Sunday, 19 July 2009
"As Graceful And Green As A Stem"
"If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem."
~ from "Sisters of Mercy" - Leonard Cohen
The title of this post may be misleading as this post is not gardening related. I know that he is not to everyone's taste but this man's music was a big influence in my late teens/early twenties along with that of the slightly younger Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. Many a night as students we sat round a record player (now a relic of past times) listening to their albums, drinking coffee/cider/wine and inhaling cigarette fumes etc. I ignored the taunts of some friends, particularly of the male gender, that Cohen's music was "music to slash your wrists" to and was delighted to get the chance to see him at what was the Newcastle Playhouse and Gulbenkian Studio sometime in the 1970s. I remember throughly enjoying the experience.
Well many moons later the opportunity arose to see him again. We now have the opportunity to go to concerts at the still comparatively new Echo Arena in Liverpool which has a capacity of about 10,000. This is within half an hours drive from home and does not involve any motorway travel which I thoroughly dislike,so all and all an ideal venue for us. Since the arena opened we have attended several concerts and have now seen all of the above artists with the exception of Art Garfunkel. Firstly an excellent evening with Paul Simon, followed earlier this year by a most disappointing evening with Bob Dylan. I had waited the best part of over thirty years to see him and what a let down. Absolutely no interaction with the audience and a somewhat perfunctory rush through songs which were hard to recognise. For me the only moving song of the evening was "Something" written by George Harrison which of course being played in Liverpool sent a quiver down the collective spine of the audience.
So it was with a bit of trepidation on my behalf that we set off earlier this week to see Leonard Cohen. Sometimes I have concluded that it is unwise to revisit events/places from the past. However my apprehension was completely unfounded. Like vintage wine he has improved with age. Now well into his seventies Cohen skipped onto the stage and held the audience spellbound. He was surrounded by excellent musicians especially the Spanish guitarist Javier Mas and backing singers including his writing collaborator Sharon Robinson as well as the Webb Sisters. He really seemed to put his whole heart and being into the evening. It was as if he was singing every song for the first time and singing it with love. He seemed delighted and surprised by the standing ovation from the audience. A truly magical evening and a truly humble and charming musician and poet !