Leonard Cohen showcases a 50-year career

By Azia Squire

Leonard Cohen, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Leonard Cohen

Murray Lerner; Columbia… Leonard Cohen, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Leonard Cohen

Murray Lerner; Columbia Records

What can be said about Leonard Cohen that hasn’t been said before?

Since the 1960s, he’s been an influential figure in music and literature. He’s been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters of Hall, and his career spans five decades.

He’s simply a legend, and this DVD/CD set captures one of his more fantastic moments.

Whimsical and reflective, Leonard Cohen, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 is a DVD/CD set of Cohen’s performance at the third and last Isle of Wright music festival, which is regarded as one of the largest musical events in history.

More than 600,000 people attended the concert to see legends like Jimi Hendrix, Taste, Joni Mitchell and Cohen perform.

A casual fan of Cohen’s music wouldn’t be too stimulated by this collection. It’s definitely for his die-hard fans and those interested in experiencing Cohen’s introspective music from a variety of perspectives. And this set will definitely allow them to do that.

Various interviews with Bob Johnston, Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Kris Kristofferson weave beautifully through the music of his live performances.

Baez shares anecdotes about the famous incident involving the stage going up in flames at an intersection between her performance and that of Jimi Hendrix, recalling, “I was worried enough. That’s why I offered to step in before Jimi Hendrix, because I knew my music was a little more difficult to burn fences down.”

She also offered a deeper look into analyzing the work of Cohen. “When people would think that a song had to make sense, Leonard would prove otherwise. It doesn’t necessarily make sense at all. It’s just coming from so deep inside of him it somehow touches deep inside other people.”

Many of his most beloved songs are on the CD set, but they are audio versions of the live performance from the DVD.

This might be disappointing for someone hoping for a “greatest hits” compilation or someone who prefers to listen to music without the background noise of fireworks overtaking the vocals at certain points, which happens on “Suzanne.”

Leonard Cohen, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 is not a jam record, and it’s not a greatest hits album. It’s a time capsule from Cohen’s stunning career and the musical movement of the ’70s.