Live at the Isle of Wight 1970Album |
Vital but never-before-seen chapter of Cohen's history.
Those accustomed to seeing Leonard Cohen as the genteel, Armani-suited elder statesman may be in for a surprise with this CD/DVD combo. Though he was adamant about not drinking the Age of Aquarius Kool-Aid (his between-song patter boldly describes the ascendant hippie nation as "weak"), he was nevertheless pretty damn scruffy, and by his own admission, frequently availed himself of chemical inspiration. The man whose later ensembles would be tight as a drum was the ringmaster of a scrappy band of hirsute accompanists here, whose loose, sometimes verging-on-shambolic sound provided the perfect counterpoint for his carefully crafted, if raggedly delivered, songpoetry.
It's all the more intriguing given the historical context. 1970's Isle of Wight festival was essentially the U.K. Woodstock, with the added wrinkle of an aggressive band of gate-crashers who more or less forced the promoters to turn the festival into a free event rather than risk mass violence. None of this was lost on Cohen, who subtly excoriated said gate-crashers, both in his aforementioned commentary and in his ad hoc changes to the lyrics of "Diamonds in the Mine." Apart from that, it's as startling to see Cohen's hypnotic power over the assembled masses as it is delightful to catch a glimpse of fellow festival artist Kris Kristofferson (also in his salad days) singing along on the sidelines.