Like Bob Dylan, 74-year-old Leonard Cohen is a musical treasure, the author of some of the most poetic and beautiful songs of the last half-century, and one of the most distinctive voices
America has ever produced of the last century. Yet Cohen's catalog of studio albums not only is far less substantial than Dylan's--there are only 11 to his credit between 1967 and 2004--but it also is much less rewarding, often suffering from fussy overproduction completely at odds with the artist's humble monotone rumble of a voice.
Enjoying a (very) late-career resurgence driven in equal parts by a mountain of debut racked up by an unscrupulous manager and his discovery by a new generation of fans celebrating his work via a flood of covers--from Jeff Buckley's signature version of "Hallelujah" to the two renditions of that song by John Cale and Rufus Wainwright that appeared on the soundtrack to "Shrek"--Cohen has made an unexpected but very welcome return to the stage, and this double album chronicles a performance with a big but only occasionally intrusive band at the O2 Arena in London last July.
With gorgeous versions of all of his most well-known songs--"Hallelujah," "Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne" and nearly two dozen more--"Live in London" serves as a much better introduction to Cohen than any one of his studio albums, and an ideal overview of his amazing artistry. Leonard Cohen performs at the Chicago Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday [May5-6].