Leonard Cohen at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado - Reverb

Leonard Cohen at the 1stBank Center, 11/3/12 (photos and review)

You might have already heard that a 78-year-old Canadian poet played a three-hour set on Saturday night at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center. It’s both striking and true. But that’s only the beginning of what made Leonard Cohen’s marathon outing a night to remember.

As he often does, Cohen treated his performance like an elegant night out at the supper club. He and his band were dressed to the nines — suits, dresses and so many fedoras. Of course Cohen’s band owns up to his high standards with concise playing and thoughtful solos throughout the show. All together, it felt like an event — like something that was truly special, near-mythical even.

It helped that Cohen’s signature bass still has that iconic growl — and unlike some of the “legendary singer-songwriter” company he keeps (cough, Dylan, cough), you can still understand his lyrics. And those lyrics are poetry. And what good is a poet if you can’t make out his or her words? “I’ve seen the future, brother. It is murder.”

Yes, “The Future” came early in the set, as did some of his best-loved songs — including “Dance Me to the End of Love,” “Everybody Knows,” “Who by Fire” and “The Darkness.” But the most potent outing of the show’s start came with “Bird on a Wire,” which Cohen started dramatically from his knees. He rose to his feet with “If I have been unkind,” and from there he let the tender song unfold in front of him — before closing it out on his knees. Again.

Some of the show’s best moments were expected miles away from the venue. “In My Secret Life” was stark and stunning. “Waiting For the Miracle” was as creepy as it was plaintive. Closing the first set with “Anthem” was an inspired choice, and bringing the band back for a second set with “Tower of Song” was moving. Three days before the U.S. presidential election, his “Democracy” surely meant different things to different people in the audience on Saturday night.

As calming and steadied as Cohen’s voice is, his choice to pass the mic in the second act was a smart one. He gave “Coming Back to You” to the Webb sisters, some of his angelic back-up singers. The ladies brought a mystical feeling to the rare Cohen track — almost as if Alison Krauss had taken over the number. Their heavenly voices, instruments (a guitar and a miniature harp) and a stand-up bass accompaniment — wow. Directly following that moment, Cohen’s longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson (a back-up singer and co-writer of “Waiting For the Miracle” and “Everybody Knows”) sang a devastating “Alexandra Leaving,” which she also co-wrote with Cohen.

It was an appreciated break from Cohen’s deep bass tones. And then the audience was happy to have him back with closing numbers that moved from the all-too-familiar “Hallelujah” to the cover “Save the Last Dance for Me,” from the well-known “Famous Blue Raincoat” to the beloved “Closing Time.” Accounting for the intermission, Cohen played for three hours. Cheers are deserved to the venue, too, which represented his sound with clarity and respect.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.

Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.

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  • Greg

    Great review Ricardo. This show was such a delight and the comment he made when he first came out about “he may be back he may not, but he and the band were going to leave it all on the stage” was no lip service. Wonderful night of music.

  • Lewis Cooper

    Great review and photos, well done.

  • krodrich

    Thank you, Ricardo. We are anxiously awaiting Mr. Cohen and company later in the month when they grace Detroit with their songs.

  • Jane

    I saw the first three concerts of this tour in Gent, Belgium where he played for 4 hours. I came to Broomfield from Minneapolis to see this show and he never disappoints. Looking at playlists from his North America dates, he seems to be playing fewer songs from the new album than he did in Europe, which shortens the concert. The only miss for me on Saturday was that he didn’t sing “The Partisan,” but I will never complain about Leonard.

  • Becky

    What a guy.