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Friday, December 10, 2010

Late Thoughts on Leonard Cohen

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

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"We started this tour three years ago. I was 73 then, just a kid with a crazy dream." - Leonard Cohen on Wednesday night

I tweeted my way through the Leonard Cohen show on Wednesday at the surprisingly accommodating Theater of the Clouds (a 7500-person wedge carved out of the Rose Garden ellipse). I've heard some people say it was the best show they've seen, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience... I'd say it was definitely the latter but not the former. I have never been a gung-ho Cohen disciple the way that some of his fans are; people really go apeshit for this guy, but these are the kind of people who read Joyce and Sartre for fun, or speak to you partly in French even though they grew up two streets away from you. At any rate, it was a spectacular show. It was nearly three and a half hours long, including intermission, which is about as long a show by a single performer as I can think of. Even Bruce played a mere two hours last time he was here.

And Cohen was a gracious, graceful performer, alternating between showman and servant, bowing deeply to the audience, going down on his knees at times, reciting his songs as poetry. The encore itself stretched for 40 minutes. The man didn't want to leave the stage. His band was mostly sterling, playing utterly swanky music that—had it not been for Cohen's gravity as a frontman—could have lapsed into smooth jazz (when longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson sang a song without Cohen, it felt very smooth jazz). It wasn't rock 'n' roll. "Leonard Cohen takes musical elements that would be schlock or kitsch in lesser hands, and somehow elevates them," I tweeted at one point. Despite this, the music felt crucial, like taking communion, not merely an obligatory "let's see the old goat before he kicks it" kind of exercise. I don't know if I'll ever have a chance to see him again, but I'm sure glad I saw him this time.

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