Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Perfect Storm - Leonard Cohen Live

What an interesting night I woke up from this morning. Barbara and Miles were staying over at a friend's house and I had no where to go and nothing to do. After tossing the idea around in my head, I decided I'd fork over the 50 bucks it cost to pay for a nose bleeder seat at the hockey rink to see Leonard Cohen's first performance in Edmonton in over 15 years.

If you're wondering who Leonard Cohen is, he's most notably known for writing the song Hallelujah. To say that's all he's ever amounted to is the understatement of the hour. He's given the world numerous hits and timeless classics all plucked out of his books of poetry and brought to fulfillment with his gravel truck of a voice. I went into this concert expecting to enjoy it. I didn't know I'd be so emotionally affected by this man, coming close to tears and breaking into laughter so many times during the performance.

The show was to start at 8pm. Leonard and his band came out at about 8:01. Dressed in a dark suit with a lazy fedora perched atop his gray head, Leonard Cohen stood humbly, bowing ever chance he could in honor of the nearly sold-out crowd that showed up. Aside from a 10 minute break at 9 and about 4 or 5 encores at the end, He didn't leave the stage until 11:20pm. Some of the highlights:

His interaction with the crowd was humorous and humble. He exclaimed how great it was for them to be performing in this building where "The Spirit of the Great One hovers".

Another great quote was when he mentioned that it had been over 15 years since he had performed in Edmonton: "That was when I was 60 years old... just a crazy kid with a dream."

He introduced his band in a way that I'm sure made them all feel like treasures. "And on the drums, Diego.... our time keeper." "Our bass player, the glue to this whole ensemble."

The thing that I enjoyed most, along with the songs, was the performance. In the song "The Future" after he sang the line "and the white man dancin'" he did a little shuffle for a moment or two. Later in the song he replaced that line with "and the white women dancin'" and 2 of his back-up singers turned around and did cartwheels! It was just a bunch of subtle little stuff that really made the performance. He also spent a long time down on one knee serenading his guitar player.

There were 3 women singing backup. At one point they kept singing a "ba da ba" line over and over at the end of the song at Leonard's prompting. "Please, don't stop. Such a beautiful sound. Please, comfort me just three more times." And then, at the end proclaiming, "I am healed."

I sat next to a nice couple from Saskatchewan, Kevin and Judy. They told me stories of seeing Leonard some 20 years earlier and how his passion and humility hasn't changed a bit. They told me about how he's touring again because he needs the money. Something about a crooked manager stealing all his money while we was living in a monastery on the top of some hill in California. Judy mentioned that the last time they were in Rexall Place was about 15 years ago when they came to see Bob Dylan. They said that his performance was okay, but his opening act stole the show. The opening act was some lady named Tracy Chapman.

My favorite performances of the night were The Future, In My Secret Life, Hallelujah, I'm Your Man, First We Take Manhattan, Bird on a Wire, Dance Me to the end of Love. Basically, it was all amazing.

After three hours of songs I could still think of a handful of songs he didn't sing. The Traitor, That's no Way to Say Good-bye, and That don't make it Junk were all left off of the set list. I could be disappointed, but really, it's an embarrassment of riches and I feel pretty lucky to be apart of what could be his last ever performance in Edmonton.

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