No one would dispute that Leonard Cohen is irreplaceable. Stewart D’Arrietta and his band have taken that to heart with a tribute performance that puts their own spin on a string of Cohen’s most recognisable songs.
From rock to tango to klezmer inflections, D’Arrietta takes each song in a different direction, not so much trying to channel Cohen as reinterpret him, delivering the numbers with a Tom Waits-style bluesy gravel.
Joined on stage by the incredible Jo Elms (guitar and backing vocals), Victor Rounds (bass), Mark Myer (drums) and Michael Kluger (piano accordion), he growls his way through a set that contains most of the favourites including “Bird on a Wire”, “Suzanne”, “Tower of Song”, “Dance Me to the End of Love”, “Everybody Knows”, “Sisters of Mercy”, “A Thousand Kisses Deep”, “First We Take Manhattan” and “So Long, Marianne”.
Interspersed with anecdotes from Cohen’s biography, the mid-song patter enriches the experience with insight into Cohen’s life and the inspiration behind the famous lyrics.
Leonard Cohen was far more than a singer and musician, he was a poet and one of the world’s most gifted songwriters. True devotees miss the spirit of the great man as much as his distinctive voice and delivery. D’Arrietta’s best moments are when he lets the strength of Cohen’s poetry shine through.
In a beautiful touch, he recites verses of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” as a poem before launching into the song, and the audience clearly appreciated the recognition of Cohen’s lyrical genius.
Of course, no Cohen tribute is complete without a rendition of “Hallelujah”, and D’Arrietta does not disappoint, bringing down the house with a gutsy, Waits-flavoured version of the song everyone was waiting to hear.
My Leonard Cohen is being presented at The Octagon in Gluttony again on February 18 and 19.
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