Leonard Cohen Returns to U.S. Stage, Announces North American Tour

February 20, 2009 9:34 AM ET

Galloping onstage with a huge grin on his face for an encore of "So Long, Marianne" at the Beacon Theatre last night, Leonard Cohen looked more like a spry schoolboy than a 74-year-old man who had already been performing for more than two and a half hours. When I saw him last June in Toronto, I couldn't fathom Cohen possibly doing a better show — but last night's epic New York performance (his first U.S. concert since 1993!) managed to one-up himself. It was one of the most magical concerts I've ever seen, and Cohen was shockingly funny. "I know hard times are coming," he deadpanned midway through the night. "Some people say it's gonna be even worse than Y2K."

The scene outside the theater was absolute chaos, with hordes of people desperately looking for tickets. The few scalpers were getting upwards of $500 a seat. The will-call line, the drop ticket line and the ticket holder line all seemed to merge into one giant mass of confusion. Even Rufus Wainwright, who famously covered "Hallelujah" and appears prominently in the Cohen documentary I'm Your Man, looked frazzled in the back of a line seconds before the show began.

Since last June Cohen has traveled through Canada, Europe and Australia at a punishing pace. Now with 84 shows under their belt, Cohen and his amazing band are a well-oiled machine. (See photos from last night's historic Cohen gig.) The slight nervous energy I picked up in Toronto has completely vanished. He glided around the stage with ease, and frequently got down on his knees as he sang. Later-day tunes such as "Closing Time" and "Waiting For The Miracle" have been dropped to make room for early classics like "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Sisters Of Mercy" and "That's No Way To Say Goodbye." Highlights included a hauntingly beautiful rendition of 1979s "The Gypsy's Wife," an amped up "First We Take Manhattan" and a note perfect "The Partisan." It was "Hallelujah," however, that brought the entire theater to their feet.

For years and years it was nearly impossible to imagine Cohen making any sort of return to the stage, particularly one as glorious as this tour has been. Jaws were dropping as he came back onstage for more and more encores, as the show ran way past the three-hour mark. The fact he's willing to do this is really an unbelievable gift to the world, even if his main inspiration is to raise much needed funds for his retirement.

A press release announcing U.S. tour dates was released before the show even ended. Dates are below:

April 2 - Austin, TX @ Michael and Susan Dell Hall at Long Center
April 3 - Grand Prairie, TX @ NOKIA Theatre at Grand Prairie
April 5 - Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre
April 7 - San Diego, CA @ Copley Symphony Hall
April 10 - Los Angeles, CA @ NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE
April 13 - Oakland, CA @ Paramount Theatre of the Arts
April 17 - Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
April 19 - Vancouver, BC @ General Motors Place
April 21 - Victoria, BC @ Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre
April 23 - Seattle, WA @ WaMu Theater at Qwest Field Events Center
April 25 - Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
April 26 - Calgary, AB @ EPCOR Center's Jack Singer Hall
April 28 - Saskatoon, SK @ Credit Union Centre
April 30 - Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre
May 3 - Minneapolis, MN @ Orpheum Theatre
May 5 - Chicago, IL @ The Chicago Theatre
May 9 - Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre
May 11 - Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
May 12 - Philadelphia, PA @ Academy of Music
May 14 - Waterbury, CT @ Palace Theater
May 16 - New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall
May 19 - Hamilton, ON @ Copps Coliseum
May 21 - Quebec City, QC @ Pavillon de la Jeunesse
May 22 - Kingston, ON @ K-Rock Centre
May 24 - London, ON @ John Labatt Centre
May 25 - Ottawa, ON @ National Arts Centre Southam Hall
May 26 - Ottawa, ON @ National Arts Centre Southam Hall
May 29 - Boston, MA @ Wang Theatre
June 2 - Morrison, CO @Red Rocks Amphitheatre

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