Come So Far
So it's Friday night and we head off to the Sydney Opera House for "Came So Far For Beauty - An Evening Of Leonard Cohen Songs". I've never even vaguely liked Cohen - the length and verbosity of his lyrics bores me and his spare, gloomy voice puts up the final roadblock to any sensual enjoyment. But I can appreciate the song-craft (sort of) and they seem perfect for re-interpretation.
I suppose the singers involved in this event were the main drawcard for me : Rufus and Martha Wainright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Beth Orton, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Linda and Teddy Thompson, Antony (?) and 2 of LC's backup singers - Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen. The band were made up of people I didn't know except for the late inclusion of the great Chris Spedding on guitar! They had a guy playing musical saw on most songs too - very nice.
I won't go through it song by song because (a) I don't know their titles and (b) I prefer to enjoy a musical evening rather than take notes like some weird train-spotter. So just some general impressions then:
It was a 3 hour concert which was probably a little too long, especially when at least 1/3rd of the songs had similar arrangements to the originals: sometimes this worked beautifully as with a trio of Linda, Kate and Anna but overall it made the evening drag. Nick Cave was the least impressive of them all although his rock star moves made for a change from what everyone else did - standing still for the most part. I didn't expect much from Jarvis Cocker or Beth Orton but, in many respects, their tunes were the most effective. Cocker was a complete showman and his voice was great - perfect for the tracks he took hold of. Orton's 1st solo piece was magical with a slightly East European style of vocals backing her up and the most atmospheric arrangement of the show. Turn up for the books was Antony - someone I'd never heard of before - whose angelic voice is high but very smooth at the same time. He seemed enormously nervous and fluttered his hands a lot - as one friend said, like Joe Cocker - crossed with the stylings of Jeff Buckley. The Handsome family were a hoot, apparently as they always are, even if Rennie can't sing worth a damn. Perla's R&B diva vocals were quite grating even if she got the most applause in the night (for some reason, people just love that type of singing) but Julie Christensen's cabaret inflected performance was perfect for her solo piece. Teddy Thompson was in pretty good voice too. And finally, Martha Wainwright's slutty 70's outfit came as a complete surprise especially when her boobs kept on trying to have a good look at Utzon's lovely Opera Theatre.
I suppose Hal Willner's involvement will mean that a CD will appear eventually. One that I await with pleasure.