A Heavenly Headliner

Consider the classic singer songwriters. Jeff Buckley? Yes. Johnny Cash? Most certainly. Nick Cave? Absolutely. There is only one man who can claim to have influenced all three, that man is Leonard Cohen. As one of his first live appearances in 15 years anyone who can is paying respect to a living legend for the most anticipated set of the entire festival. Whilst the kids may not own his records, or even know what he looks like, they still recall the name passed down the generations. For the first and only time this warrants hundreds sneaking in for a peek atop the nearby hills. Even before singing a line his mere presence alone merits a few minutes simply applauding, which Cohen accepts with ever gracious aplomb.

He begins with Dance Me To The End of Love, which combined with Spanish guitar picking overtones from Javier Más‘ bouzouki playing gives the subtle effect of mid evening siesta serenading. Though the set permits numerous solos from his backing band they create a well formed backdrop and little else. Not only does this allow the songs simplicity and poetic genius to shine through but indulges Cohen himself. The man looks in rude health and most 73 year olds can only dream of appearing as remarkably well maintained with a smothering tender and timeless honey soaked voice. As the sun begins to set over the red mountains that surround the site it indelibly becomes the perfect occasion for his soothing vocals.

Time seems to stand still when Cohen finally picks up a guitar himself and strums the opening chords to the classic, Susanne. Though the lyrics are printed amidst several others on the decorations lining the stage many would still accompany this timely reserved version regardless. Like any experienced crooner he saves his best until last and whilst many singers have left their enduring mark on the song no-one can quite perform Hallelujah like its creator. The serene rendition takes on almost spiritual proportions with an audience united in chorus. Kids, couples, bar workers and even those perched upon the hills stand with arms aloft for this evening their church is a tarmacked festival site in Benicassim and their preacher is Leonard Cohen.