Gay Marshall: Back on Boogie Street—Songs of Leonard Cohen

Gay Marshall

Back on Boogie Street—Songs of Leonard Cohen

Pangea, NYC, April 12, 2018

Reviewed by Melody Breyer-Grell

Gay Marshall

Passion and spirituality. Cynicism and hope. There is really no way to explain the genius and unique music and lyrics of Leonard Cohen (and his part-time creative partner Sharon Robinson), so I would recommend that one should attend Gay Marshall’s cabaret, as I have had the pleasure of doing.

It’s good fortune to discover Cohen at any age, but Marshall explained that she found him later in her life. And that is a good thing, for as life’s human pleasures can start to wane, the work of Leonard Cohen could bring a being back from the brink.

Some of his best-known songs, such as “Suzanne” and “I’m Your Man,” are familiar to the general public, but his lesser-known works also resonate deeply—as Marshall set out to prove, successfully in her show—Back on Boogie Street.

The title song might suggest a light romp, but, although there is much wit in the lyrics of L.C., there is nothing less than a poetic journey taken in each of his “stories.

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And Marshall, who not only sings, but tells tales —anecdotes of his private life and his career as an author. There are some surprises that I will not give away. Her lived-in voice, sometimes sweet and soft, and often brash and belted, always interpreted the material with perfect diction and dramatic flair. As the night progressed and she continued to leave herself, the freedom of her singing expanded, reaching a final belted climax in “A Thousand Kisses Deep.

She did some more “standard” fare, such as a heartbreakingly exquisite “Famous Blue Raincoat” and spirited “Sisters of Mercy.The popular “Everybody Knows” exposed every double-edged hypocritical act possible, while remaining quite entertaining. And, in the end, Leonard Cohen is proved not so esoteric at all, but an entertainer who just happened to be a bit smarter than the rest of us.

There is an abundance of excellent sidemen in NYC, but Ross Patterson on piano and Don Falzone on the bass found harmonies and rhythms in the music that knocked on the listeners’ ears and grabbed attention, subtly, because they were true accompanists, letting the singer shine, unfettered by an overly busy band.

In Marshall’s encore, “Democracy Is Coming to the USA,” Cohen’s prescience was almost scary, as it appears as if the lyric could have been penned this evening. Never partisan, just observant, Marshall let the lyrics speak for themselves, which was the icing on the cake.

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Thanks to the good taste of Pangea’s owners, the spot is a panacea in a city whose pleasures are often diminishing.

Gay returns to Pangea Thursdays April 19 and 26 at 7:30.

Melody Breyer-Grell

A life-long New Yorker, Melody Breyer-Grell was a voracious reader as a little girl, which led towards a life filled with theater, opera and jazz. Following her penning a parody nightclub show chronicling the ups and down of a life in music, she proceeded to get published in several genres, including fiction, essay and memoir. They include The Fairhaven Literary Review, short stories featured in Counting Down the Seconds and SunKissed (both published in the UK by Freya Publications). Melody is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, opining on a broad range of subjects—from peace in the Middle East to American Idol.