Hot on the tail of an acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe season, and having enjoyed a sold-out run at the Sydney Opera House earlier this year, My Leonard Cohen comes to Rose Theatre Kingston on Saturday 30 June at 7.30pm
Stewart D’Arrietta and his six-piece band offer a stirringly personal celebration of the late, legendary Leonard Cohen, offering distinctive arrangements of his most iconic music. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to catch this prolific Australian performer, composer and musical director in the UK.
You have written/performed numerous shows, including material from the likes of Tom Waits and Lennon and McCartney, was it inevitable that you would put on a show about another monumental songwriter & performer Leonard Cohen?
There are a great many songwriters that I like, but a particular set of circumstances made me rediscover Leonard Cohen and write a show about him back in 2013. The show has evolved a lot since then – I’m constantly revising the set list to find songs and interpretations that best suit the band I’m working with.
In addition to the classics that most people will recognize, Tower of Song, the sensual I’m Your Man and of course, the almost anthemic Hallelujah, I try to introduce audiences to a few less known gems in Cohen’s catalogue of music. This year we have introduced the heartrending In My Secret Life, the kaleidoscopic Closing Time and the menacing The Future.
I have been performing Cohen’s music for some years and have a great respect for the man and his music.
In Lennon: Through A Glass Onion you stripped the songs right back to their core and the songs felt very powerful, is that something you like to do, to show the brilliance of the songwriting?
Songs are an art form which are not caught in time, like a painting or sculpture. I have enjoyed reinterpreting Cohen’s music. It’s malleable and I do rearrange it.
These songs are definitely not stripped back. In the case of Cohen’s songs, I’ve added a bit of groove, not stripped it away – my own arrangements. What I aim to offer is not an impersonation of Cohen, but arresting and imaginative interpretations of his most powerful works.
This tour features some wonderful theatres which have quite an intimate feeling, do you enjoy that having recently played much larger places?
I’ve played at Montreal Jazz Festival, The Riverside Theatre London, EX Theatre Toyko and The Soho Playhouse New York and though the atmosphere is great in all of these venues, there’s nothing quite like a smaller, more intimate venue.
The summers of 2017 and 2016, I’ve spent performing My Leonard Cohen at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and if you’ve ever been to Edinburgh you’ll understand that all the venues at Fringe are very small and intimate. We’ve sold out so many shows in Edinburgh, and it’s a great feeling to play these great songs in such an intimate venue to so many people – the atmosphere is incredible. I’ve no doubt playing Waterside Sale will be the same!
Leonard Cohen is such a revered songwriter; do you feel daunted by performing what are regarded by many musicians/songwriters as masterpieces?
Of course, it’s always daunting to work with material that has such a passionate following, but I don’t aim to sound like Cohen or to recreate his work. I play Cohen as you haven’t heard him before. Don’t expect an impersonation.
In three successful shows you have performed as John Lennon, Tom Waits and now Leonard Cohen, all of these were not only great songwriters, they also had a distinctive humour, is that side of an artist important to you?
Some cynics say that Leonard Cohen’s music is ‘music to slash your wrists by’. Those people obviously never really listened properly to Leonard’s lyrics. He was so clever and funny! They didn’t call him ‘Laughing Lenny’ for nothing. I think it adds extra facets to his work, offering us new ways of looking at life, to face the tough times with a little humour.
I try to maintain some of that humour in my interpretation of Cohen’s work. The show is punctuated by anecdotes about Cohen’s life, a narrative frame by which audiences can contemplate his life and work. It helps audiences understand a little of Cohen’s darkly humorous view of the world.
You have been writing and performing music nearly all your life, what is it about music that compels and captivates us all?
Music is my drug. It’s something I just have to do all day, every day. I have connected with so many people worldwide through playing music, I’m incredibly grateful that I’m able to do so. There’s something so convivial and universal about the enjoyment of music, which brings people together.
My Leonard Cohen will be at Rose Theatre Kingston Sat 30 Jun, 7.30pm. Tickets start from £10 and are available online, rosetheatrekingston.org, by phone, 020 8174 0090, or from the Box Office.