/2 stars.]
The audio could have been better. Happily, an uncompressed LCPM stereo track is available (the default) on the DVD, which should make for maximum sound quality. But the disc producers chose to muck this up, too. The sound is dynamically compressed, i.e. the soft parts are made loud so the dynamic contrast between soft and loud is blunted. When the band gets going full blast, the sound is congested -- it loses some clarity. Nevertheless, I would rate the sound as good, not great -- equivalent in sound quality to a musical segment on the Letterman show or Tonight Show on digital TV.
The concert is great, and Leonard is full of warmth and grit, whatever is called for. Leonard Cohen appears to be having the time of his life, and the band is perfect. His angelic choir, a trio of female backup singers, is magnificent. The guitarist provides Knopfler-esque lead lines, and his "wind instrument" and keyboard players add richness to the mix.
This is the perfect introduction to Leonard Cohen. It represents his best compositions (though I am disappointed that Joan of Arc is not part of the set list). At age 74 Cohen's voice is a bit husky, but these performances are as good as any I've ever heard on his studio albums or live material. (Granted, I do not have a large collection of Cohen albums, however I appreciate very much his songs, including those performed by other artists.) It's hard to imagine him ever topping this.
If you are unfamiliar with Leonard Cohen's music, it is generally quite simple, with common chord progressions and easy melodies. You might quickly find yourself singing along with these tunes. Cohen's strengths are his poetry and his delivery of the poetic line. He has always loved embellishing the simplicity of the songs with female choruses and fuller arrangements, while the structure retains the essence of folk music. Sometimes he favors a Spanish rhythm.
For me, this is the definitive Leonard Cohen live performance, much as Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light concert DVD highlights her best songs and best performances a with dream team band. That DVD is also deficient technically, but the music shines through. So it is here. It's a five star concert with one star deducted for technical quality that does not measure up to the artistry of the performance.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2009
My wife and I had the privilege of seeing Leonard in concert here in Phoenix on April 5. The performance was quite possibly the best I've seen in more than 40 years of attending concerts, and it was nearly identical to the London concert captured on this DVD. As a result, we now have a wonderful reminder of the superb show we saw. But for those unable to attend the live show, this DVD is the next best thing to being there. Still, if you can be there, don't pass up the opportunity to see this extraordinary man, his musicians and his backup singers - it is well worth the cost.
Others have commented on the quality of the other performers, and I can't really add much here, other than to echo those sentiments - they are all world class. A few of them probably deserve special mention, though. Sharon Robinson's vocals on a couple of songs she co-wrote - "In My Secret Life" and "Boogie Street" - are among the concert highlights. And the Webb Sisters' version of "If It Be Your Will" is nothing short of breathtaking. Javier Mas does some sensational work on various forms of the acoustic guitar.
Most likely, everyone reading this is already a Leonard Cohen fan (disciple?), so remarks about his brilliance and the impact his work has on people probably all go without saying. Instead, I will just say that all of that shines through in this DVD, and every Leonard Cohen fan should have a copy.
Some reviews here mention disappointment with the sound, but our experience has been entirely positive. We did find that some adjustments to our system settings were necessary in order to get the most of out of it, but once we did that, it was just like being back at the Dodge Theater on April 5.
71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2009
Leonard Cohen commands attention for the entire concert, which is amazing considering his 74 years. He is warm, humorous and humble to his audience and hardly makes an error in presenting over 40 years of his music.
Cohen looks and speaks like a benevolent Tony Bennett-like figure who beams at his audience after each song and clutches his hat to his chest like an ageing grandfather greeting cherished old friends at a local bus stop.
His backing musicians and female vocal group are top-notch as well.
On the down side, the technical production is disappointing. For what would have to contend as THE concert event of the decade, the presentation in 4:3 format with a picture that could be described as analog quality at best is hardly acceptable in 2009, especially when it was recorded just last July.
The camera work is often sloppy and unimaginative. The continuity editing is the same.
But full marks to Cohen and his band for a performance that has to be seen as well as heard. Others have used the words "beautiful", "warm", "gracious", "amazing", "joyful" and "sublime". I can not disagree with any of that.
Regrettably, the DVD version has not done this major musical milestone the justice it warrants but it is still worth it.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2009
Last week I realized that Leonard Cohen is going to perform in Philadelphia next month. I am not living there, but it would be in a distance one could realistically travel to. So I went to a fansite and searched around for more info, eventually I found links to ticket sellers and online dealers etc.
Ha! Prices between 129 $ and 249 $ per ticket?!
Who could afford that?
Well, maybe people from New York or California, but avarage middle-class people from a low-income state with an average income certainly cannot. So what now?
I got this DVD instead.
And it is great.
And guess what, it was on sale for 16.99$.
A concert of two and a half hours length!
I watched it yesterday and I must say, this is really a great deal, definately worth more than it costs. I am fascinated by this graceful old man, this wise poet, who is so humble and modest on the stage, and so great.
He keeps introducing the band by their names, which I liked a lot. This reminds you that the show is a team effort, not just one guy with some anonymous dudes in the back. No, the three singers and and the musicians are really very good, and they absolutely deserve to be announced by their names!
This reminded me of a singer I once knew. She always makes a point that she (and nobody else, just she, and she alone!) is the leadsinger of a certain group. She performs with 2 background singers, and they used to start every concert with a song that featured all three of them individually in a separate solo verse. One of the backing singers regularly got bigger applause for her solo than Madame.
What do you think happened? Yes, right, that song was changed, and no solo verses have been sung ever again but by herself. That was in 1991 or so, and they still start with the same song, but never again with solo verses in any song. Nobody can get more applause than Madame herself! So there!
When I watched this Cohen concert yesterday, I was impressed how gracefully and generously this man pointed out the huge talents of his musicians. Not once but like eleven times during the 125 minutes of the concert! Yes, he can share the light, and he clearly was not jealous that also the musicians and the singers received applause they deserved.
I am still in awe of this poet.
If you can afford to see him in concert, absolutely go for it!
If you are like me, middle-class in a low-income state, and 2 concert tickets would cost the monetary equivalent of 5-8 days of work - then get this DVD!
I mean it!
Even in case it is no longer on sale when you read this.
Buy this and be happy and enjoy a wonderful concert.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
He jogs up the stairs to join the ensemble. Looking dapper & groomed in their suits, they are ready & eager to unleash Leonard's Lieder in this unusually vast 02 chamber. Even the lovely female vocalists are formally attired, setting a splendid visual standard for a night of a thousand harmonies. Everything about this extraordinary DVD impresses. There's the breathtaking cinematography, the expert & seamless editing that strikes a perfect balance between shots of Lenny, the musicians, the instruments as they are being played, the graceful backing singers and the appreciative audience.
The lighting too, meets the mood of the music as it bathes the stage in blue, green, red, royal purple or golden brown. Instruments like the banduria and archilaud add new dimensions to the sound whilst the instrumental & vocal arrangements refresh and rejuvenate old songs. The angelic voices of Sharon Robinson & the Webb Sisters caress the lyrics throughout but with particularly arresting effect on Aint No Cure For Love, In My Secret Life, Anthem, Closing Time & Hallelujah.
On the solemn Who By Fire the camera perfectly complements the sounds of the archilaud, keyboards, stand-up bass and - most impressively - the sitar as Hattie Webb plucks the strings. The same happens with the harmonica on Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye. What's more, the audience resonates with LC's every word between songs, whether it be witty or just wonderful. He wisely chooses wit when introducing the disturbing or apocalyptic ones like The Future and Everybody Knows. The first part of the concert concludes with Anthem, a sublime collision of sound & vision with a lengthy outro in which Leonard acknowledges the individual musicians. He does that often throughout the performance.
The proceedings resume with a good laugh or two whereupon Leonard humbly thanks the audience for keeping his songs alive down the years. Ecstatic applause erupts as he sings the ironic line "born with the gift of a golden voice" in Tower of Song. Then the stage darkens for a melancholy Suzanne before a long banduria solo introduces The Gypsy's Wife on which he plays guitar. Next, Sharon Robinson brings soul to Boogie Street by singing lead. The studio recording of Hallelujah sounds like a demo compared to this version which flows, moves and embraces the listener within its exquisitely woven textures.
Leonard recites some stanzas of Democracy before the ensemble renders it in a robust and rhythmic way; A Thousand Kisses Deep is recited in full with only keyboard backing. The stage comes alive for Take This Waltz as he interacts with the musicians before settling into a duet with the blonde Webb Sister that becomes an audiovisual delight. The upbeat mood lasts through a rousing rendition of So Long Marianne; it is abruptly displaced by the subdued resignation of Sisters of Mercy which is however, simultaneously tender and reassuring.
For the third time, Leonard recites - the first few lines of If It Be Your Will. Then he hands the prayer to the Webb Sisters who accompany themselves on harp and guitar for a supra-numinous performance. From the divine to the irreverent, the pace picks up for the buoyant Closing Time as the singers sway and the music swirls to the catchy tune. At the end, all the musicians join voices on the comforting conclusion Whither Thou Goest. July 17, 2008 was clearly a night to remember for those present. Fortunately, enough of the magic is captured here to make one watch this DVD over and over again. The booklet contains a gig review by John Aizlewood, plenty of full-color photographs, the track listing and credits. All the lyrics are available on the Disc itself.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Leonard Cohen has always been a unique performer. Sort of an enigma in real life with a talent that cannot be denied. Live in London filmed on July 17, 2008 at the O2 Arena presents the man at his very best.
Performing witha spot on nine member band and looking a very dapper 75 years young, Cohen gives a very appreciative audience a performance that served as a great retrospective of his now four decades plus career. Filmed in closeups that focus on the band and not on the audience by Edward Sanders, Cohen is in top form as he performs standards like Bird on a Wire, Everybody Knows,Hallelujah, I'm Your Man, and Closing Time. There is not one slow moment in the entire two hour and thirty nine minute performance.
This is a show that was well worth waiting for and well worth purchasing. The only DVD extra is a copy of the song lyrics but really that is all that was needed.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2009
This disk does a great job of demonstrating the wide range of Leonard Cohen's catalogue of outstanding songs, beginning with mid-late 1960's. His voice has darkened over the years, but that only makes songs like Susanne, or the Sisters of Mercy, all the more powerful. He was clearly enjoying himself during the show, and is truly appreciative of the overwhelmingly warm response by the audience. He makes an aside about understanding some patrons were being inconvenienced financially and geographically to attend the show (I was willing to spend big bucks and travel thousands of miles to go to the show - couldn't make it happen) and then says "we" (not I) are honored to play for you tonight. Leonard may be on the last round-up but he's giving it one hell of a ride. Rave on, Leonard Cohen.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
After a 15 year absence from the stage, Leonard Cohen returned in 2008 to the stage in a wildely succesfull European tour. This DVD catches Cohen at London's O2 Arena in July, and what a great show it is.
The "Leonard Cohen: Live In London" DVD (157 min.) brings the show in all of its glory, and let me state upfront that this DVD is a pleasure to watch from a video-editing perspective. The camera focuses primarily on Leonard, although the rest of his backing band gets plenty of limelight too (in particular long-time back-up vocalist Jennifer Warnes) and thankfully, doesn't change every 2 or 3 seconds to a different perspective, as the MTV-generation has gotten used to. The highlights are many, many, many, but just to point out a few: the opener "Dance Me To The End of Love", "The Future", "I'm Your Man", "First We Take Manhattan", and the short a-capella closer "Whither Thou Ghost", but thruth be told, if you are a fan, there are no weak tracks on here.
I had the great fortune of catching Leonard Cohen's set at Coachella a few weeks ago, and what a memorable event that was. He performed at 7:30 pm, just as the sun was setting, and with the hreat background of palm trees and all that is Coachella, it made for one truly memorable set. This DVD is a great momento for anyone who has had the great fortune of catching Leonard live in what is possibly his last tour. Not to be missed!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2009
Full disclosure once again (I've said it on other Cohen products I've reviewed) -- for me, Leonard Cohen can do practically no wrong. I have seen three concerts during his version of the Neverending Tour -- Toronto back a June ago when it was just getting underway, April in Seattle, May at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. I intend to see as many more as I can before it ends, and I hope it never does.
Meanwhile, Live in London relives them every time I put it in the DVD. The camera work here is pretty basic, but the closeups show just how much fun Cohen and his merry band are having as they perform. It is all choreographed and that's fine. I think the song list here in London varied by one from NYC and two from Seattle. Most of us don't go for spontaneity, but for Leonard's history and his poem stories and for his multiangled take on life. Some of it can be very somber, but as he commented in Seattle, even in the bad times "cheerfulness" keeps breaking through. He's 74, he's produced a tremendous body of work, he's surrounded himself with wonderful individual collaborators, musicians, and backup singers, he wears a battered fedora, he gives you nearly three hours of performance, and he skips off stage at the end. The man knows how to live.
There, one more five star review -- buy the DVD!