On a cold, wet and gusty night in Brighton, there is every reason to stay indoors and not hear the world’s most depressing songs. Someone once described his music as “music to slash your wrists by” and another observed that if you were driving home after a bad evening you could guarantee Leonard Cohen would be playing on the radio. Arthur Smith I had heard on Loose Ends when it was frontier breaking radio especially for radio 4: a cheeky South London comedian with no obvious connection to the mournful Canadian songster .
Smith’s show is now touring Britain. It’s a combination of his comic material, which is uneven and often resorts to foul language, and singing Cohen’s songbook. Smith does not have a particularly resonant voice. Yet for all this it was an enjoyable show. He had the backing of 3 young female singers and musicians The Smithereens, one of whom Carrie, in her efforts to attract attention, reminded me of Steve McQueen fiddling with his hat behind Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven but they all added to the show .
The best feature was the interpretation of Cohen’s life and songs and the memories they evoked in Smith’s own life. He was clever to limit the show to 80 minutes, there is always the danger of dragging out the evening, and by various references to Brighton the comic material remained fresh and bespoke.
I was pleased to brave the elements and unlike many theatrical events recently I have seen I felt the more upbeat afterwards whch was remarkable given what melancholic songs Cohen composed.