Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“Following a sold-out season at the Sydney Opera House, D’Arrietta and his six piece band return, due to popular demand, with their rousing celebration of the late, legendary Cohen. This stirringly personal tribute offers arresting and imaginative arrangements of Cohen’s best work, punctuated with poetic anecdotes that give insight into the great musician’s life.”
Read the title of this show carefully. This is not a Leonard Cohen impersonation-tribute show. Though it does pay tribute to the man, the icon, it is a very personal interpretation of the man’s career and vast collection of songs and poetry.
Though, from almost the very first moment, Stewart D’Arrietta steps onto the stage looking a bit like Leonard Cohen, what then ensues is a fine performer in his own right and a terrifically skilled band offering us fifteen Cohen songs, and plenty of background and back story (even a Cohen poem) in a style that definitely belongs to D’Arrieta. Expect paced-up songs, expect tango and Texas, hard rock and enough overlap with Cohen’s own style to satisfy, surprise and delight. But don’t expect signature slowness. The backing vocals sounded pretty much like the real Cohen live and, though delivered to perfection, jarred occasionally with these different styles. There are possibly a few more creative decisions to be made here. Is this true to Cohen or not? Mostly it isn’t and that choice is a good one. We are coming at Cohen from different angles, throwing NEW light on his work. We’re guided by our story-teller lead singer and we’re told some useful and fascinating nuggets of information about Cohen’s biography.
One other quibble as that lyrics were sometimes lost in the bigged-up sound and sheer speed. Cohen took to the musical form because it was a way to be paid for his poetry and a way to reach the ears of a wider audience. As D’Arrietta reminds us, Cohen was less interested in the money and more restless to be realised as a literary artist. Poets rarely made a mint. So, whether you are offering your own musical take on the man or not, the spoken word here is important, especially when realised through the medium of music. Clarity and accessibility to those words becomes fundamental, a foundation and sometimes those words were lost in songs that, in their own right, were still interpreted and performed with high mastery by singer and band.
This is a hugely skilled, laid back band who know just what they are about. And this is a top quality night of music from the canon of Leonard Cohen. The ovation at the end was well deserved. Don’t expect a clone of the tomcat himself. Expect something more – a show with a creative edge that will surprise and delight. Cohen was an inspiration and that is personally in evidence here. This is an evening in the company of two men and an excellent band. Both men are well worth the ticket, for different yet overlapping reasons.