City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

My Leonard Cohen, Assembly Rooms, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 13 August 2017

Stewart D'Arrietta and Philip Alexander (accordian/melodica) in My Leonard Cohen (photo credit Richard Daniels)
Show details
Assembly Rooms
Stewart D'Arrietta
Running time: 
Sandy Bruns (producer), Assembly staff (lighting and sound)
Stewart D'Arrietta, (singer, pianist); Musicians: David ‘Demus’ Donnelly, Willy Molleson, Tom Bancroft, Philip Alexander, Graeme Steven, and Heather Macleod, (singer)

Arriving back at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a second year, following sell out performances at the Adelaide Fringe and Sydney Opera House, is Stewart D’Arrietta and his band with their powerful, poignant celebration of the great, late Leonard Cohen.

The title, “My Leonard Cohen” reflects the fact this is a personal homage to the music and life of this enigmatic singer-song writer, proud Jew, well tailored Bohemian, Buddhist and (unofficial) Beat Poet Laureate. His wayward journey took him from Canada to Greece, India to California, in his search for artistic and spiritual fulfilment.

D’Arrietta explains that he shares a professional link with Cohen, both studying law, but while he completed his degree, Cohen dropped out, turning to poetry and instead. In due course, Stewart followed the same path. In trademark Trilby hat, smart suit with red waistcoat, he sits at the piano, surrounded by his musicians and backing singer.

This programme of hit songs and newer work is not intended as an impersonation: Stewart’s voice has a deep, husky, whisky-toned, voice, more reminiscent of Rod Stewart /Tom Waits. Yet, in his own rendition of “In My Secret Life”, there’s a hint in the vocal inflection, pace and poetic rhythm which is endearingly Leonard.

“Bird on a Wire” is introduced with another biographical snippet:in the 1960s, Cohen lived on the Greek island of Hydra, where he met the beautiful Marianne, soon to be his lover and muse. With her stunning, bluesy voice, backing singer, Heather MacLeod takes over for a solo of the second verse, linking into a delightful duet.

The background to some songs is fascinating - as a young man in Montreal, he was fascinated by the dark side of society, visiting the Old Port to mix and mingle with poets, pimps and prostitutes. It was here he met Suzanne, the lady of the harbour, who inspired this eponymous song: “Suzanne takes you down to her place, near the river, You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night beside her…” This performance creates a magical, shivers-up-the-spine moment.

A heartfelt anecdote is about his dear friend, Marianne who fell seriously ill last summer. He wrote a note to say farewell: “ ...I've always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road”. She passed away four days after receiving this final love letter, and Cohen himself died three months later, November 2016.

The audience were then invited to join in the chorus of “So Long Marianne,” which I am not sure is desirable, drowning out D’Arrietta’s version of this bittersweet ballad. But quibble aside, this is a charismatic show with superb musicianship from the band who bring great energy from a rhythmic, rock star beat to a terrific tango. What’s evident throughout is their sincere appreciation of Cohen’s melancholic music, soulful poetry and raw, romantic love songs. RIP Leonard Cohen.

3 – 27 August, 2017 @19.45
Ticket Prices: £15 (£14) - £16.50 (£15.50)
Age guidance: 12+