Posted by: marthacoolcat | May 26, 2009

Leonard Cohen concert May 24 London, ON

So much gratitude. I am so lucky. I have seen Leonard Cohen perform twice. I am all googly-eyed over his soul. Okay, so I wrote out the play list.

Everyone stood and applauded when he came on the stage. Looking good, dapper with such a good hat. I almost bought one of the concert t-shirts, which had a sketch of his face and the quote “I guess it was the hat after all”. What was the hat? I don’t get it, but I like it.

At first I didn’t like the minimalist production, just long curtains with coloured lights shining on them. I laughed out loud when the video screens came on, and projected an image smaller than I could see with my own eyes. But I really came around. I like my Cohen unadulterated.

I said he looked like someone. Charles said Spock. Yep, that was it.

1. Dance me to the end of Love
The guy sure still can dance. I don’t know how many times he knelt and jumped back up. Every time he came on and or off stage he ran, no most often he skipped. Leonard Cohen, 76, skipped. A lot. Pretty Gleefully.

2. Repent
Now in the past I have looked down on the Cohen-ettes. I dislike the back up shoo-wop girls, but these ones were produced way better.
There’s a line in the song like, “and all the white girls danced”. Things kinda stopped Leonard and everyone looked over at the two of the three back up singers who were white, and they stepped over to the side, and the two of them did one cartwheel. As I felt a good twenty years younger than most of the audience, and there was a lot of clapping. Mff, for what?  Man, I did a cartwheel last week in the basement of the Pharmacy building! Charles said. “Did that just happen?” And yep just the white girls. In the thank yous Cohen thanked them for vocals, harp, and “gymnastics/ acrobatics”. I’m serious. Bizarre.

3. Ain’t no cure for love
I’ve heard all these songs many times before, but this time I noticed the line, I want to see you naked… in your thoughts. That’s an interesting thing to say.

4. Bird on a Wire
There was this 1920’s style cap wearing short-sleaved band member. Cohen thanked him for playing instruments of wind, which made my internal grad seven boy self laugh about farts. Anyways he had this weird way of jerking his head when playing that I found off-putting. I guess there has to be something for the people to -look- at.

5. Everybody knows
Nice and dark, mm mmm mm when Cohen’s lower register is like coffee grounds.

6. In My Secret Life
This was new to me, and the numero uno back up lady Sharon? sang a lot. They co-arranged a lot of the concert. I really dig this song. So Cohen, to sing about his secret life to stadium after arena full of strangers, all with a straight face. “Secret”.

7. Who by fire?
Great guitar solo at the beginning. I think it was Cohen who played.  Big shadow cast behind him. A lot of the guitar was done by this amazing guy from Barcelona. [Side note – I find it pleasurable, delectable, to say the word Barcelona]
Great organ/ synthesizer solo, and someone did wonders on the upright bass. Like banging his fist into it and sliding it upwards to make that particular sliding up sound.

8. I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
Everyone clapped at the “Tell you again I prefer handsome men, but for you I’d make an exception” line. I didn’t laugh at that. What’s less handsome about him now compared well anytime in my life time? But that’s me, I laugh when others don’t and don’t when they do. “You are all individuals!” “We are all individuals”. “I’m not”.

He changed a line I believe. He usually sings for those of them left there, and the older man sang for those of them left.

9. Waiting for a miracle

Then he talked. Oh I could die content! “I haven’t been doing much lately… I’ve been doing so much that people are starting to ask my opinion. I’ve developed a keen disinterest in my opinions. I can trot them out for show…” Then he said he had one piece of advice, freely given. I was drooling, on the edge of my seat. Now in that one instance, Cohen didn’t really reach the bar. I was ready for a gem to write on my bathroom mirror to live by. He said you know small circular magnifying mirror in hotel bathrooms, sometimes ringed with neon lights? No one over fifty should look at that mirror.

He said it is wonderful to be together, when so much of the world is in chaos and suffering. Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

I have long loved this quote. I associate it with cozy Saturday afternoons after going to the market with Matt WT with money his mom gave us for buying samosas. We’d eat in a lovely church pew nook in their kitchen, and their house had wonderful profound quotes taped up all over. Maybe it was such a quote, but his dad David also had this “crack in everything ” quote in a book, the Impossible Uprooting, I think.

I hadn’t noticed the Forget your perfect offering introit until now. Thought-invoking…

10. There’s a crack in everything

At the end, he introduced each musician and – he bowed to each of them. I don’t know who else I hold in so much regard, who else could carry off that gesture with so much earnest humility and generosity.


He was alone on stage and said maybe you have seen one of these things before, i.e. electric piano. He had it all pre-programmed to play the chords, which was a little odd. He did a little one hand fingering of the occasional melody line. On the close up, I notice his right thumb was shaking. Ah the truth of the body always catches up with us, always betrays us, reveals us.

11. Tower of Song
I had been thinking abotu this song ever since Len Enns’ stellar concert, and can a human try to build a tower of Babel of song up to the heavens?
“I was born like this, with a golden voice” oh sing it Leonard.

If they ask me to write the sadly inevitable obituary, I’d quote, “You’ll be hearing from me/ Long after I’m gone/ I’ll be talking to you/ From the tower of song”.

12. Suzanne takes you down
At this point I was getting frustrated with the over use of the camera fading out, like going out of focus when shifting from one shot to another.
I got think about media, and Jean Baudrillard, and Marshall McLuhan, when I noticed how much more I looked at a reproduction on the screen rather than the real actual person who was straight in front of me.

There was this one particularly tender moment, when he just held, nuzzled the rest, he came in just a little after the beat, and he got me, I was fooled, scared he wouldn’t start singing the line.  Martha, as if you are not safe in the hands of a master.  Fear not.

13. Sisters of Mercy
My random misfit thought of this concert was when “More cowbell!” came into my mind. *no* idea why.
This song made me aware, again that Cohen, not unlike Irving Layton, is vague on his position on monogamy and poliamoury.

14. that war/ refugee song – an old woman gave us shelter/ she died without a whisper, and then it is partly in French…

Where is the wisdom in today’s music?

15. Boogie street.
No Leonard, just Sharon. A lowlight for me. I gave it the thumbs down.

16. Hallelujah
Ah from nadir to apex! Such improvement. I love this song and every version of it I have ever heard.

Unfortunately, Cohen, ‘drew an Hallelujah’ from the lips of the guy in seat M11, two people over from me. Not just one. He loudly and badly belted out the song.

When I was in Vietnam I had spring rolls, and I am embarrassed to say that my reaction was oh I’ve had better at home. In that vein, I almost preferred KD Lang or Jeff ___’s version of the song.

Line I noticed, “I did not come to hold you, just to fool yah”

The left the stage, got a standing ovation, and skipped back on.


17. I’m Your Man
almost too happy
Mm mm mm sexy.
“If you want this senior’s discount/ I’m your man”

18. Poem – A Thousand Kisses Deep
How do you seduce a stadium of people all at once?
“I’m old but I’m into that”
I ducked my head down when I wiped the corners of my eyes.

19. Take this waltz
He sometimes had this way of dancing where he leaned from one widely spaced foot to the other. Reminded me of some of my autistic friends, just that on way of moving.

Some running and skipping away and running and skipping back

He didn’t even really make us work for it.

I wish I could -give- you more than rising and clapping.

20. So Long Marianne
sweet moment. At this point in time in the concert it feels like I am living on borrowed time.

21. First we take Manhattan
There’s a line about ” the man who brought your groceries in/ First we take Manhattan/ then we take Berlin” Was he running out of lines? Groceries? So pedestrian, so quotidian.

22. Famous Blue Raincoat
I like my Cohen less adulterated. Oh electronic-saxophone guy, just say no to muzac.

I think he changed another line. I recall and your woman (or my woman?) is free, but he sang there’s a woman and she’s free.

23. If it Be your will
Then he talked. ‘A while ago, as I faced my own difficulties… he wrote this.. If it be your will/ that I speak no more/ Abide till I be spoken for/ if it be your will… from this broken…/ to let me sing…”

I couldn’t get it all down, but it was simple and lovely. I am sad and comforted at the same time to see the shadow of mortality cast on Cohen.

Then the Webb sisters sang it. They were good. I thought about buying the CD just for that song.

Ah lovely lovely lovely.

24. Closing Time
Who is surprised by that as the swan song?
My inner former Wendy’s Restaurant employee was charmed by the line, “and the holy Spirit’s crying Where’s the Beef?”

“She’s a hundred but she’s wearing something tight” Who other than Cohen could get away with that?

He said good night my precious friends.  I don’t want to leave you.  He played from 8:00 to 11:20.  Impressive.

I want to be reincarnated and come back as a minor chord played by Leonard Cohen.


  1. Hi Martha,
    Just checked your blog to see if you still keep one. i enjoyed readying about Leonard Cohen’s concert. It was almost like being there. Your comments are so interesting. I wish I’d gone.

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