Cheerfulness kept breaking through at Manchester show

Leonard Cohen performed live for the first time in the UK in over 15 years last night (June 17) at Manchester Opera House. The singer, backed by a six-piece band and three backing singers, played a 24-song set that ranged across four decades of his musical output.

Looking frail but dapper in a double-breasted grey suit and fedora, and occasionally playing a black guitar, Cohen led his band through classics of like “Bird On A Wire”, “Tower Of Song”, “Suzanne”, “So Long Marianne” and his most famous composition, “Hallelujah”, on which Cohen shook with emotion.

Greeted by several standing ovations, Cohen played two sets and three encores over three hours. The 74-year-old poet had time for a few jokes, too. “Fourteen or 15 years ago, I was just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then, I’ve taken a lot of Prozac,” and went on to list half a dozen or so pharmaceuticals. He continued, “I’ve studied the religions of the world, but somehow, cheerfulness kept breaking through.”

Cohen also changed a lyric in “The Future” from “Give me crack and anal sex” to “give me crack and careless sex”, as he has done previously on the North American leg of his world tour. “A Thousand Kisses Deep” was delivered as a spoken word piece, while “Tower Of Song” and “Suzanne” were stripped-down arrangements, in contrast to the full-band treatment of the majority of the set.

After finishing his set with “Closing Time”, Cohen quickly came back with “I Tried To Leave You”, provoking yet another ovation.

The set list was:

1. Dance Me To The End Of Love

2. The Future

3. Ain’t No Cure For Love

4. Bird On A Wire

5. Everybody Knows

6. My Secret Life

7. Who By Fire

8. That’s No Way To Say Goodbye

9. Anthem

Interval

1.Tower Of Song

2. Suzanne

3. The Gypsy Wife

4. Boogie Street

5. Hallelujah

6. Democracy

7. I’m Your Man

8. 1000 Kisses Deep

9. Take This Waltz

Encore

1. So Long Marianne

2. First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2

1. That Don’t Make It Junk

2. If It Be Your Will

3. Closing Time

Encore 3

1. I Tried To Leave You