http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/n ... 9c818a206b
A fitting tribute to Cohen's works
Canadian legend celebrated in evening of poetry and song
Sandra Sperounes, The Edmonton Journal
Published: 2:31 am
Leonard Cohen Gala Concert
Featuring: Jann Arden, Serena Ryder, Roddy Hart, Ann Vriend, Monsieur Camembert
Where: Winspear Centre
Three hours of Leonard Cohen can be hazardous to your self-esteem.
After listening to the majestic beauty of his songs and poems, you might be rendered speechless -- or incapable of writing a review.
How can I possibly do justice to his mournful meditations on love, faith, sex and life, or the performers who were bold enough to perform his words at a gala concert?
Saturday night's tribute to the great Canadian poet and songwriter was the crowning glory of the five-day Leonard Cohen International Festival.
If any of the gala's artists -- including Jann Arden, Serena Ryder, Roddy Hart, and The Journal's Todd Babiak -- were nervous about covering Cohen's works, they can breathe a collective sigh of relief. With the help of musical director and bassist Mike Lent, they sang and recited his words with grace, gravitas, and above all, soul, in front of 1,400 Cohen fans at the Winspear Centre.
Nashville tunesmith Darrell Scott seduced the crowd with a bluesy, sensual and haunting version of First We Take Manhattan. Edmonton's piano-pop songstress Ann Vriend delivered a zesty, Motown-flavoured rendition of Coming Back To You. Montreal native Peter Elkas turned True Love Leaves No Traces into a roots-rock number reminiscent of The Band, while Vancouver jazz chanteuse (and the show's MC) Kate Hammett-Vaughn offered a suave, loose yet lackadaisical interpretation of Hallelujah.
It was a valiant effort, but didn't quite possess the necessary oomph or raise-the-rafters vocal stylings. While no one can beat k.d. lang's soul-stirring version of the Cohen classic, I would've liked to hear Ryder, Arden or even Monsieur Camembert give it a shot.
Hammett-Vaughn was much more successful as a host -- introducing performers, reciting one of Cohen's poems and making fun of her sister, who couldn't tell the difference between the songwriter and Leonard Nimoy.
As sombre as Cohen's words are, he's also known for his dry wit, and Saturday's gala wasn't short on humour and mirth. Almost every performer laughed at his or her own artistic failings -- who can possibly compare to Cohen? -- while Monsieur Camembert added light-hearted slices of gypsy, swing, jazz, and beer-hall chants to Cohen's X-rated hit, The Future.
The Australian seven-piece, featuring two exquisite female singers, was the find of the night. They performed four of Cohen's tunes -- including a smoky, woozy Who By Fire, and a retro-soul rendition of Light as the Breeze -- and upstaged the show's headliner.
Calgary native Jann Arden ended the concert with gentle versions of If It Be Your Will, Bird on a Wire, Famous Blue Raincoat, and one of her own compositions, Give Me Back My Heart.
Of course, the sharp-witted Calgary native couldn't resist making a few wisecracks -- about Cohen's height, his voice, and her own intelligence. "I don't understand what it means," Arden quipped, referring to If It Be Your Will, a tune she recorded for Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen.
Whether we fully comprehend his words, we should celebrate Cohen more often. Luckily, Saturday's gala (produced by Peter North) was taped for future broadcast on CBC Radio.
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