Last night a friend and I went to see Leonard Cohen. Being as we’ve both been in love with him since we were about 16 this was a pretty momentous event. He danced onto the stage, a very small man in a snappy suit and trilby hat, genial, gentlemanly and still gorgeous. His stamina is astounding. I doubt I’ll be able to perform for three hours when I’m seventy four. It was more about seeing him in the flesh than anything else, but finding him in good voice was an added bonus. And what a crowd pleaser! He didn’t mess us around with the set; he sang our favourites. This isn’t in the right order, but he gave us:
Dance me to the end of love
Ain’t no Cure for Love
Bird on a Wire
In My Secret Life
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye
Who by Fire (at which point I am struck by the fact that I am singing along to ‘Who by Fire’ with Leonard Cohen)
The Partisan (wonderful arrangement)
Hallelujah (during which Philomela has a moment)
The Gypsy Wife
Famous Blue Raincoat (during which I have a moment)
So Long Marianne
I’m Your Man
Take this Waltz
First we Take Manhattan (another great arrangement)
Tower of Song
If it be your will
I tried to leave you
When he sang ‘I Tried to Leave you,’ in the final encore he positioned the audience as the beloved. Corny? Yes a little, but sweet because we all know this is his “thank you and goodbye” tour for his fans. Tower of Song was also very affecting for this reason. It was lovely to see him enjoying himself so much. Although his detractors accuse him of being a miserable old groaner, there was nothing miserable about this gig. It was warm and humorous.
I was wondering afterwards why I’m so passionate about Leonard Cohen. I think it has to do with the fact that he’s so engaged with life. As my friend said, she finds some of his politics reprehensible, but you can’t deny that the man’s thinking deeply about big questions. I also noticed that we were both singing along to ‘Everybody Knows’ putting our own emphases on the line “the good guys lose.” Life is hard, it takes a huge amount of courage, we fuck up repeatedly, relationships are never perfect, human communication is relentlessly difficult, and more often than not, the good guys do lose. But we keep trying and thinking and loving and we get through it all somehow.
Here he is singing Bird on a Wire in 1979.