Arthur Smith resembles Leonard Cohen in more ways than one. The tall and lanky man shares a surprising likeness to the man that has shaped his life so considerably, despite being 20 years his junior. His voice captures the downward inflections of the sombre people’s poet with acumen.Smith, the ‘third best Leonard Cohen impersonator in the South of England’ promises depression, despair, diminishment and death, but he delivers far more than just darkness.
The show is a pleasing mix of personal anecdote; Cohen covers and insights into Cohen’s life. Smith’s tales of his mother’s demise captures the bittersweet melancholia synonymous with Cohen. Counterpointed to Smith’s worship of Cohen is Smith’s derision of less accomplished poets. We are left reflecting on what makes meaningful poetry.
Smith does Cohen justice, but his treatment is not so orthodox that he can’t reroute an original into a mashup or insert a personal comment into Cohen’s lyrics. Smith remains three dimensional; not disappearing into a shadow of the folk legend.
Cohen is backed by a trio of sweet songstresses who provide contrast to Smith’s somewhat dour demeanour. We learn of the absurdly close calls with death that Smith has witnessed, and learn about the moments Cohen and Smith’s lives have albeit briefly connected.
The show is not lacking in surprises; a strange interlude in the second half makes for a false ending to the show which for me stretched the bounds of absurd beyond what I found enjoyable. The ending dragged a little into the indulgent, which was a shame given the quality of the rest of the show, but overall, it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of a fresh and frank examination of a man who has influenced music as we know it.
Arthur Smith supplies a fine afternoon of songs, stories and sombre reflection, with a pinch of absurdity thrown in to make sure no one is napping. If this interests you, get tickets fast; this act is getting packed crowds.