Seeing Leonard Cohen in Calgary   8 comments

You get a good view from the front row!

Those of us lucky enough to have been at Calgary’s Saddledome on Friday evening were treated to an amazing concert given by Leonard Cohen and his remarkable ensemble of musicians. Thanks to my friend Zenon West, I witnessed this event from front row centre. Maybe it had to do with my close proximity to the stage, or maybe it was just THAT GOOD, but I really believe last night’s concert was one of the high points of my life.

It was interesting, hearing those songs once again, this time sung by the man who wrote them. So many of them I know, word for word. And yet this familiarity comes not so much from over exposure through the mass media, as it might, say, in the case of Bob Dylan; rather it comes from my own listening to his music, first on vinyl then on cassettes and then on CD’s and now on iTunes or YouTube.

Plus, I’ve read the books.

I tell this story, my friends, and it’s true, and there’s something in it about how far we have come as a nation in the last thirty years or so.

When I was studying English Lit at the University of Regina in the mid 1970’s, I took the required CanLit class. For one of those COMPARE AND CONTRAST essays, I planned to write a paper comparing and contrasting (what else??) Dylan Thomas’s In My Craft or Sullen Art with Leonard Cohen’s You Have the Lovers.

But I wasn’t allowed to write that paper. Why? Because I was told that Leonard Cohen was not a major artist. But that was then and this is now. He was major to me, even then, and it would seem he is to the world now.

Listening last night, lulled into a kind of transcendental bliss by the overwhelming artistry of the show, I had a flash that the music and the poetry of Leonard Cohen hit us and move us so deeply because of the two major themes he has constantly and honestly and passionately explored throughout his career: our spiritual quest, and our physical, sensual yearnings, and how we reconcile both within one being. His music hits you in the head and in the guts and everywhere in between, especially the heart.

Leonard Cohen is 78 years old now. Last night’s performance began just after 8:00 PM and went almost to midnight. (Note to self: start doing yoga!!) When he gave over the stage to his fellow musicians for a solo or for a song, he never left to get a drink of water or to towel down – he stood right there, hat doffed, in deepest reverence of the amazing artists he has surrounded himself with on this tour.

Elegant, intelligent, inspirational.

That’s about all I have to say about it.

I leave you with Alexandra Leaving, that was sung last night by Sharon Robinson, who wrote the song with LC. Her performance last night was one of the greatest things I have ever had the good fortune to experience.

Thanks for reading!

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Posted November 17, 2012 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

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8 responses to “Seeing Leonard Cohen in Calgary

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  1. Hello,
    Eugene, your perspective of the concert is right on. Now, two days later we are stilled awed by that performance. Personally, I felt emotionally taken care of and so fortunate to have seen this man in person. One felt good after this concert, not just spent, like after seeing Guns and Roses perhaps, but richer as a person, more compassionate for oneself and others. Because as you pointed out so eloquently above, the two themes he keeps exploring are the ones we all deal with. And he does it so well; you feel neither dirty nor squeaky clean. Somewhere in the middle, but just right. I kept thinking about him as our poet, as important to our nation as Pablo Neruda is to Spain or Hafez is to Iran. Thanks for making this posting and for letting us know.

    • Well, as he says, “somewhere in between I guess.” I agree, he is out poet laureate, no question. I felt like I wanted to be better, somehow, someway, after seeing him. Thanks for reading and for the comment. Take care.

  2. Well said, Eugene. You nailed it! We’ve been listening to him for over 40 years including four concerts — among them an outdoor concert almost four years ago at a winery in Perth, Australia. The headline then was “Unforgettable food for the soul” and it still is. He’s the man. Fabulous show indeed.

    Also great to see your writing. Had lost track of you since we shared a conversation in the cafeteria at the Banff Centre several years ago. (Hint: WHERE magazine then, Galleries West magazine now.)

  3. Alexandra Leaving is just an awesome song… I am thinking your evening Leonard Cohen was a “constant shivers up your back” type of night… thanks so much for your excellent review of Canada’s greatest musical icon.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Eugene – the concert was THAT GOOD!!!

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