Sting, k.d. lang, Lana Del Rey, Elvis Costello, Courtney Love and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau were among nearly two dozen high-profile participants appearing at last night’s ‘Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen’. The star-studded event took place at Montreal’s Bell Centre and it marked the one-year anniversary of the influential poet and singer-songwriter’s death.
They were joined by Feist, the Lumineers’ Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, Børns, Bettye LaVette, Damien Rice, Ron Sexsmith, Couer de Pirate, Patrick Watson, the Webb Sisters, Cohen’s long-time collaborator, Sharon Robinson, and his son, Adam Cohen.
The Trudeaus noted that the song they chose for their first dance at their wedding was Cohen’s ‘I’m Your Man.’ “Leonard was an extraordinary Canadian, mais il était un grand Montréalais,” the Canadian Prime Minister noted.
Backed by a full orchestra, Sting opened the evening with ‘Dance Me to the End Of Love,’ while lang ended the first half with ‘Hallelujah’ and Adam Cohen closed the show with the song he described as the first one of his father’s songs he ever learned, ‘Coming Back to You.’
Other highlights of the emotional programme included Ron Sexsmith’s mesmerizing interpretation of ‘Suzanne’; Elvis Costello’s bluesy take on the socio-politically charged ‘The Future’ and Damien Rice, who performed a captivating version of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, singing the stirring waltz like an intimate confession. The concert was produced by Hal Willner.
Cohen himself appeared in virtual form, throughout the night, including in a video of him performing the reverential ode ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’, while a cameo-filled video also brought delight to the audience as Willie Nelson, Céline Dion, Peter Gabriel, Chris Martin and Cohen himself traded verses on ‘Tower of Song.’
“For me, poetry is the evidence of a life and not life itself,” Cohen remarked, in an audio recording, a little later.
Leonard Cohen died on 7 November Nov 2016, at age 82. The concert was a benefit for the Canada Council for the Arts, the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec and the Montreal Arts Council.