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Vermaak | Entertainment > Film > Resensies | Reviews

The Lieder of Leonard

Pieter Uys - 2009-06-25

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He jogs up the stairs to join the ensemble. Looking dapper and groomed in their suits, they are ready and eager to unleash Leonard's Lieder in this unusually vast chamber. Even the lovely female vocalists are formally attired, setting a splendid visual standard for a night of a thousand harmonies. Everything about this extraordinary DVD impresses. There's the breathtaking cinematography, the expert and seamless editing that strikes a perfect balance between shots of Lenny, the musicians, the instruments as they are being played, the graceful backing singers and the appreciative audience.

The lighting too, meets the mood of the music as it bathes the stage in blue, green, red, royal purple or golden brown. Instruments like the banduria and archilaud add new dimensions to the sound, while the instrumental and vocal arrangements refresh and rejuvenate old songs. The angelic voices of Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters caress the lyrics throughout, but with particularly arresting effect on "Ain't No Cure For Love", "In My Secret Life", "Anthem", "Closing Time" and "Hallelujah".

On the solemn "Who By Fire" the camera perfectly complements the sounds of the archilaud, keyboards, stand-up bass and - most impressively - the sitar as Hattie Webb plucks the strings. The same happens with the harmonica on "Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye". What's more, the audience resonates with LC's every word between songs, whether it be witty or just wonderful. He wisely chooses wit when introducing the disturbing or apocalyptic ones like "The Future" and "Everybody Knows". The first part of the concert concludes with "Anthem", a sublime collision of sound and vision with a lengthy outro in which Leonard acknowledges the individual musicians. He does that often throughout the performance.

The proceedings resume with a good laugh or two, whereupon Leonard humbly thanks the audience for keeping his songs alive down the years. Ecstatic applause erupts as he sings the ironic line "born with the gift of a golden voice" in "Tower of Song". Then the stage darkens for a melancholy Suzanne before a long banduria solo introduces "The Gypsy's Wife", on which he plays the guitar. Next, "Sharon Robinson" brings soul to "Boogie Street" by singing lead. The studio recording of "Hallelujah" sounds like a demo compared with this version, which flows, moves and embraces the listener within its exquisitely woven textures.

Leonard recites some stanzas of "Democracy" before the ensemble renders it in a robust and rhythmic way; "A Thousand Kisses Deep" is recited in full with only keyboard backing. The stage comes alive for "Take This Waltz" as he interacts with the musicians before settling into a duet with the blond Webb Sister that becomes an audiovisual delight. The upbeat mood lasts through a rousing rendition of "So Long Marianne"; it is abruptly displaced by the subdued resignation of "Sisters of Mercy" which is, however, simultaneously tender and reassuring.

For the third time, Leonard recites - the first few lines of "If It Be Your Will". Then he hands the prayer to the Webb Sisters, who accompany themselves on harp and guitar for a supranuminous performance. From the divine to the irreverent, the pace picks up for the buoyant "Closing Time" as the singers sway and the music swirls to the catchy tune. At the end, all the musicians join voices on the comforting conclusion, "Whither Thou Goest".

July 17, 2008 was clearly a night to remember for those present. Fortunately, enough of the magic is captured here to make one watch this DVD over and over again. The booklet contains a gig review by John Aizlewood, plenty of full-colour photographs, the track listing and credits. All the lyrics are available on the disc.