Wednesday, November 27, 2013

LEONARD COHEN, 23 November, 2013


I knelt at the altar of Leonard Cohen and saw the light, the magical and mesmerising light that is Leonard.
Now I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person and I believe in music, so a concert of this sort is some kind of divine intervention for me.
And, according to thine own doctrine, many miracles occurred! 
Firstly, I actually attended an outdoor concert at the vineyards, those that know me have heard my many (many) bleatings of my distaste for such things. I am unsure whether I just had a lucky experience, or someone such as Leonard Cohen is an anomaly to the rule, or I was...wrong...either way I shall go with 1 or 2!!!
Secondly, the weather, which had been hideous, behaved. L and I had light rain heading to Bimbadgen, and by the time we arrived sun was peering through all the clouds. Not only did we have NO rain, wind or any other kind of weather that would ruin an outdoor concert, we actually got a bit too much sun.
And of course lastly, we got to see Leonard!
Supporting Leonard was the amazing Adalita, what a voice and she is also a great guitarist. We had time to find our seats, which were in a decent spot and enjoy L's afternoon tea of Camembert, pear paste and truffle salami. After Adalita, I took off for a bottle of something something, which I found reasonably priced! And then the second act, Archie Roach, came on. What a divine voice, truly Australian royalty. Such class and dignity, and lovely tales to be told in between songs. We then had my zucchini pie for dinner with more lovely bubbles.
As the sun started to slowly set, a voice announced Leonard Cohen in 10 minutes, then 5. We gasped as the band entered the stage, all in suits and looking suave.
And then he glided onto stage, in a suit, thin tie and a stylish hat, and begun the first song, Dance me to the end of love. One of my favourites, I had tears in my eyes but had no idea the places we would go in the next three and a bit hours.

Yes! He played for roughly three hours, a first set, a short intermission, a second set and three encores, it started just on 7pm and was finished around 10.15...not bad for a 79 year old!
His band was remarkable, a United Nations of supreme musicians. To his left a trio of strings: a guitarist, Javier from Spain, who played a mean flamenco on 12 string guitar and Bandurria (also 12 strings and sort of sounds like a Mandolin); Alexandru from Moldova, on the violin; and Mitch Watkins on guitars. To his right, Roscoe Beck, tour producer and Bass player, and the sublime Sharon Robinson, song collaborator and back-up singer with the stunning Webb Sisters and their beautiful harmonies, guitar and harp work. Behind them, Maestro Neil Larsen on keyboards and Mexican, Rafael 'keeping time' on drums. They were a tight and talented group of musicians and a pleasure to behold their music.
And you could tell Leonard knew this, his grace and awe of their musicianship was on display all night, as he doffed his hat and held it to his chest as each of them took turns in solos and introduced them all at least three times. 
But Leonard shone with and without them, his voice just gets better with age, those deep baritones with a thick timbre that is unmistakably him! He was a powerful performer, dropping to his knees constantly or slowly dancing in a style that is unlike no other. He had a jaunty skip in his step each time he left the stage and then would almost immediately float back on. He gave and gave, to us, his 'friends.' He knew how to linger on a poignant line. And those words, poetry without the music, such beauty in every syllable, such pain and love and loss and delight. Leonard knows it all I swear, that face tells more stories than the words that exit his mouth and we were all the wiser and happier for it.

I've since read a few reviews of previous concerts and it would appear some of the sequences and schtick are replicated each night, however watching it you would never know, it did not seem rehearsed or perfunctory, just heartfelt and sincere.
It's difficult for me to select favourite moments as the evening was so divine. It was incredibly special sitting outside on a balmy evening (especially when those around us actually behaved!) looking towards the stage with the sun setting behind us and the mountains in the distance surrounded by the colours of the sunset. Hearing Dance me to the end of love, Tower of song and Hallelujah - my three favourites - sung left me weeping with joy. And of course just absorbing Leonard himself, his poise and grace, his distinctive moves, his voice, his humour, his honesty and fragility and his warmth and love of us, his friends.

It's a one of a kind experience, one you mustn't pass on if you ever get the opportunity. He is just one of those performers that radiates a god like presence that is remarkable and quite difficult to describe.
Set One
Dance me to the end of love
The Future
Bird on the wire
Everybody knows
Who by fire
Come healing
Lover lover lover
Set Two
Tower of song
Chelsea Hotel #2
Waiting for the miracle
In my secret life
The Partisan
Alexandra (performed by Sharon Robinson)
I'm your man
A thousand kisses deep (recitation)
Take this waltz
Encore 1
So long, Marianne
Going home
First we take Manhattan
Encore 2
Famous blue raincoat
If it be your will (performed by the Webb Sisters)
Closing time
Encore 3
I tried to leave you
Save the last dance for me (The Drifters cover)



lindyasimus said...

How wonderful to share your experience. You only get to attend your first Leonard Concert once and there is nothing quite like that revelation.

If you are up for more of the story - some background on Save The Last Dance and why it is the only cover that Leonard sometimes - not often - gifts the audience. Might I say, he didn't share it in Sydney or Melbourne!

mongrelsocks said...

What a lovely post to read. I brought back my first time with Leonard, when he shared so much of himself with the audience. He spoke about many of his songs and poetry between songs at that concert. One thing he shared was indeed a revelation. On "The Chelsea Hotel #2" he spoke about his regret of sharing the story of this song publicly (in his youth), that he could have been so indiscreet as to name the lady involved. Janis Joplin. Oh, that song came alive! Thanks so much.

John Hingston said...

It was my first Leonard Cohen concert, hopefully not the last, and it was simply amazing. I bought my first record in 1968 and never expected to see him perform live. Sitting almost directly in front and a few rows back was also a blessing!
Never have I thought of a performance as a gift to such a degree. Thanks for your detailed account.

Cathy said...

Thanks Lindy, mongrelsocks and John for your kind comments. It is a week later and I am still thinking about that special evening. Remarkable it was and lucky I am. Great back story too Lindy, I thought it was a great choice for a cover and a lovely way to end the evening.