Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Leonard Cohen concert

My brother Joerg encouraged me to post a review of the concert from last weekend.

It seems a bit silly to review it - as long as Leonard Cohen was there, he could pretty much just sit on the stage and grunt, and it would still be one of the high points of my life.

He didn't just sit and grunt, though, his performance was jaunty. He skipped onto the stage and trotted his way right into "Dance Me To The End of Love". This is a song that my wife Jocelyn first heard on a Madeleine Peyroux album, without knowing that it was a Leonard Cohen song. I guess that is how most people hear their Leonard Cohen songs, at least those who haven't been privileged to see him in concert.

Considering he is 75 years old, the physical approach to his performance might be a bit ostentatious - there is just NO WAY he is in as good a shape as he wants us to believe. Nevertheless, you can only fake so much, and it is clear that it is not only women who have been exceptionally kind to his old age (for non-Cohen afficionados, that is a reference to his "Because of a few songs/Wherein I spoke of their mystery/Women have been exceptionally kind to my old age").

I suppose when you are Leonard Cohen, you can pretty much pick which musicians you want to tour with, and his picks were impressive. My friend Matt (who accompanied us with his wife Colleen) commented that there were a couple of instrumentalists on stage that he'd be willing to go to a separate concert just to hear them alone. Cohen gives them due credit, introducing each at least twice, with some idiosyncratic words of praise. Javier Mas appears to take precedence, but each one gets an opportunity for the spotlight, and makes good use of it. The angelic Webb sisters even presented us (as LC put it, "on voice, harp, and gymnastics!" with synchronized cartwheels.

Having seen another performance in Canada a few months ago, I can testify these are not "cookie cutter" presentations....this time there was a song ("Darkness") I had NEVER heard before (yes, turns out it was new). "Ain't no cure for love" was launched without the narrative lead-in I heard in Canada (and that is present on the album, with a catalog of drugs taken and a mention of the study of religions, "but the cheerfulness kept breaking through") - in fact, he didn't seem to be in a chatty mood that night, but he really gave the performance his all.

At our hotel, Jocelyn met a man who was also there for the concert and was following LC to see another concert in a few days. He mentioned that next spring LC planned to tour in France. Jocelyn, a recent convert to Cohen, would be willing to travel that far!

No comments: