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Leonard Cohen

J'adore.

Earlier this year there were rumours that Leonard Cohen would come. I was excited.
Then, there was a confirmation. When they finally got round to putting the tickets up for sale, I made damn sure my mothers procured tickets for both Tor and me. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to tonight for a while. I never thought I would get to see Cohen live. I would not have been terribly surprised if an asteroid had crashed into the Earth last night.

I was worried that it would be a bad idea to have this concert in Romsdalsmuseet. It is a lovely, lovely venue, but again I have preconceptions; and I was fairly convinced Leonard Cohen should be absorbed in some smaller, more intimate venue. Not in a massive open air place with thousands of people.

And they had overdone it a bit. I have been to sold out concerts there before, but it has never been that full. Expecting to be able to leisurely sit and listen, as we always have before, we were forced to stand, packed like small fish in metal containers, because when it looked full there were still people waiting to get in. This was unpleasant. Otnæs keeps talking about trying to make the best possible festival, rather than the largest possible. It is sad that this does not apply to the attitude at the concerts themselves. I have observed this problem before. I realise that these big name-concerts are supposed to foot the bill for most of the rest of the festival. But still....

I am not quite done complaining (will I ever be?), but let me get to the point:
Cohen was wonderful. He was on time. He was adorable. And I don't think Tor will object too forcefully if I say he was hot. He wore a hat. And his voice melts my bones.

He opened with "Dance with me to the end of love", which he mostly sang directed at his quite exquisite guitar(of various shapes and sizes)-player, the Spanish Javier Mas. People greeted him by singing along in the very first song. Usually it takes a little longer to get to that. He followed it with "The Future", and then Dino Soldo (who played everything under the stars, it seemed, but for this particular task used a saxophone) opened "Ain't No Cure for Love". People started singing along again. This was a mixed blessing because we were there to listen to Cohen, not the 20-yearold wannabe opera singer (w.b.o.s.) standing behind us. Ordinary singalong is fine, as it is fairly unobtrusive and allows you to filter it away. But when people start attempting to harmonise by singing as if the main attraction did not manage fine on his own, then I get cranky. I glared (I told you I wasn't done complaining).

I realised that in addition to that voice that takes over your body and makes you all warm and fuzzy and happy inside, the thing about Cohen is that he looks like he means whatever he sings. He is intense. He also looked completely happy, smiling with everything while taking off his hat to receive the applause after each song. One would have thought that it would have gotten old by now, but he didn't look like it had. Did I mention he was adorable? It may seem like an inappropriate word for describing a 75-yearold, but trust me.

We then got "Bird on a Wire", which was my first Cohen song. Or at least the first song I identified as a Cohen song.

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


I was grinning like a madwoman. He seemed to have some new lyrics at the end, after having been interrupted by a rather lengthy applause. People liked applauding Cohen, it seemed. Well, I confess I was one of them.

Up until this point the w.b.o.s. behind us had been relatively silent. When he started "Everybody knows", however, this period was over. I was slightly annoyed at the intrusion, but managed to put it to the back of my mind, as Cohen was obviously absolutely brilliant. The convention that you can sing along with the refrain at concerts does not take into account how very frequently "Everybody knows" is repeated int hat particular song. It must have made her limited mind very happy. It is slightly less frequent in "In My Secret Life", but I was still plotting murder at the end of it. Cohen was still good. Amazing, even.

Using a 12-string guitar, Mas then opened "Who by fire"; one of the Webb sisters, who were two of his backup singers (the third was Sharon Robinson), played a small harp; Neil Larsen played what I think was a Hammond organ (but I am no expert in these things); the aforementioned Dino Soldo played a weird blowing-thing that I suspect may be a mouth organ, if there is such a thing (if anyone feels like enlightening me, feel free); and there was a double bass!

Following this, we got "Heart with no companion", where Javier Mas had changed his massive guitar for a bandurria. And then "Democracy Is Coming to the USA", which contained the added

It may not be the last administration.
It may not be this administration.
It may not be the next administration.
But...


And it must be said that having been published on The Future in 1992, it might seem like the period since has forced that amendment. During the break, Matteus commented that Cohen might be more optimistic than he is. But it is a nice song, and it was well sung. As was "Anthem", where he told us to

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.


after which he introduced his band, and then he skipped off stage for a break.
Yes, he did. He skipped. Skippingly.

--------------

Experienced blogger that I am, I knew it was time to collect quotes from my co-audience. I ignored the stupid w.b.o.s. behind us, who at this point had got hold of more alcohol than was good for her (and her friend), and turned to

Silje:
Awesome! It was fantastic! Yes! It was perfect. I really liked it. The lyrics! Perfectly superb. If you compare to Melody Gardot, hers were a tad simple, but this is poetry! Some of the music is bordering on cheesy, but it doesn't matter: he has so much charm, and his voice is ... he has the most marvellous voice.

Tor:
Three thumbs up!

Mary (who, ten days ago was unaware that Cohen existed and who was forced along to the concert by concerned friends):
I really like it. Like a lot. It is really, really good.

Silje also took the time to observe that the screen was a welcome addition to the venue. It was, in fact, a bona fide Good Idea. Especially when you are short and can only see the stage occasionally (a problem which was of course exacerbated by the aforementioned being forced to stand the whole time).

--------------

Break over, Cohen gave us "Tower of Song", assuring an audience that was never going to object, that

I was born with the gift of a golden voice

and getting massive applause for playing a little on the piano. He did seem to find that amusing. Towards the end he seemed inclined to let his backup-singers go on for ever, urging them to

Don't ever stop. Sing me through the summer.

He does like his backup singers. And you can't really blame him. They are very good. The two sisters even did cartwheels at one point.

He followed this with "Suzanne" and "Sisters of Mercy", before singing "The Partisan", which is quite delicious. The part of it in French was sung in what Silje termed "an adorable accent". Which should surprise no one at this point. "Adorable" was the mot du jour.

Sharon Robinson then sang "Back on Boogie Street", while Cohen stood smiling with his hat in his hands looking quite beatific. He did that whenever someone else sang or played without him. This may have contributed to the later comments from Are, that

I am just astounded that you can be so good at what you do and still so humble, both to your audience and to the people you work with.

He then sang "Hallelujah", which almost ruined my good mood. This was not because of anything Cohen did (unless he could have prevented anyone from ever playing that song apart from him ever, ever), but mainly caused by the w.b.o.s who finally had found a song she knew the lyrics to. Not the Cohen version, though. See, I have very conflicted feelings when it comes to this song. I love and adore it whenever I hear Cohen sing it. Unfortunately, that is all too rarely. Most often, my ears are assaulted by people who think everything should be smooth and happy. And then I am mentally in pain. Imagine the state of my brain, then, when this moronic creature behind me insists on singing the smoothed version, with all its melodic acrobatics, against Cohen live. The state of affairs was not helped by the massive amounts of alcohol they had imbibed in the break, and since the break (and possibly before the break). It had furnished them with the conviction that if you sing in tune, you can pretty much sing as loud as you like for as long as you like while at a concert.

It did not really improve when Cohen moved on to "I'm Your Man", of which they did not have as clear a grasp of the lyrics (although that did not stop them, as they felt entirely entitled to invent their own). By the time "Take This Waltz" came 'round, I had reached the conclusion that I must either kill them or move on, and so I moved on because the alternative would have been messy and would possibly have interrupted the concert (what with the people around us wanting to give us the keys to the city and suchlike). He sang it to/with another one of his backup-singers. All in all, there seemed to be a tendency for him to sing to various members of his band (though his favourite for this purpose appears to have been Javier Mas).

Cohen then skipped off stage again. I want to make this absolutely clear. When I say skipped, I mean what 5-yearold girls are generally thought of as doing. You rarely see older people attempting it, certainly not grave old men whose musical stature would allow them to rely on good old gravitas and whose music frequently is quite melancholy. Naturally, I loved it.

We clapped him in again, of course (everybody knows this leaving thing the first time is just for show), and he indulged us by coming back on to sing "So Long, Marianne", and then "First We Take Manhattan", which again occasioned bona fide audience singalong. Which I have no problem with. At this point, most of the museum was filled with people moving. Except Tor. He doesn't do that sort of thing. But the rest of us were unable to resist.

He then skipped off again (this time sideways, too!), causing us to think it was over. I remember mentally looking back over the concert, thinking that it had been truly wonderful, and that my one regret was that he had not sung "Famous Blue Raincoat". At which point he skipped back on to sing "Famous Blue Raincoat". That's right people. Leonard Cohen and me. Telepathic connection. Two minds in tune.

He then explained that the following song, "If It Be Your Will (that I speak no more)", had been written during a past period of difficulty. He had the Webb sisters sing it, while standing in his normal posture, hat in hand, looking on.

He then, quite appropriately, I thought, sang "Closing Time"

It looks like Freedom, but it feels like Death

before skipping off once again.
And then skipping back on (yes, we love him).

Everybody laughed as he opened

I tried to leave you.

In order to properly finish the concert, the whole band was given the opportunity for solo-pieces that really were very good (Cohen again hat in hand), before the song finished

Good night, my darling, I hope you're satisfied
the bed is kind of narrow, but my arms are open wide.
And here's a man still working for your smile


gathering more laughs. The concert itself was finished by the whole band standing together, singing a section from The Book of Ruth:

Whither thou goest I will go
Whither thou lodgest I will lodge
Thy people shall be my people.


And then it was over. And we all found it a bit hard to think, as there was so much music in our heads. But we made it out of the museum somehow.

--------------

Conclusion? Well, to begin with, Leonard Cohen is quite amazingly brilliant. Like good wine, as the cliché goes, he ages well. As does his hat. He is like a fine port: dark and delicious, better than ever, tempered by a slight streak of fun and games. His voice gets better and better, darker and darker. Unlike fine port, of course, there is no restriction on how much you could in good form have of the good thing. Leonard Cohen played (at/with/for) the museum for three hours. We could have take more, regardless of possible murder of w.b.o.s. and/or having to amputate legs after irreparable damage through standing for too long.

If I am going to properly conclude I will say that it was quite perfect. The only thing that could have improved it would be a katana, a license to silence idiots and room enough for people to sit on the ground (which makes it easier for everyone to see as well). In retrospect I also find myself wondering why he did not sing "Jazz Police", but I did not miss it.

I was not the only one there, however. As a dutiful blogger, I have of course collected quotes by the bucketload.

Matteus:
Flinke mannen [Good/talented man, that]

Silje:
Det var helt utrolig, fantastisk bra. Ja. Jeg vet ikke. Jeg synes ... ja. Han sang alle de kjente sangene. Han skippet av scenen. Det kan aldri gjøres for ofte. Utrolig bedårende! [It was incredibly, fantasticly great. Yes. I don't know. I think ... yes. He sang all the well-known songs. He skipped off stage. That can never be done too often. Incredibly adorable!]

Jeg er helhjertet enig i at de [w.b.o.s og veninnen hennes] var irriterende. Det var verst i andre halvdel. Og da hun snakket i mobil! [I agree completely that they [w.b.o.s. and friend] were annoying. It got worse in the second half. And when she answered her phone ... !]

Mary (possibly helped by her conviction that Leonard Cohen is really Leonard Nimoy in disguise (she must think that Nimoy's Bilbo Baggins song is some form of decoy)):
I really loved it. The atmosphere. I liked the people singing along because they loved it.

Quickly amended to:
But only the refrain bits. The people behind us were annoying. I am glad I came. Even though my leg really hurts from standing. It was totally worth it. I loved it.

Mamma:
I loved it. He's my man.
Jeg nynnet på alle jeg kunne. Jeg fikk pinadø ikke ha med stolen min inn!
[I hummed along to those I knew. They wouldn't let me bring my chair in, dammit! (My mother has a tiny contraption that is probably better described as a seating-assistant than a chair, and which folds up nicely).]
Ulf forgot to leave his Leatherman Tool at home. He had to deposit it.

Mary:
It was Amazing, Splendiferous, Thoroughly Enjoyable, Awe-Inspiring, Life-Changing.

Tor:
Leonard Cohen is my man, too. He must be supercool.

Are:
Det var magisk. [It was magical.]
What a Man!
What a Voice!
And what a Presence!
It is like he is walking around with his own gravity field!


Tor:
He is, actually.

Mary:
Yes.

Tor:
If he were fatter, it would be larger.

Are:
At the concert I was just awed by this strong sense of professionalism that he embodies. It is almost like he is a role model for anyone in any kind of work because he is so thorough in what he does and so professional with everyone about him.

Mary:
I admire the passion that he showed while singing. And I feel that he was very dedicated to his audience and his music.

So, there you have it.
If you weren't there, you missed something.
If you were there, you know what I am talking about, so I should probably stop going on about it now.

If you want to hear something similar, I believe the Live in London cd is appropriate.

Comments

Jørgen,  18.07.09 13:33

The mouth organ might have been a melodica.

Camilla,  18.07.09 13:34

Yes. Possibly.

Ulf,  18.07.09 14:03

Sounds like a rubbish concert. I'm satisfied with my conclusion of staying home and watching a movie.

Camilla,  18.07.09 14:20

Have you already ordered Live in London, then?

Ulf,  18.07.09 14:42

I saw him last year on Bislett, thanks to Kjell. But that's not saying I'm not bitter. Lousy swine flu.

Tor,  18.07.09 16:45

It was the shiznit, definitely. And if I had been the kind of person to rock from side to side while waving my hands slowly in the air, I would have.

Also, I too felt the urge to approach a couple members of the audience in an apologetic manner, and cut them both down. While I didn't actually hear that much of the singing from the aforementioned girls, I did stand quite close to a couple of young men who kept talking loudly to each other in an annoying dialect, and who shouted "More! More!" after the first song, as if they thought that was it. They had with them a poor woman who tried in vain to make the shut up and behave, and I felt rather sorry for her. Luckily, they disappeared during the break, and never returned.

Mary,  18.07.09 17:57

As Tor puts it, the concert was, indeed, the shiznit. I am not sure I would ever rock from side to side, though. It just seems awkward.

Overall, I am extremely glad I ended up going to the concert. I was rather skeptical in the beginning, while waiting in line, but it proved extremely worth it. Leonard Cohen shall forthwith be added to my iPod.

Hurrah.

Kjellove,  19.07.09 15:17

While Bislett blew me away, the Molde show surprised me in another direction. Cohen seemed to have enjoyed a little too much red wine or red needle. During the first set he forgot lyrics more than once, and the performance was more of a recitation than an inspiration. The band seemed slow and the volume was inadequately low. From our gang's resting place among the blueberry Per commented that the sound would probably be turned up gradually, which proved true. I was slightly surprised that no reviewers seemed to notice anything even remotely imperfect.

Don't get me wrong; I doubt there is a bigger Cohen fan than myself, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. From a fine summer night on Bislett last year I know that having a good view of the stage, and preferrably a seat, improves the concert experience considerably. My shortness of height and unwillingness to subject myself to the crowd diminished my personal outcome somewhat.

Somewhere into the second set something changed, though. Cohen suddenly woke up and faced the music. The rest of the show was really good, so I left with a feeling of satisfaction. Nether "The Partisan" (an old favourite) nor "Famous Blue Raincoat" were featured on Bislett, and the latter almost made me well up. Well, almost.

Tor,  19.07.09 20:43

I had a reasonable view of the stage, being all tall and manly, but I would definitely have enjoyed a seat.

Are,  20.07.09 01:19

- I also noticed that the sound was lower than what I expected - which meant I thought it was pretty much perfect. I stood right at the front, and it's usually too loud there.

- Camilla, surely you mean "foot the bill" and not "fit the bill"?

- Fantastic concert. One of the best I've been to. And I'm not (well, wasn't) really a Cohen fan, either.

- I don't handle having to sit at concerts very well, so I'm happy we were all made to stand. Of course, if there was more room, you different people could have been permitted to sit all the way at the back there, but I find concerts where people are sitting, especially outdoors, don't have the same atmosphere.

- Camilla, why didn't you move away from the idiots?

Apart from that - thanks for a fine review. I'm really happy you chronicle Moldejazz like this, it makes it a lot easier to recollect good moments. Also, the quotes are rad.

Camilla,  24.07.09 18:01

Sorry. Yes. Foot. I have no idea how that happened.
Oh, the shame.

We didn't move away from the idiots because the whole area was so full any movement was disruptive to masses of people, and also because we did catch glimpses of the stage. When you are my height you do not move when that is the case.
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