Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cohen makes fans' wait worth their while

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First he takes a Juno. Then he takes the 'Peg.

Leonard Cohen may be at the top of the Canadian musical mountain, but he still knows his place in the universe.

The 78-year-old Montrealer kneeled on his prayer bones at the MTS Centre Friday night, pleading for redemption from a higher power and begging for forgiveness from an adoring crowd.

He was supposed to perform here on March 11, but the flu swept its way through his exceptional band, so the gig was rescheduled until Friday night.

The wait was worth the inconvenience.

Cohen is just six days removed from winning the Junos' artist of the year award at its gala last weekend in Regina. He showed why he is such a deserving choice in the first of two sets Friday night.

He blended his treasure trove of classics, such as the opener, Dance Me to the End of Love, a country-blues version of Bird on the Wire and a sweet rendition of Ain't No Cure for Love with three new songs from his critically acclaimed 2012 recording Old Ideas, which has slices of his recent wit and wisdom.

One of them, Amen, had Cohen back on his knees seeking the unattainable love that is so close, yet so far away.

The soulful skeleton of Cohen's show remains similar to the sumptuous Live in London album of 2009, which reintroduced his classics to a new generation of listeners. But those heartrending bits of Canadiana were performed with a western style that matched the bolo tie Cohen was wearing.

And a fiddle, capably played by Alexandru Bublitchi, replaced the usual saxophone during some early solos, adding a different mood compared with Cohen's previous appearances in Winnipeg.

Spanish guitar wizard Javier Mas brought the show back to Europe prior to Who by Fire, and his deft touch earned four separate bursts of applause from the polite audience.

Cohen was also accompanied once again by singers Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters, Hattie and Charley. They fit so well together, it's hard to imagine Cohen without a trio of righthand women by his side.

Tower of Song kicked off the second set to plenty of giggles from the audience before another one of Cohen's titans, Suzanne, hushed the audience. For three or so minutes, they were transported to an earlier time, as the great songs so often do.

At press time, Cohen had yet to play two other of his titans, Hallelujah and So Long, Marianne.

But in an expected three-hour show, their appearance was surely inevitable.

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 A18

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