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 !

15 comments:

  1. Wow Anna - I saw that Leonard Cohen was doing some concerts and did wonder what it would it would be like to see him, after all these years - he along with the rest of your list was a fairly key influence of my youth too.

    Wish I could have been there.
    K

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  2. Oh Anna, how strange! That means we were there at the same time. I remember taking an LP(??!!) home and my sisters thinking they should start to get worried about my mental health.
    P x

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  3. Ahhhhh - The Gulbenkian. I remember it well and I remember sitting in a student room in Castle Leazes with a load of my mates listening to Leonard Cohen at 3 in the morning! The slashed wrists were referred to then as well ;)

    I had a similar experience recently as Al Stewart gave a charity fundraising concert in Devizes recently. He was as wonderful as Leonard Cohen. And most generous too as he's been mentoring a young local couple who were his support for the evening (and were fantastic) and shared the stage with them for some of his songs. As he put it: this song sung from a female perspective gives a completely new dimension to it

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  4. What is college without angsty/depressing music?! :) Glad you had a good time. I haven't gone to a concert in years and years and (though this is going to be embarrassing) would only pay to hear three people: Cher, Tom Jones, and John Mellencamp. Eh yep.

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  5. Thank you for your recent comment on my blog, Anna. I visited your blog last month and left a message, and fully intended to return, but somehow lost the link. You have a lovely blog and I have read all your posts, right back to where you started blogging.
    I now have you saved in my favourites, so I won't lose the link again.

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  6. Anna, wasn't it the best! I'm so glad you went.

    He was here in Edmonton in late April. The concert was so honest and beautiful, I know I had tears on my cheeks more than once.

    Each musician put their heart and soul into it - and they all had lots to spare.

    Best concert of my life.

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  7. Sounds fantastic!

    I went to see America a couple of years ago at the Sage in Newcastle, and was amazed and inspired by their tremendous continued energy as well as excellent music and audience interaction.

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  8. I found him very late in my life and feel like I missed out on a lot. A recent YouTube performance I watched was so overwhelmingly touching, I had tears in my eyes. Your experience sounds unsurpassed!

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  9. Leonard Cohen sounds like a true gentleman, how wonderful, and he must truly understand the value of his audience. Really interesting post, thank you.
    Love Vanessa xxx (do you mind if i knit)

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  10. I really don't know Leonard Cohen but reading this and then the comments I think I'll pay you tube a visit

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  11. Hi Anna~~ I've never heard of him but it sounds like you had a great time and that he's going strong--inspiration for all of us.

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  12. A gal after my own heart, Anna. Love Bob Dylan but was also disappointed in his concert here last year :( Have never seen Leonard Cohen but would love to here him sing ... Hallelujah.

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  13. You would have enjoyed it Karen. He only appearing at two English venues - weren't we the lucky ones in Liverpool ?

    Oh for the cheek of sisters Pam :)

    I was an Ethel Williams girl myself VP before moving on to Richardson Road and then private shared houses. I visited Castle Leazes a good many times though. Don't know much about Al Stewart so will have to acquaint myself with him. Thanks for the tip.

    Too true Monica :) Would agree with you about Cher. Have never heard of John Mellencamp. Will have to investigate forthwith.

    Thanks for your visit Jo and lovely comment . I often find great blogs and losing track :( Will be over to see you soon :)

    Of course Leonard is a fellow Canadian Garden Ms so he was on home ground. Glad that you got to see him as well - isn't he brilliant ?

    America sounds as if they put on a good concert Phoenix. I don't think that venue existed when I was in Newcastle or perhaps it's a case of same place, different name !

    Thanks for your comment Tumblewords. It was a most memorable evening. Hope that you enjoy discovering his music now that you have found him

    Welcome Vanessa and thanks for your comment. Yes Leonard was a true gent and the enjoyment of the audience was a priority for him :)

    Rob do take time to listen to some of his music or read his poetry :)

    Thanks Grace - it was a great evening and many people were commenting on his energy on the way out:)

    Another kindred spirit Joey :) Interesting to hear that you had a negative Bob Dylan experience too. Hope that you get to see Leonard soon !

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  14. My mother and my aunt just adored him, still do.

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  15. Oh Anna! you are so lucky, I would have loved to have been there. I love Leonard Cohen. A friend and I would sit and listen to him and Bob Dylan, Joan Armatrading, Neil Young, Van Morrison, John Martyn (who sadly died this year) Cohen is one of the very best, and I agree has improved with age, and what a charmer he still is.
    I am green with envy.

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.