You can, on the other hand, expect an immaculately paced two and a half hour excursion through some of Leonard's greatest hits with a couple of works in progress thrown into the mix. More particularly, you can expect a band that's tighter than just about anything operating on the standard rock circuit. After they've been playing this for the best part of three years, so you'd be disappointed if they weren't.

More particularly, given the old anecdote about the conversation between Dylan and Cohen where they're praising each other's work and Dylan confesses to having knocked off something like Masters of War in ten minutes while Cohen informs Bob that Hallelujah took a couple of years, you're getting a show that's close to immaculately crafted, honed and buffed to as close to perfection as they're going to get on the night.

That's, arguably, the territory Cohen's always worked as far as writing goes, and if you're taking a six piece band, three backing singers and associated entourage on the road expecting to turn a large enough profit to fund Mr Cohen's delayed retirement it should come as no surprise to find the same principles applied to live performance.

That's not to suggest you're getting a perfect replica of the original recorded version. From the opening salvo of Dance Me To The End Of Love and The Future, not quite rocking them in the aisles, but hardly Bedsit Bard territory either, there were frequent instrumental asides that served the simultaneous purposes of giving the elderly star of the show a breather and adding a touch of light and shade to proceedings.

Two up tempo numbers means that you're probably looking to drop it back, so there's Bird On The Wire as an interlude before Everybody KnowsWho By Fire (with a stunning instrumental introduction from guitarist Javier Mas) and a couple of works in progress in the form of The Darkness and Born In Chains. Five fairly obvious selections from the back catalogue, two newies, then wrap up the first set with Chelsea Hotel #2Waiting For The Miracle and a slight show-stopper in Anthem to wind up the first half.

Now I may be wrong, and I haven't been back to the Live in London DVD or the NPR podcast of the concert at New York's Beacon Theatre to make comparisons, but there's a perfect example of the care and attention to detail that's gone into the Cohen show in the end of the first set band introductions.

As Cohen moves the spotlight from member to member you get the distinct impression that what he's saying has been carefully scripted, and it's more than likely much the same from night to night. But it works, and it's comfortably removed from the ladeez'n'gennelmen give it up for Fred Nurk on the bass sort of thing that seems to be more or less de rigeur show biz a la mode.

At the same time, it seems, there's some variation.

The second set opened, as anticipated, with Tower Of Song, with Cohen on the ancient keyboard and the three backing vocalists, but sans the da doo dum dum “I've discovered the secret of life” rap that featured in London and at the Beacon.

From there, the set-list, as anticipated, ran through SuzanneAvalancheSisters Of MercyThe Gypsy's Wife and The Partisan before the four song finale. Hallelujah, as expected, soared, I'm Your Man was delivered with a wryness that underlined the humour that lurks under Cohen's work and A Thousand Kisses Deep came as a spoken poem, totally without instrumentation, a change of pace before the swirling Take This Waltz closed out the main set.

Mileages vary when it comes to the whole encore routine, but even after two plus hours of on stage time, you know there's more to come, and there's always the question of how you conclude proceedings. You know, for a start, that the crowd's going to be on their feet applauding until the artist does something to wind things up.

First up, Cohen and band were back for So Long, Marianne and Famous Blue Raincoat and wound things up in uptempo mode with a surging First We Take Manhattan, where things could have come to a halt. If something intervened - a strict curfew with substantial penalties for example - a "Sorry, but we really have to go" would probably have sent the punters away reasonably happy.


© Ian Hughes 2012