Leonard Cohen’s music often reaches for the sacred and for the space of a the chorus, Dragon Studies felt like a cathedral as the audience took the place of a choir, joining in with Glenna Garamone and Oliver Swain singing Hallelujah.
“There is a Leonard Cohen fan in everyone – it just needs to be uncovered,” Garamone said during the concert.
If that’s true, Tower of Song is a sure way to uncover that fan.
The first stop on their tour, Dragon Studios was packed with Leonard Cohen aficionados and casual fans there to see Garamone and Swain’s take on the Leonard Cohen.
Covering, and tweaking, Cohen was a brave decision for the duo as the man and his music have become a legend. But, being both musicians and fans, neither were able to simply watch others perform the music they so love.
“We’re a couple of diehard Cohen fans that decided to do something about it,” Swain said.
The duo started the evening off with Chelsea Hotel #2, playing it fairly straight before dipping into some lesser known songs which they managed to make their own. The pair, armed only with guitar/piano for Garamone and stand up bass/banjo for Swain, didn’t hesitate to take on Cohen’s later, more electronic, lush songs, following up Chelsea Hotel #2 with True Love Leaves No Traces before pulling back to his earlier, acoustic music with Sisters of Mercy then continued their tour through Cohen’s back catalogue with the newer Everybody Knows.
Despite covering an array of Cohen’s back catalogue, everything from the sparse instrumentation of Chelsea Hotel #2 through to the Spector (he of the ‘Wall of Sound’) produced True Love Leaves No Traces, the two grasped the heart of each song and wove it anew with instrumental tweaks and their own vocal arrangements for two.
The chemistry between the two performers, and the way their voices mingled in harmonies, was so sweet, it was almost a shame when Garramone left Swain alone on the stage but for his bass for his solo performance of 1000 Kisses Deep.
Explaining they wanted to celebrate not only Cohen’s past, but how’s he influnced the current generation of singer/songwriters, the pair then sandwiched a fairly straight cover of ‘Suzanne’ with a song each of their own.
Garamone played her love song to the sun, Bright Thing while Swain played his field holler, Roll and Go.
They continued the eclectic tour with No Way to Say Goodbye and Stranger Song before Swain left Garamone for her solo, Take This Waltz.
After hitting on some of Cohen’s lesser known songs, the pair ended the show with some of his most famous, including his most covered song Bird on a Wire followed by Famous Blue Raincoat, before leaving the stage and leaving people wondering if they would actually leave without playing Hallelujah.
They came back with a laugh, and an introduction to a song everyone knew before it was named or the first chord was struck.
Swain encouraged the crowd to sing along and was rewarded with a choir to back up the chorus and the perfect way to end a concert as well as a fitting tribute to the man and his music.