Leonard Cohen concert

cohen poster

Yeah, it was good.

Finally I’m home unwinding from the Leonard Cohen concert in Rosemont, Illinois, after three and a half hours of music, a fifteen minute walk to the station in the rain, an hour and a half on the train, and another half hour driving home from where I parked. I finally arrived home at 1:30 A.M. and felt like baking some trout (recipe). (Most excellent, but next time must add salt, less banana, and a little more chile powder.)

“I’m so grateful” …he had started out, as he says many times in the Live in London album, but this crowd laughed before applauding politely. Cynical? Pragmatic? Or maybe seeing Leonard Cohen in concert was high on everybody’s things-to-do-before-you-die list. The couple next to me said they were from Poland: “He played in our town in Poland thirty years ago–we couldn’t get tickets.”

“We don’t know when we’ll be back this way again, so tonight we’re going to give you everything we’ve got”, he backtracked, to more applause, this time from the heart. And they did. The concert was almost identical to the Live in London album, except for three songs I had never heard before (“Waiting for a miracle?”). But every once in a while, I thought I heard some different lyrics and perked up my ears. And of course they did Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy, songs I played years ago that I didn’t even know he composed before buying my ticket. Yes, Leonard Cohen was entwined with my youth, but I never knew it at the time. The stars of the show were the middle eastern instruments, something like ouds, a large one and a small one with a gypsy sound, played by a Spaniard named Mas (I’ll google it in the morning–they were applauding too loud and I didn’t catch it) and the soprano sax/woodwind player.

They charged through the first two sets, with much more lengthy and polished instrumentals than the album, but didn’t really get into stride until the “encores”. The surprise was “Who by Fire” which is almost an afterthought on the album but was played with such freshness and a huge brilliant instrumental in the middle by Mr. Mas that it caught everyone by surprise. My personal favorite, Hallelujah, was performed almost by rote, they must have done it so many times for the videos as well…but a lot of effort had been spent on the lighting for that one, the final hallelujah a golden sunrise. Still, it got a standing ovation, and Cohen looked a little surprised, but why not, the song is timeless and yes it was still that good. For this American audience, some potentially controversial/explicit lyrics were mumbled a bit, and they didn’t play “democracy”. Maybe we’re too close to Peoria. There were two “encore” sets, and that’s when the band really hit its stride. “First we take Manhattan” was smokin’, partly because the drummer came out of the woodwork and did some rock n’ roll showmanship. Leonard toyed with the crowd over the encores, after “Closing Time”, coming back to sing “I tried to leave you”, then teasingly “are you satisfied?” Then when the band was really done, and Leonard had introduced the sound crew, the audience just stood and applauded passionately, this time not to bring him back but just to say thank you. I think he looked a little bit misty right then.

Everyone went to hear his voice of course, and they got that. Like the message someone left on one of his videos “This man can read a shoppinglist out loud and i die..” He started out with the raspiness everyone mentions in the reviews, but his voice warmed up quickly. Sometimes he dropped to one knee, and sang to the floor or to the oud player, and his voice seemed to get deeper and more resonant. The crowd got not just his voice, but a crew of extremely talented musicians as as well. And Leonard Cohen is no musical slouch either. For Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye he backed himself up on guitar, then played and sang backup to other musicians’ solos. The talent of the group though was greater than the sum of their parts, with Leonard’s deep voice winding gracefully around it all.

Okay, I know I’m not a real music reviewer and this hasn’t even been proofread, but it’s late (early) and I just wanted to record this before I go to bed. And a big thank you to the one who (re-) introduced me to Leonard Cohen, you know who you are.

The next day and rereading this I see I talked about everything except what was most important, the content, although it is only Leonard’s spoken voice doing his own work that seems to be able to make the content accessible for me. More when I get back from work.
The NPR review, with musician list. It is Javier Mas the Spaniard who plays “banduria, laud, archilaud, 12-string guitar”.

Leonard Cohen’s new song “the other blues song” on YouTube:

Feels so good baby not to love you like I did
Feels so good not to love you like I did
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.

Feels so good babe just to wake up in the morning by myself
Cup of coffee in the kitchen, fire up a little danger to my health.
It’s like the same old broken heart but it feels like it belongs to someone else.
I’ve got the same old broken heart but now it feels like it belongs to someone else.

Feels so good baby to see you smile back at me
It’s so good baby not to be each other’s VIP
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this man go free.
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this man go free.

Feels so good not to love you like I did
Feels so good I don’t know why but it just did
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.
It’s like they tore away my blindfold and they said we’re gonna let this prisoner live.

Concert photos:

from Time Out Chicago blog

better pictures from Leonard Cohen forum

Chicago concert setlist (taped to monitor):
cohen set list2


More Youtube videos are appearing from the Chicago concert:

If you want to see Leonard Cohen, forget everything else, and

1) go to his official YouTube channel and watch Hallelujah, then

2) go to the albertnoonan YouTube channel (whoever he is), and see his high audio quality videos of the Chicago concert

part of I’m your man (from balcony)

short clip of I tried to leave you

part of The Future

For all the breaking news about Leonard Cohen, check out Heck of a Guy, a great website with tons of Leonard Cohen little known songs, esoterica, and trivia, including a Leonard Cohen halloween mask (as in “I will wear a mask for you” from I’m your man).

Some more trivia: you might guess from his name that he came from a family of rabbis….”Leonard’s maternal grandfather, Rabbi  Solomon Kinitski-Klein, was a rabbinic scholar.  He was known as Sar ha Dikdook, the Prince of Grammarians, for writing an encyclopedic guidebook to talmudic interpretations, A Treasury of Rabbinic Interpretations, and a dictionary of synonyms and homonyms, Lexicon of Hebrew Homonyms…”  Now we’re getting somewhere.  I wonder if there isn’t a little kabala in there somewhere.


8 Responses to “Leonard Cohen concert”

  1. canehan Says:

    Stone’s Ginger Wine with trout ? Explain please :-)
    The concert sounds amazing…

  2. Nijma Says:

    Uh, aren’t you supposed to drink it? Marinating the fish with ginger wine is apparently an ancient Australian secret–it’s actually pretty good, and I went to a great deal of trouble to find the product in this country. No one here has ever heard of it. If you want the whole story follow the recipe link.

    Anyhow the label said “Alcohol 13.5% by volume”, which I took as an engraved invitation.

  3. canehan Says:

    Indeed, I’ve only ever heard of it for drinking – mulled, sometimes, but it seemed strange to me to drink it with fish. I’d not heard of it in cooking so that’s what caught me out , but then I’m no chef.

  4. Nijma Says:

    I’m not either, but it sounded good, and anyhow I like Noetica (he’s the one who got me started on Leonard Cohen, back on some thread at languagehat). He seems to know how to use booze in food–I’ve tried his Australian port with baked apples too and it’s perfect, even the way I cook. The ginger part of the Stone’s was good, but the overall taste was a little sweet, not objectionable for food though. At three in the morning, who’s fussy.

    Are you supposed to drink it with something particular? And mulled..meaning warm, but heated with what?

  5. canehan Says:

    I’ve only known of it as being drunk mixed with whisky (not that I do so myself, liking neither ingredient very much). It’s like sherry, one of those bottles you can keep forever in the cupboard.

    The Stone’s website here has lots of receipes that might interest you.

    The mulled version is called a hot toddy, with brandy and cream. It’s under Extras on the recipe page. Just right for the season – it’s the first wild and wooly autumn day here today, overnight wind and rain have suddenly stripped the trees extensively.

  6. Nijma Says:

    Here’s the hot toddy recipe from the Stone’s website.

    1 glass Stone’s Original Ginger Wine
    1 liqueur glass brandy
    1 tablespoon cream

    Put the Stone’s Original Ginger Wine and brandy into a pan and bring almost to boiling point.

    Remove from the heat, pour in the cream.

    Do not stir and pour into glass.

    The cream is a surprise ingredient for me, but I’m definitely a brandy drinker. The proportions are confusing. Although I’m not much of a bartender I do know the proportions here are standard: the size of a tumbler, the size of the shot glass used to measure hard liquor. I suppose everything is “to taste” anyhow. Also I would imagine heating would make the alcohol evaporate.

    With a little research I found a more heart-healthy approach to the cream is a product called “fat-free half and half“. I tried it last night with the baked apple and sweet potato left over from trout night, and it was excellent.

  7. Nijma Says:

    I have just made a glass of this mulled ginger wine with the following proportions:

    1 Arab tea glass brandy,
    1 Arab tea glass Stone’s ginger wine,
    1 Arab tea glass fat free half and half.

    In other words, equal proportions. An Arab tea glass is roughly the size of a shot glass.

    I put the brandy and Stone’s together in a coffee mug and heated them together in the microwave with a small bowl over the top to prevent evaporation, preheated the wine glass with boiling water, then put in the half and half followed by the booze.

    Something was not quite right about this, although the brandy and Stone’s definitely go together. So I put the whole thing back in the coffee mug and sprinkled some of the Arabic cake spice MaHlab over the top (could you use nutmeg?). Much better, although perhaps it’s still heavy on the cream.

    Oh, and now I’m starting to feel quite warm–this will be a nice cold weather drink….

    And the thing definitely cools off too fast, better to make half of those proportions and keep refilling it.

    And now, since drinking and blogging don’t mix, this would be a good time to stop blogging.

  8. canehan Says:

    And then of course there are Bandy Alexanders, usually quite heavy on the cream, as well as creme de cacao (1/3rd each, I believe). Not warmed up but they warm you… I once (sometime in the 70s?) spent or mis-spent a long night in a bar in NYC, drinking Brandy Amexanders and playing Asteroids with an old friend.

    And there are Grasshoppers, my favourite ….

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