Anyone mortified by Beck’s recent live-in-the-studio hip-hop cover of Master Song might be better comforted by Laughing Len’s own approrach to the hallowed catalogue. Master Song’s not here, though, and neither are wholly faithful takes of everything else. No stranger to an on-stage rejig, Bird On The Wire here loses all of its delicacy, Cohen infusing his vocal with that same madness-iscreeping- in howl that he unleashed on 1971’s Songs Of Love & Hate’s Diamonds In The Mine, giving the Bird an erratic flight path that reinvents, rather than mangles. Unsurprisingly, Songs Of… material comes off warmest, with Songs From A Room cuts being given more freedom in the hands of Cohen’s backing band, and Love & Hate material sounding somewhat tentative.
Coming to the end of his most prolific recording run yet (three albums in four years), Cohen almost sounds flush with excitement here. Compared with his ’08 O2 shows, the singerpoet had more to prove on these shores 39 years ago, but he’s helped by a reverant audience. As Cohen himself remarks, it’s not “like a singalong with Mitch” but, in asking the island to light their matches for a setlist that includes So Long, Marianne’s lyric, “I’m cold as a new razor blade,” perhaps he could lay claim to hiding some proto-goth sentiments inside that poetry book?