Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fashionista See, Fashionista Do

Valerie says:

So there I was, last December 18, catching up on my Forest City Fashionista reading, and Shelley was waxing ecstatic about Leonard Cohen. (Click here to read Shelley’s account of his London, Ontario concert.) Cohen, as I vaguely recall from my youth, was (is?) often called a troubador, since words like singer and poet and songwriter didn't seem to do justice to a guy who wasn't Elvis or James Brown or James Taylor or any of the other iconic figures you could name in the world of music, but nevertheless had something absolutely riveting that compelled the ear to listen. Cohen never wrote anything like "uuuuuuuuu, baby, baby, baby, I luvvvvvvvvvvv you". He was much more likely to write vague but unmistakable lyrics about rumpled sheets that would make the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end. And since his music was slow, the singer (whether Cohen or someone else) had time to enunciate, so you could never pretend you didn't know what he was saying.

Oh, there I go digressing again.

Anyway, I was reading Shelley's rave review, thinking 'Oh, I'll bet he's only doing Canada'; or 'I'll bet there's a New York concert on the itinerary, and it was a month ago.' So, just to amuse myself, I looked up the concert schedule, and of all the weird luck, there was a concert that very evening here in New York. Readers might know I have &*$%@# tinnitus, and it's always a bad idea for me to go to a concert. Even if I sit waaaay in the back, even if I wear earplugs, somehow the base vibrates through the concrete floor and hits me in the gut. How the gut is connected to my ear is a mystery, but once that happens, I know I'm in for several days of ringing.

But Leonard Cohen is 78, the age at which Frank Sinatra retired, so I thought I'd better go. I told myself he wasn't likely to be amped up, and my ears would be okay. Off I went to Madison Square Garden, where I bought the fourth ticket of a threesome. It was about five minutes before curtain, and I scored my ticket for under face value. (Thank goodness! Have you seen ticket prices lately?) The audience was largely my age or older, but when I first came out of the subway I ran into Lina Plioplyte, the Advanced Style videographer (click here for her website), and two gentlemen friends of hers, all on their way to the concert. They are all hovering around 30, and two of them are from Europe, so Cohen attracts admirers from all over the proverbial map.

[Jean says:  Since I had a commitment when Valerie's last-minute brainstorm struck, I didn't get to tag along on this particular adventure. Luckily, I can vicariously enjoy the evening along with the rest of you via Valerie's post. "Turnabout is fair play" -- Just as Shelley, the Forest City Fashionista, was inspired by my Rolling Stones posting to do one of her own, it is fitting that Valerie was inspired by Shelley's Leonard Cohen post to follow suit.]

Here I have to confess that I didn't (okay, still don't) know the Leonard Cohen songbook very well, but so much legend has sprung up around him that I felt it important to see him for myself. One of my favorite Cohen songs is the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah. (Sung in soprano in amazing contrast to Cohen's - is it basso profundo? - It sure seems like it.) Another favorite is Everybody Knows, memorably sung many years ago with an amazing vocal sneer by Don Henley. Cohen opened with a song I'd never heard before - Dance Me to the End of Love - and I was smitten just like everybody else has always been smitten before me.

Let me interrupt myself here for a moment to ask you to check out the way cool lighting in the above photo.  Sort of Wizard of Ozzian.

Cohen sang any number of songs that were, I'm ashamed to say, completely new to me, but every one of them was carefully, clearly and lovingly - I should say seductively - sung, and the sound system was fabulous, so the level of his craft was obvious to the entire audience. Like Shelley - and like Jean last week in her report on The Rolling Stones - I had to rely on the Jumbotron, but that's the only part of the concert that was less than ideal. My photos are disappointing - sorry - but really I took them not for the blog (since I didn't know if I'd get in to the sold out performance) but for myself, just in case -- as they say on Law and Order -- I need something to 'refresh my memory' in the months and years to come. It was freezing that night, I was rushed, and didn't think to take any pictures of myself. Sorry again. But you know what I look like. And as you can see, Leonard is wearing a hat, so he can be my proxy. (The opening photo is kind of cheating - my take on Leonard, but not taken the night of the show.)

Shelley noted in her blog that Cohen got down on his knees on several occasions, and he did the same at Madison Square Garden. That little tiny figure above in the spotlight is him, kneeling. How cool is that? How many 78 year old performers stay on key, remember all their lines, give a three hour performance, get down on their knees ten times or more, and then take their encores by skipping out onto the stage and back? [Speaking of remembering lines, did you know that the fabulous Dusty Springfield kept crib notes on her arms?  Oops. Digressing again.] Soooo much more that I could say, but the IFs have made a pact to shorten our Wednesday posts. This one kinda doesn't count, since the concert was before the new year, but from now on, we will try to live by the words brevity is the soul of wit, and a picture is worth a thousand words!

Here's the play list. If you don't have the albums, do look up the words, now that we can do that on line. When you see a title like A Thousand Kisses Deep, how can you not want to know the rest?
1. Dance Me to the End of Love
2. The Future
3. Bird on the Wire
4. Everybody Knows
5. Who by Fire
6. Darkness
7. Ain't No Cure for Love
8. Amen
9. Come Healing
10. In My Secret Life
11. A Thousand Kisses Deep (Recitation)
12. Anthem
13. Second Set
14. Tower of Song
15. Suzanne
16. Chelsea Hotel #2
17. Waiting for the Miracle
18. Show Me the Place
19. Lover Lover Lover
20. Democracy
21. Alexandra Leaving (performed by Sharon Robinson)
22. I'm Your Man
22. Hallelujah
23. Take This Waltz
Encore #1:
24. So Long, Marianne
25. Going Home
26. First We Take Manhattan
Encore #2:
27. Famous Blue Raincoat
28. If It Be Your Will (performed by the Webb sisters)
29. Closing Time

Oh, did you want to know about the &*$%@# tinnitus thing? Yes, my ears rang for days afterward. But I can't blame the music. I was fine right up till the end. It was the thunderous standing ovation that did me in.


  1. I love Cohen. I wish I could see him in concert.

  2. I am so glad you got to see Leonard perform live, and that my blog post was the catalyst for the experience!! This would be an example of networking at its finest. Thanks for linking to my post - I noticed that I had more traffic to that one today.

  3. OK Valerie. The photo of you is quite extraordinary and should be framed!

    Great review of the Leonard Cohen performance. Between you and Shelley, I feel like I have seen him by proxy.

    You and Jean have taken in two great live music performances recently, which is motivating me to check out what's coming to Denver in the next few months.

  4. I'm Canadian and we LOVE Leonard up here--I'm glad you love him down there, too!
    jill in Ontario