Sunday, October 4, 2009

Leonard Cohen: Live in London

“Leonard Cohen: Live in London” was on the local PBS outlet last evening. I am a huge Cohen fan and have been since 1971 when his music was use in the Robert Altman film “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.” (This is a great movie and worthy of immediate ordering from Netflix).

From Wikipedia:

Leonard Norman Cohen, (born September 21, 1934) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, God Among Men, musician, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. His work often deals with the exploration of religion, isolation, sexuality and complex interpersonal relationships. Famously reclusive, spending years in a Zen Buddhist monastery, and possessing a persona frequently associated with mystique, he is extremely well-regarded by critics for his literary accomplishments and for producing an output of work of high artistic quality over a five-decade career. Musically, Cohen's earliest songs (many of which appeared on the 1967 album, Songs of Leonard Cohen) were rooted in European folk music. In the 1970s, his material encompassed pop, cabaret and world music. Since the 1980s his high baritone voice has evolved into lower registers (bass baritone and bass), with accompaniment from a wide variety of instruments and female backing singers.

Over 2,000 renditions of Cohen's songs have been recorded. Cohen has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour. While giving the speech at his induction into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008, Lou Reed described Cohen as belonging to the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters".

The London concert is Cohen’s first in 15 years. He will be in Atlanta on October 20 this year. Cohen returned to touring after he found that his manager had swindled him out of millions of dollars of retirement funds. Cohen successfully sued the manager but has yet to collect.


Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river

You can hear the boats go by

You can spend the night beside her

And you know that shes half crazy

But thats why you want to be there

And she feeds you tea and oranges

That come all the way from china

And just when you mean to tell her

That you have no love to give her

Then she gets you on her wavelength

And she lets the river answer

That youve always been her lover

And you want to travel with her

And you want to travel blind

And you know that she will trust you

For youve touched her perfect body with your mind.

And jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower

And when he knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said all men will be sailors then

Until the sea shall free them

But he himself was broken

Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human

He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him

And you want to travel blind

And you think maybe youll trust him

For hes touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now suzanne takes you hand

And she leads you to the river

She is wearing rags and feathers

From salvation army counters

And the sun pours down like honey

On our lady of the harbour

And she shows you where to look

Among the garbage and the flowers

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love

And they will lean that way forever

While suzanne holds the mirror

And you want to travel with her

And you want to travel blind

And you know that she will trust you

For shes touched your perfect body with her mind.

Cohen is 74 years old and recently collapse in Spain during a performance. This was apparently due to food poisoning. His voice is a deep baritone and he mostly speaks rather than sings, similar to the “sprechstimme” of Alban Berg. Cohen’s lyrics are deeply personal and not immediately accessible in casual listening. But exploring them carefully is worth the effort. “Hallelujah” is one such song. It has been covered by more than 200 artists worldwide, with one of the more famous versions being that of Tim Buckley. I also recommend the versions of k d lang and Rufus Wainwright.


Now I've heard there was a secret chord

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

But you don't really care for music, do you?

It goes like this

The fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah





Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you

To a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before

I know this room, I've walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew you.

I've seen your flag on the marble arch

Love is not a victory march

It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know

What's really going on below

But now you never show it to me, do you?

And remember when I moved in you

The holy dove was moving too

And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain

I don't even know the name

But if I did, well really, what's it to you?

There's a blaze of light

In every word

It doesn't matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much

I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch

I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you

And even though

It all went wrong

I'll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah


In the concert, Cohen looks thin and a bit frail. His hands are sinewy and show his veins and tendons. His skin is covered with age spots. He wears a fedora that he takes off from time to time and he has short salt and pepper hair. I anger myself because of my ageism-. I keep expecting him to forget the lyrics. He has a disarmingly sly smile that he flashes every so often. He sings with one fist clenched as if he is shouting at a crowd. I guess in a way he is.

The Sisters of Mercy

O the sisters of mercy they are not

Departed or gone,

They were waiting for me when I thought

That I just cant go on,

And they brought me their comfort

And later they brought me this song.

O I hope you run into them

You whove been traveling so long.

Yes, you who must leave everything

That you cannot control;

It begins with your family,

But soon it comes round to your soul.

Well, Ive been where youre hanging

I think I can see how youre pinned.

When youre not feeling holy,

Your loneliness says that youve sinned.

Well they lay down beside me

I made my confession to them.

They touched both my eyes

And I touched the dew on their hem.

If your life is a leaf

That the seasons tear off and condemn

They will bind you with love

That is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping,

I hope you run into them soon.

Dont turn on the light

You can read their address by the moon;

And you wont make me jealous

If I hear that they sweeten your night

We werent lovers like that

And besides it would still be all right

We werent lovers like that

And besides it would still be all right.

Cohen’s music is so personal, but personal not just for him but for each of us. We all can understand the heartbreak of broken promises and lost dreams. Only he says it better.

So Long, Marianne

Come over to the window, my little darling,

I'd like to try to read your palm.

I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy

before I let you take me home.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began

to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

Well you know that I love to live with you,

but you make me forget so very much.

I forget to pray for the angels

and then the angels forget to pray for us.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

We met when we were almost young

deep in the green lilac park.

You held on to me like I was a crucifix,

as we went kneeling through the dark.

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Your letters they all say that you're beside me now.

Then why do I feel alone?

I'm standing on a ledge and your fine spider web

is fastening my ankle to a stone.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

For now I need your hidden love.

I'm cold as a new razor blade.

You left when I told you I was curious,

I never said that I was brave.

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Oh, you are really such a pretty one.

I see you've gone and changed your name again.

And just when I climbed this whole mountainside,

to wash my eyelids in the rain!

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

A final note- if you see the concert, pay particular attention to the saxophonist- Dino Soldo. He is so skills with all of the instruments he plays. His fingers fly and his improvisations are amazing. He also looks like the definition of cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment