Article by Ben Rayner, The Toronto Star
“Been working out, but it’s too late, it’s been too late for years.”
Those words were delivered by Leonard Cohen with all the gravelly, baritone weight of Absolute Finality during his late-set “recitation” of the updated poem “A Thousand Kisses Deep” at Toronto’s Sony Centre on June 6, 2008. He was so convincing that this writer rushed back to the office and breathlessly spewed a review that opened with: “It’s a humbling thing, being in the presence of true greatness, especially when you get the gnawing sense that this is the last time you’ll share an audience with it.”
Obviously, that wasn’t the last time Leonard Cohen would utter those words. Indeed, he would play the Sony Centre again the next night on that tour — his first in 15 years, reluctantly undertaken at 73 owing to personal finances gone wrong — and carry on touring on both sides of the Atlantic for another two years, no doubt selling the same material with the same portentous, shatteringly mortal resignation night after night after night.
How do I know that? When a noticeably creakier but still cucumber-cool Cohen sashayed back to Toronto for two more gigs at the Air Canada Centre in December 2012 on his Old Ideas tour, it was, once again, a recitation of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” that completely sucked the air from the room — nay, from an entire NHL hockey rink — and left 16,000 less lyrically astute human beings gazing into the black void of mortality.
It doesn’t look good for our Leonard, then, although it does the heart good to read that he and his son enjoyed “hilarious, esoteric arguments fuelled by medical marijuana” and “episodes of blissful joy that sometimes lasted hours, where we’d listen to one song on repeat like teenagers” during the recording process.