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Book Review

On Tour With Leonard Cohen


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On Tour With Leonard Cohen
Sharon Robinson
221 pages
ISBN: 1576877256
PowerHouse Books

When singer and poet Leonard Cohen got back on the road in 2008 after years of absence and seclusion in a Zen monastery beset by management and financial woes, his comeback was universally greeted by audiences worldwide. Despite the age when most musicians of his generation are retired or about to it seems that the return to stage rekindled his fire both for performing and for writing. And not only that, judging from the output, the three live recordings from the recent tours and the two studio records, his gifts as a songwriter, performer and musician have improved with age rather than vice versa. Elegantly dressed with the characteristic fedora hat and moving across the stage, it was obvious that Cohen was at the height of his powers as a performer.

Backed by a versatile band which performed the songs from his songbook with a consistent high level of commitment night after night, Cohen was delighted to be performing again. And it was during these tours that people were reminded of the old master's art and his inimitable gifts, simultaneously emanating a sense of mischief and humility. As someone who has seen and heard Cohen in person during these recent tours, I can testify that bond that he has with the audience who were mesmerized just by seeing him on stage. Even backstage after the concerts he was full of energy freely talking to visitors ranking from diplomats to fans.

Singer and producer Sharon Robinson, who is one of Cohen's most trusted associates and who shared the stage with him during all these years, not mentioning the records she co-wrote and produced for him, has released a brilliant and unusual photograph book from these tours, titled On Tour with Leonard Cohen. Consisting of photographs taken while touring all these years, Robinson doesn't portray Cohen's "secret world" so much as the life on the road during tours that saw them traversing the world several times. In this book she provides an up-close-and-personal view of the people that took part in these travels. Tours can be exhausting and daunting, as in reality this nomadic lifestyle consists of airports, rehearsals, hotels, restaurants, meetings and lots of waiting around in general. However, this book gives us a glimpse of the fun they had amid the hectic touring schedule helped by the people and the places they encountered. The photos capture the intimate behind-the-scenes moments of Cohen's professional and personal life. Always wearing his characteristic fedora, the photographs show us Cohen the man who, whether holding a guitar or a microphone, doing his laundry or meeting people, is always dressed sharp. On the other hand, the series of photographs taken during rehearsals at various places (most of them taken on an iPhone) show the great camaraderie existing among the band members and the crew. Last but not least, a great portion of the book is also devoted to the fans that greeted the Cohen and the band throughout the worldwide tour.

The photographs in On Tour with Leonard Cohen document the life on tour from a rather different viewpoint. Usually photo books are done by professional photographers, who do a great job of capturing the magic from the other side of the stage. This one is rather different and more personal, and it shows the life on the road of the nomadic professional musician. Every photograph provides interesting insights into life on the road with Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson's account is a unique travelogue of some of the greatest tours in recent years.

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