Leonard Cohen plays first U.S. concert in 15 years

Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:04pm EST
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Folk singer Leonard Cohen skipped onto the stage on Thursday at his first U.S. concert in 15 years, cracking jokes about his advanced age and the lusty themes of some of his hit songs.

The three-hour, six-encore concert at New York's Beacon Theater marked Cohen's first U.S. concert since he stopped touring to become a Buddhist monk, only to be forced back on the road after he lost his retirement savings.

The 74-year-old Canadian, dressed in a black suit and hat, performed hit songs "Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne,' "In My Secret Life," "Hallelujah," "Everybody Knows," and "So Long Marianne," to standing ovations.

Performing the poem "A Thousand Kisses Deep," he paused knowingly on the line: "I'm old but I'm still into that" prompting the crowd to erupt into whoops and applause.

"It's been a long time since I stood up on a stage in New York," he said, quipping that he had been 60 then, "just a kid with a dream."

Cohen has been on tour since May, performing in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

Born in Montreal, he started his musical career in New York, after modest success as a poet and novelist.

He rose to fame in the 1960s with songs about sex, faith and betrayal performed in a deep baritone he once described in a song as "the gift of a golden voice." His best-known song, "Suzanne," was a hit for Judy Collins.   Continued...

<p>Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen performs at the Glastonbury Festival 2008 in Somerset, southwest England, June 29, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>