Leonard Cohen on bended knee, Academy of Music, 5/12/09 by MICHAEL T. REGAN
EDITOR’S NOTE: To mark the sad but not unexpected passing of Leonard Cohen we present this reprise edition of our review of his concert at the Academy Of Music on May 13th 2009. Even back then it felt like a eulogy.
The Great Man glides onstage in black pinstripes and a fedora like a gangster cantor, double-breasted and tie-less, his crisp creamy blue shirt buttoned-up to the neck David Lynch-style. He seems to walk on air. He was born like that, he had no choice, he was born with the gift of a golden voice and a lyrical acuity far beyond those of mortal men. Now his friends are gone and his hair is grey, he aches in the places he used to play. After all these years, he’s still crazy for love but he’s not coming on. At 74, broke and literally hat in hand, he is still paying his rent every day in the Tower of Song.
For the next three hours, he dispenses what amount to be prayers and we will need them where we are going. For he has seen the future, baby, and it is murder. Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor. And, he says, there is a mighty judgment coming, though he might be wrong. But this much is true: we may be ugly, he insists, but we have the music. Because everybody knows the rich write history, but the poor write the songs. He remains the patron saint of life’s beautiful losers. His mind is still sharp as a razor blade and he remembers them all: the one who gave him head in an unmade bed, the sisters of mercy with dew on their hem, the one in the famous blue raincoat who was gonna go ‘clear,’ the bird on a wire, the drunk in the midnight choir. All of them, the Great Man included, have tried in their own way, to be free.
We have paid dearly for this audience with the Great Man and he is eternally grateful for our sacrifice, humbled in fact. He delivers many a song on his knees, and doffs his cap with humility after every standing ovation, every exclamation of adoration from the back row of the highest balcony. “So much of the world is plunged in chaos and suffering, it’s remarkable that we have the opportunity to gather in places like this,” the Great Man says, his eyes scanning the Academy of Music’s gilded splendor. “I haven’t been here in a long time, it was 15 years ago and I was 60, just a kid with a crazy dream,” he continues, and we all laugh even though we know he is only half-kidding. “Since then, I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Ritalin and double strength Tylenol. I also plunged into a rigorous study of religion and philosophy, but cheerfulness kept breaking through.”
Which is, I suppose, another way of saying ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.’ Hallelujah. Amen. Over and out. — JONATHAN VALANIA
PREVIOUSLY: Leonard Cohen Is Ready To Die