Sunday, May 10, 2009

Leonard Cohen Lessons From A Man of Grace

Four months into my Leonard Cohen obsession, kicked off by seeing him in Australia in concert in the Hunter Valley under the stars at Bimbadgen Estate, I am just now begining to find the words to relate the impact of seeing him perform in this recent tour.

Actually, the impact is unfolding as I have learned more about Leonard Cohen than I ever knew before the concert. While I had liked him well enough before the concert, I'd really only known his very old songs and his voice on those had never really quite "got there" for me. Perhaps it was the primitive recording methods of the late 60's or that his voice had not fully matured or perhaps a combination of the two.

So I went to this concert willingly, and looking forward to seeing the performance, but really clueless as to what it would be like but wishing to keep my good friend company and enjoy this beautiful day in a lovely part of the world with one of the world's preeminent personalities in the world of poetry and music.

Without expectations as such, still any vestige or measure about how good the concert might be was surpassed in short order and from the first step on the stage and the swell of the audience and good spirit directed toward Himself as the musical notes began, set the tone for a performance that literally transported an entire audience.

This aging man, his voice deeper and more resonant than ever captivated each and every person there. From the elderly reliving the songs from their hip (perhaps misspent?) youth, to the children of this group who attended. A spread of ages amazingly broad.

Authenticity is a concept that we see bandied about as desireable quality and yet our examples that splash across our TV and movie screens belie the value of self acceptance. The contrast as we view Leonard Cohen large on the two giant screens at either side of the stage, the cameras zooming into capture his face in unforgiving closeup reveals a man whose vanity lies in the presentation of his thoughts and striving for some kind of impeccability in what he does. Not hiding from reality and pretense of youth, by surgeon's knife and botox. He wears his years with good humour and resignation, perhaps. He has earned the scars and shares them with us. The songs personal and intmate and letting us into the place that is the external representation of his internal landscape. He is no remote 'star'. He is one of us and we appreciate that humility. And we appreciate the marvellous talent that he brought together to create this remarkable presentation of his life's work. And his generosity in sharing the stage and edifying all who made the performances so remarkable, including his band members, but also those responsible for the wonderful sound and the visuals that were to find their way onto the DVD from the London concert.

There are lessons for us all in what happened during this, and each and every other concert that has occurred on this tour. This tour that began as a fighting back, after Leonard Cohen's financial stability was undermined by the very manager he entrusted to safeguard his interests. In the aftermath of the embezzlement that resulted in the loss of some $5million and the resulting court case that vindicated his claim and awarded him damages in excess of the original theft, but with little chance of collecting, at the age of 74 this man, whom many like to portray as being a master of gloom, does what he needs to do and heads back to work. "Back on Boogey Street" and "Just Paying The Rent... In The Tower Of Song". Some strange way to bring this light into all our lives. Go figure. Just be grateful.

And perhaps Leonard Cohen is grateful too. How many of us have the chance to see how profoundly loved we are by so many around the world, whose lives we have touched. What price that experience? Certainly a rare and precious thing. And a reminder to us of how fleeting life is, and how fast time flies, so there is no time to waste. No time to put off creating our own pieces of unique art that will form our own body of work during our life.

No time to waste chasing unattainable perfection, for in Leonard Cohen's words:

"Ring the bells that still can ring.
There is a crack...a crack, in everything.

That's how the light gets in."

So what are the lessons? This will be a topic for another post.

Lessons for us as individuals.

Lessons for us in how we approach our business.


Had to update with this ... I'm Your Man + Recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep.

Video - Where Is My Gypsy Wife Tonight?

Video Hallelujah (droning voice on the soundtrack is not from the band!)

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John T said...

Wonderful thoughts on the magic , power and humanity of Leonard Cohen.

Heidi Fischbach said...

What a lovely post and review!

What an artist. What a poet. Most of all, what a man, and by that I mean human being. so brilliant and humble at once.

oh my. I saw him last night here in Boston. He was sporting his fedora, of course. The man is 75. He'd skip onto and off the stage. His backup musicians were stellar, all. And he was so generous with them: whenever they sang or had instrumental solos, he'd take off his hat, sometimes getting on one knee right alongside to listen.

Boston adored him. At least 5 encores.

I am in love with Leonard Cohen: Brilliant, generous, heart-breakingly honest about his humanity. Which just makes him all the more beautiful, of course.

[balbie madeleine] said...

He is fantastic and the way you see him moved me. I feel the same way, just can't express it as perfectly as you did.

David Larsson said...

My son and I saw him in Philadelphia, along with one of my oldest friends and his wife. As you say, it is remarkable that the beautiful music, the wonderful audience feedback that must have made the musicians feel as if they were bathed in love, would never have been possible if L. Cohen's business manager hadn't stolen his money. Makes you think. As he said earlier this year, "The older I get, the surer I am that I'm not running the show."

lindyasimus said...

What a truly wonderful thing that so many have been able to witness such an event this past year.

And our man Leonard turns 75 this month. Truly inspirational.