In December of 2013, Leonard Cohen‘s “Grand Tour” touched down in New Zealand for a run of four concerts. The last stop was in Auckland at the Vector Arena, which was his 69th show of the year and his 387th since returning to the road in the summer of 2008 after a very long absence. The shows lasted for at least three hours, which meant at minimum he spent 1,110 hours performing concerts as a septuagenarian.
Like many shows on the final legs of the tour, he wrapped up with “I Tried to Leave You” and a cover of “Save the Last Dance for Me.” It might seem odd to see one of the great songwriters in history playing a Drifters song, but he truly made it his own and it was the perfect way to sum up the night. “Friends, I want to thank you for the wonderful hospitality you’ve showed us tonight,” he said near the end of the last show. “I want to thank you not just for tonight, but for all the years you’ve paid attention to my songs. I really appreciate it.”
When the song ended, Cohen removed his hat, took a big bow and walked offstage with an enormous smile on his face. He hasn’t played a single show since that night, even in support of his stellar 2014 LP Popular Problems and this year’s Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which was his fourth document of the 2008-2013 trek. That might seem like overkill, but it was a spectacular tour that justified such treatment.
Fans continued to hope he had one last tour in him, but as his health failed in the final years of his life he focused all his creative energy on recording new music. “They say that life is a beautiful play with a terrible third act,” his son Adam Cohen told Rolling Stone weeks before his father died. “If that’s the case, it must not apply to Leonard Cohen. Right now, at the end of his career, perhaps at the end of his life, he’s at the summit of his powers.”