Friday, August 6, 2010

Leonard Cohen in Lissadell House, Sligo

“The curate has called this exhibition
Drawn to Words.
I call my work
Acceptable Decorations.” (Leonard Cohen)

I have, in the past, fallen into the group that would refer to Leonard Cohen as depressing. But after spending three and a half hours at Lissadell House watching and listening to him, his band and an audience of 10,000, I see him in a very different light.

Honest, hard working, creative, wise, energetic, and true are the words I would use to describe him now. His stage presence is up there with the greats. He needs no fanfare, no bells and whistles, no distractions; When Leonard Cohen comes on stage his performance engages and engulfs the audience.

This seventy-five year old Canadian performs for 3 and half hours with a fifteen minute break and gives it his all. His opening words were so honest, “Thank you friends for coming out tonight and because you did we want to be sure to give you everything.”

The backdrop to the stage was a simple curtain with two hearts entwined in each other. The singers and musicians were dressed simply in black suits with little variation in their shirts and blouses. Leonard wore a fedora for most of the night and at times removed it to reveal a graying humble and powerful countenance.

While he reveals himself wholly to us I feel a sense of transparency fall over the crowd. Perhaps each individual is remembering that time is moving on and they’ve “known” Leonard for longer than they might care to remember. But his honesty on stage brings honesty to the crowd and a sense of acceptance and wise recognition that the passage of time is palpable.
“The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be.” (Leonard Cohen)

After all, it takes time and living to have a body of songs and poetry like his and time creates beauty and it takes it away. The body of work grows and becomes immortal while the human body fades into mortality. Cohen appreciates this but somehow it is o.k.

One woman in the crowd in front of me said, “Oh, I wish I could go up there and give him a hug.” Referring to us 10,000 concert-goers as friends many, many times from his simple stage put us at ease and on the same level as himself. That was the message – we’re all in it together and I’m with you tonight as you have chosen to be with me.

For now, Leonard Cohen lives and he is anything but depressing when he skips (literally) on and off stage, and says “thank you friends.”