Friday, December 21, 2012

I haven't been this happy since the end of World War II

It's hard for me to articulate what Leonard Cohen's music has meant to me over the years, and frankly, I'm not sure I really want to in a public forum like this.  Suffice it to say: a lot.  There was one year where I was listening to The Future pretty much 24/7.  When I had to do a layout project for a document design class I was taking as part of my MA program, I used its song lyrics.  Closest thing to a religious experience I've had, is that album.  It's interesting: Cohen is not a prolific artist; he's released only twelve studio albums in forty-plus years, and really, only five of those are great, if we're being generous.  But when he's good (and even when the albums themselves aren't great, there are sure to be at least a few great songs on them, unless they're Dear Heather) he's just SO good that he's been able to accrue a legendary reputation anyway.  I'm not going to say that he's my favorite musician ever, necessarily; that's a highly mutable distinction with so many different valences.  But he's certainly up there.

What made me endlessly kick myself: in 2009, when I was idly flipping through a free newspaper only to find that Cohen had recently performed in Cleveland, just an hour away, and I hadn't been there, because I just didn't know.  And he doesn't tour often and he's certainly getting up there and this was very manifestly obviously my one and only chance and the review was SO rapturous, and FUCK FUCK FUCK.

So when I found that he was touring again this year--at the age of seventy-eight!--I was not going to miss that shit, I'll tell you that much, even if it meant a five-hour bus ride to New York, and paying more than I ever expected to pay for a concert ticket for premium seating.  This was a real opportunity for redemption.

Not gonna go into a whole lot of detail about the show itself; you can read any number of rave reviews of his recent shows elsewhere.  And those reviews are entirely accurate.  That someone his age can still sing that well is a wonder, let alone do it for three and a quarter hours.  Sure, there were songs I wish he'd done that he didn't, but there was never any way that wasn't going to be the case.  What's more amazing is the percentage of songs I was hoping to hear that he did play.  Shall I tell you the setlist, which I totally copied down in real time?  I shall:

"Dance Me to the End of Love"
"The Future"
"Bird on a Wire"
"Everybody Knows"
"Who by Fire"
"Ain't No Cure for Love"
"Come Healing"
"In My Secret Life"
"A Thousand Kisses Deep" (recitation)
"Tower of Song"
"Chelsea Hotel #2"
"Waiting for the Miracle"
"Show Me the Place"
"Lover Lover Lover"
"Alexandra Leaving" (sung by Sharon Robinson)
"I'm Your Man"
"Take this Waltz"
"So Long Marianne"
"Going Home"
"First We Take Manhattan"
"Famous Blue Raincoat"
"If It Be Your Will" (sung by the Webb Sisters)
"Closing Time"

I suppose if I had one quibble--and let me emphasize that this is but a quibble; "a slight objection or criticism"--it would be that there were perhaps a few too many songs from the new album, Old Ideas--which makes a certain amount of sense, given that this is the "Old Ideas Tour," but still.  Don't get me wrong; I like the new album.  It's a big step up from Dear Heather.  And I definitely wanted to hear, in particular, "Darkness" and "Amen."  But would I have traded a few of the others for the likes of "Jazz Police" and "Light as the Breeze?"  In a heartbeat.

But hell, I got to hear him intone my favorite couplet ever.  From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel and pray/for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away.  Can't ask for too much more than that.


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