Leonard Cohen Concert Clothes Cliche Compendium

Leonard Cohen Concert Review Template: 1. Describing Cohen’s Apparel

With the 2010 leg of the Leonard Cohen World Tour impending, journalists will soon be faced with the challenge of reviewing the singer-songwriter’s concerts. To ease that burden, Heck Of A Guy has set about organizing the Leonard Cohen Concert Cliche Compendium to establish guidelines for reporting on Cohen’s performances. Today’s lesson focuses on writing about the clothing he wears on stage.

It is difficult and perhaps impossible to discover a review of a 2008-2009 Leonard Cohen concert that does not include a reference to Cohen’s sartorial splendiferousness. There are, in fact,  three categories of methods (and a few that fall outside these classifications)  to convey the notion that Leonard Cohen is, as the lads from ZZ Top would say, “a sharp-dressed man.”

Category 1:  Just The Facts, Ma’am

In their purest and most frequently occurring form, exemplars of this minimalist category offer only the verifiable facts of the matter, exposing the writer to little if any risk of being contradicted.  This format is, in fact, ideal for those tasked with reviewing  the concert without attending it (in these case, we recommend the use of the phrase, “dark suit,” a popular format that should be a safe fall-back description unless Cohen goes all Marty Robbins  on us and kicks off the 2010 tour wearing  a white sport coat and a pink carnation).

He wore a black suit and snap-brim hat for the occasion. (Concert Review: Leonard Cohen at Chicago Theatre by Greg Kott. Chicago Tribune, May 06, 2009)

… in a dark suit, tie and fedora …  (Music Review: Leonard Cohen’s Graceful Gift By Joel Selvin. San Francisco Chronicle, April 15, 2009)

He stands very slim and straight, in his dark suit and fedora … (Leonard Cohen Takes Manhattan, Again by Emily Johnson. National Post, Feb. 19, 2009)

Dressed in a double-breasted suit and fedora … (Leonard Cohen’s First Show In Britain In 15 Years Is Immaculate by David Cheal. Telegraph, Jun 18 2008)

On occasion, one may hazard the inclusion of a single, ambiguous judgment.

Dressed in a sharp black suit and a matching fedora …  [emphasis mine] (Sincerely, L. Cohen by Ryan Cormier. Deleware Online, May 13, 2009)

A tad riskier but still within the safe harbor of cliche are the group of standardized fashion adjectives, such as “resplendent”  and “dapper,” which add a touch of glam to the festivities without endangering the correspondent’s cliche credentials.

Cohen, resplendent in a dark suit and fedora, … (A Brief Review Of Leonard Cohen’s Performance In Asheville by Chall Gray. Ashvegas,  Nov 4, 2009)

… the dapper, suit-clad Cohen … [emphasis mine] (Leonard Cohen / Feb. 19, 2009 / New York by Lavinia Jones Wright. Billboard, Feb 20, 2009)

Category 2: The Fashion Assessment

Writers bucking for the fashion desk or those who recently rented “The Devil Wears Prada,” may elaborate on the details more effusively.

… he cut a striking figure in his dark suit and charcoal-colored fedora. (He’s Better Late Than Ever By James Reed. Boston Globe, June 29, 2008)

… meticulously dressed in a tailored suit and hat … (Leonard Cohen Performs In Israel Despite Political Controversy by Ian Deitch. Billboard, Sept 24, 2009)

Category 3: Dangerously Damon Runyonesque

These usages are, of course, not cliches at all. While these formulations may render the author vulnerable to accusations of grandiose or rococo writing, they don’t threaten the reader with boredom or sedation.

Dressed to the nines in a dark suit with bolo tie and fedora1  (Concert Review: Leonard Cohen at the Beacon Theatre by Donald Gibson. Blogcritics, Feb 24, 2009)

There exists an enchanting sub-group of descriptions of Cohen’s duds that depend on similes and metaphors:

… spiffily attired in a dark suit and hat that made him look like a film noir detective … (Leonard Cohen Beacon Theatre, NYC (Show Review) by Jim Allen. Prefix Magazine. Feb 20, 2009)

… dressed in a sharp suit befitting a gangster …(Leonard Cohen Calls Down Angels In The Palace Of Caesar by Michael Mishak. Las Vegas Sun, Nov 13, 2009)

With his trim dark suit and a fedora pulled low over his eyes, Leonard Cohen looked less like a poet and singer-songwriter Monday night and more like a veteran song-and-dance man working the boards. (Sold-Out Tampa Crowd Sees Leonard Cohen Command Stage by Curtis Ross The Tampa Tribune, October 20, 2009)

Cohen made a dapper mystic. Nattily attired in a dark suit …(In A Rare Appearance, Leonard Cohen Sings Of All Kinds Of Love During A Marathon Concert At The Allen Theatre John Soeder, The Plain Dealer October 26, 2009)

Dressed in a snazzy suit and dress hat, an outfit that looked borrowed from Cary Grant’s closet …2 (Leonard Cohen in San Jose, CA by Jim Harrington. Live Review, Nov 16, 2009)

But for a rock star, which is in effect his new job, he was as physically reticent as the dark tailored suits he always wears … (The Successful Poet by Lionel Tiger. Forbes, May 20, 2009)

Sui Generis Leonard Cohen In Concert Fashion Statements

My two favorite descriptions of Cohen’s concert apparel don’t fit any category other than “Superb Writing:”

The first standing ovation was for strolling on stage and looking so good in a dark suit and fedora … (Cohen Cooler Than Ever By James Reaney. London Free Press, May 25, 2009)


Leonard Cohen. The “God in the black suit” [“Gott im schwarzen Anzug”], as he was called by the Swiss press …3 (Concert at The Montreux Jazz Festival Montreux, Switzerland, July 8, 2008 by Christof Graf. Leonard Cohen Files. 2008)


  1. OK, this is a close one. “To the nines” is hardly a revolutionary turn of phrase, but it does evoke an era with a certain sense of fashion that fits Cohen well. Besides, it mentions the bolo tie. []
  2. This is not, I suppose, a straightforward simile or metaphor, but the simile seems implicit. []
  3. Those Swiss know how to turn a phrase. (“God In A Black Suit” is the latest addition (#75) to the list of  Leonard Cohen Nicknames.) []

One response to “Leonard Cohen Concert Clothes Cliche Compendium

  1. Arlene Dick

    My favourite sartorial description was in a Nashville concert report, “Dressed in a black suit and SHINING, IMPOSSIBLE BELT BUCKLE…”


    From Nashville to San Jose, sitting at or near the front for five concerts, I was mesmerized by his shining, impossible belt buckle which continuously interacted and sparkled with the stagelights…impossibly.