Concert review: Leonard Cohen at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center

But the show wasn’t all about Leonard and it was the man himself who made it that way. He paid much due to his talented bunch of instrumentalists and vocalists all throughout the show, and made it abundantly clear that they were more than simply hired hands, removing his hat and formally bowing to one or a few of them at the end of each number in respectful acknowledgment of their talents, and offering a unique introduction to every one at the end of both sets: musical director/producer/bassist Roscoe Beck (“the shepherd of our ensemble”) on his signature Fender and upright bass, “legendary innovator” Neil Larsen on keys and B3 organ, the “irreplaceable” Bob Metzger on lapsteel, acoustic and electric guitars, multi-string player Javier Mas on badurria, laúd, archilaud and 12-string guitar, “maestro of breath” Dino Soldo on keys and various wind instruments (clarinet, saxophone, harmonica), drummer/percussionist Rafael Gayol “timekeeper and Prince of Precision,” and the backup singers – vocal and composition collaborator Sharon Robinson, and vocalist/string-playing sisters, Hatty and Charlotte Webb.

The trio’s lovely soprano harmonies complemented Leonard’s low tone well and at a few points during the show, Leonard stepped completely out of the spotlight to give them the stage on two of his numbers – Robinson riding solo with her shredded velvet vox, and the Webb sisters doing a dulcet-toned duet with harp and acoustic guitar that was so pure and sweet it hurt my heart. My friend described them as [image-1]“pixies from a music box” afterwards and he was dead on.

Along with his band-leading capabilities, I gained a new appreciation for Leonard’s way with words. Yeah, I know – he’s known for it. But I always took his keen literary sense for granted and certain lyrics jumped out at me at various points and begged to be recognized: “You came to me this morning / And you handled me like meat / You’d have to live alone to know / How good that feels, how sweet” (from “A Thousand Kisses”); “I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best / I can't keep track of each fallen robin / I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel -- that's all, I don't even think of you that often” (“Chelsea Hotel”); “The Maestro says it's Mozart but it sounds like bubble gum / when you're waiting for the miracle, for the miracle to come” (“Waiting for the Miracle); “I ache in places I used to play” and “I was born with the gift of a golden voice" (both from “Tower of Song,” the latter verse earning cheers from the audience); and “I’ll wear an old man’s mask” (the now-ironic lyric from “I’ll Be Your Man”).

Leonard culled numbers from 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen through 2001’s Ten New Songs, frolicking on and off the stage with boyish energy before and after each set, and generally seeming to have a fabulous time. "I don’t know when we’ll pass this way again, so our intention is to bring you everything we got tonight,” Leonard promised when he opened the show, and he most definitely lived up to his word. By the end of the nearly three-hour concert -- which featured a drawn-out encore complete with its own breaks -- I was exhausted and content.

Here’s the setlist as far as I can tell from my notes:


Dance Me To The End of Love

The Future

Aint No Cure For Love

Bird on a Wire

Everybody Knows

In My Secret Life

Who By Fire

Chelsea Hotel

Waiting for the Miracle



Tower Song


Sisters of Mercy

The Gypsy's Wife

The Partisan

Boogie Street


I'm Your Man

A Thousand Kisses Deep

Take This Waltz


So Long Marianne

First We Take Manhattan

Famous Blue Raincoat

If It Be Your Will (Webb sisters)

Closing Time

Whither Thou Goest

Will she cry, or won’t she? Will she cry, or won’t she?

That was the third-person sentence running 'round and 'round my head, referencing myself, as I made my way through the hefty crowd of Leonard Cohen fans who’d come to see the grandmaster of songwriting play Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center this past Monday, October 19. [All photos by Sam Goresh.]

I tend to get sentimental when it comes to music anyway, and my husband had just left town for a month-long journey across America to shoot his Routes Music documentary, so I was feeling rather blue. This was one of the few concerts I’d attended without my other half since we met more than eight years ago, and considering that he was the one who turned me onto Leonard, I wasn’t sure how the music would hit me.

But the longtime troubadour allowed me no opportunity to dwell on my loneliness and managed to lift me up from the gloom in my heart, even making me laugh at various points in the evening.

Debonair as always in his grey pinstripe suit and matching fedora, the 75-year-old held the audience mesmerized with his deep breathy baritone and occasional witty stage banter. He sang against his rootsy, jazz-flavored, gospel-tinged folk rock with his hand alternately cupped around his face or around his mic, at times bending into a crouch to deliver his lyrics from the floor with his trademark self-possessed passion.

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