On Sunday night at The Chapel in San Francisco’s Mission District, a handful of indie rockers took to the stage for a collaborative concert in tribute to the late singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen. Cohen passed away earlier this month on November 7 in Los Angeles, at the age of 82. He died in his sleep after a fall in the middle of the night. The year that will be defined by shocking deaths of legends like Bowie and Prince lost another with the iconoclastic songwriter.
The artists present at the tribute show were undoubtedly influenced by Cohen. Taken the stage in San Francisco was Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon, Tim Cohen of Fresh & Onlys, Sonny Smith of Sonny and the Sunsets, Nick Bluhm of The Mother Hips, Christopher Owen formerly of Girls, Conspiracy of Beards, Sylvie Simmons and pianist Marc Capelle took part in the event.
With his drawling vocal style and looming stage presence, Kozelek lent a unique spin to “Famous Blue Raincoat,” a 1971 track from Cohen’s album Songs of Love and Hate. Accompanying the Sun Kil Moon singer was Capelle, giving the song a spare, waltzing feel with just vocals and keys.
Owens meanwhile performed his rendition of the Death of a Ladysman cut “Paper Thin Hotel.” He performed on stage alone with a keyboard, though was accompanied by a string section. Together the musicians created a slower-paced track than the (already slow) original, giving it an ambient quality with chiming keyboards.
Tim Cohen and Bluhm performed the early Cohen hit “Suzanne,” giving it a straightforward tribute and allowing the audience to focus on the beautiful poetry of (Leonard) Cohen’s lyrics.
Bluhm took to the stage alone as well, performing “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong.”
Accompanied by saxophone, Sonny Smith took the stage to perform “The Future,” the title track from Cohen’s 1992 album.
Acappella choir Conspiracy of Beards gave their unique spin to the song “Dance Me To The End Of Love.”
“Iodine” was covered by Chuck Prophet, a long-running solo artist and former member of “Green On Red.” While they are not as well known as some of their co-performers, they may have provided the best performance of the night – although he did pack the stage with a co-vocalist, fiddler, bassist and pianist, providing the fullest sound.
Leonard Cohen may have died suddenly and tragically, but the world can take some solace in the release of his excellent new album, the High-Fidelity worthy You Want It Darker.