Stuart Maconie hosting Leonard Cohens last album launch in the UK.
Popular Problems is Cohen’s second album in the past two years. As with 2012’s Old Ideas, its best songs feel naked and hymn-like but are restrained by an underlying mystery—he sounds like he’s telling you everything but he never actually tips his hand. The flat airhorn of a voice he used throughout the ’70s has become eerily bottomless, the husk of another voice now gone.
The story of latter-day Leonard Cohen is one of wry acceptance. Fleeced by a manager of his retirement savings between the mid-1990s and mid-’00s, he returned to the stage in 2008, 73 years old and nearly broke after four decades of hard work. The shows he played were better than they needed to be in order to get people to pay for them. At one that I saw in late 2012, he reminded me of a cat, drawing the audience in by pulling away, rolling over and showing his softer, playful side only to snap back into cool focus. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone over 70 skip, and in dress pants, no less.