Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
Due to a chain of serendipities, I went into The City last night, met work and SL friend A and her friends and neighbors J and J, and saw Leonard Cohen live at Madison Square Garden.
It was amazingly wonderful.
I’ve decided that no one else does what Cohen does. He’s not, you know, a singer (I know M will agree with that, haha), not someone who writes songs and then tours around performing them.
Instead he’s a poet, who often puts his poetry to music. He’s a performance artist, where the basic materials are the same as those of singers, but the product is shaped and integrated very differently.
In a good song, there might be one or two lines of lyric that take your breath away, or open your mind for a second (or a lifetime) to whole new universes, or call up some emotion that you’d forgotten, or never felt before.
A good Cohen piece does that with, like, every freaking word.
That’s A above there (left), and one of the J’s (right). The other J (not shown) is to the right of me (also not shown). We’re having liverwurst (me) and pastrami (everyone else) sandwiches at the Stage Door Deli, one of the very few places in the City at which I’ve actually eaten more than once.
We got there in plenty of time (but probably good that we decided to skip dessert), and the seats were good (better than they look in the iPad’s zoomless snapshots, although the biggish screens up high to left and right were nice to have; very good camera work and crossfades and all on them; kudos to the camerafolk).
I only discovered Leonard Cohen in Second Life, when Callipygian “Calli” Christensen, who I knew as a photographer and hostess and general breathtakingly smart person, started DJing; she plays lots of Cohen. His poetry really touches something in me (obviously!).
Image above during “Suzanne”. Very nice, mostly understated, lighting work throughout; no sparks or explosions or anything, just the occasional flashes of brightness on or over or at the crowd, well-placed spots, and color-wash effects on and against the backdrop.
(That’s an appropriate light-burst during Hallelujah up there.)
A very high-quality production in general; the band were all amazing, very much including the backup vocals, all of whom got their own solos. Sharon Robinson (who I now know alot more about) sang “Alexandra Leaving”, after Cohen read part of the poem. I thought I would reset the time listening to someone other than Cohen, but she was marvelous; utterly different from him in tone and delivery (in fact the one thing that I’d say didn’t work during the show was one place where they attempted to duet on a line a few times, and their voices just didn’t blend), but somehow very much the same in deep mesmerizing emotional effect.
And the Webb sisters had a duet solo (yeah, yeah) on “If it be Thy will” during the encores (again after Leonard did some of the poem first), which was also lovely.
(Oh, and can someone puh-leze go put more content into the Wikipedia page on Roscoe Beck? Sheesh. I would if I actually knew anything. But as Bassist and Musical Director of this whole multi-year Leonard Cohen World Tour, and generally amazing musician, he ought to have more words.)
Tons of stuff I could talk about. :) Cohen’s an old guy now, and his voice is deep and throaty and rough. He spends lots of time down in his signature kneeling position, but he also skips in an amusing manner with one hand over his head between numbers, coming onto or going off the stage, to great audience amusement.
He tipped his hat gallantly at the very end, and the crowd went (even) wild(er).
We joked to each other going in that it was going to be an old crowd, and certainly there weren’t alot of teenyboppers, but it wasn’t entirely (or even mostly) geriatric either; a good mix of ages, mostly upper middle class and whitish (although there was one very pretty non-whitish woman in the row ahead of us, so not an utterly pale audience).
Cohen had a few, but very warm and funny, conversational asides. Before “There Ain’t No Cure For Love”, he said something about the times having their terrors, and how sometimes he feels that he needs a forklift to raise his spirits, and that he looks at himself in the mirror and says “Lighten up, Leonard!” (lots of crowd laughter there), “When are you going to recover from finding out there ain’t no cure for love?” (segue into song).
He put out a portable keyboard (for which piece I now forget) and said something about how this was a new piece of technology that most of us probably hadn’t seen before, and it plays itself! He turn turned on some drum loop, to more audience laughter.
During that number he played a couple of notes on it, and the audience applauded and whistled and he sort of paused the song and said “was that just sympathy for an elderly guy? I can do alot more than that; I can play two notes at once!” and he did a little of that and the number continued, and the audience was generally ecstatic.
What else what else? He sang that one line of Hallelujah as “I didn’t come to New York City just to fool ya” (as I gather he tends to when playing live). He introduced all of his co-performers at least three times, with very genuine (genuine seeming? is that an oxymoron?) warmth.
He opened with “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, a classic and a popular favorite, and opened the second half with “Tower of Song” (similarly). At least one person in the audience kept yelling out “Hallelujah!” in between numbers (well, the numbers before “Hallelujah”, anyway); I yelled “Freebird!”, but only loud enough for the immediate row to hear. :)
They did “Democracy (is coming, to the USA)”, to considerable audience cheering and stomping, I think during the encores. (Complete setlist is here; they are fast!)
Hallelujah was the official finale, and then they did “Take this waltz” while he thanked all the band members again, and the audience then insisted on encores. We got “So long, Marianne”, and “Democracy”, and the aforementioned “If It Be Thy Will” with the Webb sisters, and they finally chased us off with “Closing Time” (“All the women tear their blouses off, and the men they dance on the polka-dots, and it’s partner found and it’s partner lost, and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops”).
(Of my favorite Cohen numbers, the main one missing from the concert was “Light as the Breeze”. Too elite for the masses, I’m sure! :) )
A and J and J had snuck out a little before the last encore to get the 11:52 back south (the next train being at 1:30 or so). I wandered about looking for Penn Station and the subway (which you wouldn’t think would take much wandering, being basically in the same building, but the place is a bl––ding maze), took the Seventh Avenue Express up to Times Square, got the last shuttle to Grand Central (I guess they stop at midnight, the wimps), made the 12:08 northbound local with like 45 seconds to spare, and before long was nestled asleep in my bed.
What a good time. :) Extreme thanks to A, and to the Deities of Chance, and to Mr. Cohen and the Band.