Fringe review – My Leonard Cohen (rating: 5/5)
When he performed at the Fringe last year, Stewart D’Arrietta reflected on the recent death of Cohen’s long time muse Marianne Ihlen. His return to Edinburgh follows the death of Cohen himself last November.
It stimulated a fresh interest in the Canadian’s catalogue and gave D’Arrietta an added challenge in this tribute to his long-time hero. A two-disc CD based on this touring show was released in May.
Backed this time by an entirely Scottish band, D’Arrietta weaves anecdotes about Cohen’s life, and one beautiful poem, between renditions of his songs which adopt a rockier tone to last year’s more romany flavour.
The performance pays homage to Cohen, but this is not a tribute band in the sense of impersonation. D’Arrietta, an Australian “who graduated in law, but chose to make a living in music” eschews Cohen’s deep, melancholic tones and applies his own gravelly-voiced interpretation to the songs. This works best in the rousing choruses of Everybody Knows, the Tower of Song and First We Take Manhattan.
D’Arrietta’s intuitive knowledge of Cohen’s work allows him to switch mood from the touching hit single Suzanne and Bird on a Wire, to the seductive I’m Your Man, and the heart-rending Dance Me To The End of Love. The audience seemed entranced and were sent home after a stirring version of Hallelujah.
It is testament to D’Arrietta’s devotion to keeping Cohen’s music relevant that he continues to play to packed houses. Cohen himself would surely have paid to see this one.
My Leonard Cohen is at the Assembly Rooms until 27 August