Sunday, December 12, 2010

Unified Heart Touring Company Show - Portland, OR Dec. 8th 2010

To put it in context....Leonard Cohen is an artist that has fans from all corners of the world and has since the 1960's....who have never seen him in concert. His tours, like his albums have been relatively few, given the years he's been in the business.

Until one year ago I had never seen him in person after 16 years of being a devoted fan. Sitting next to us at the Portland concert a few nights ago was a delightful lady who had been a fan since the 1960's, and the Portland show was her first live performance.

Thus you will understand that the intensity of the typical Cohen fan reaches a level that is far from common. Indeed, for those of us that crave his blend of tragedy, beauty and sensuality, delivered with unfaltering eloquence, the experience must be comparable to witnessing a living prophet. In any case that's how the fans treat it.

As for the performance is marked by extreme professionalism. The musicians are all brilliant in their own right. Their cohesion is perfect as far as I can tell. Leonard's grace, humility and playfulness engages the audience and reinforces their love for him. This, because of and despite the fact that the show is rigorously rehearsed.

To see and hear Javier Mas introduce "Who By Fire" with a virtuosic 1-3 minutes on the archilaud, it feels as though you're watching Picasso paint a masterpiece, or listening to Coelho's "language of the world" or having a balm applied directly to the chapped parts of your soul.
The crowd couldn't contain themselves and repeatedly started applauding before the solo was complete.

Cohen himself brilliantly delivered his ludicrously long set with aplomb, ensuring that the cadence of his delivery was just different enough from his albums to keep a fan like myself hungrily attentive for any new meanings that the altered emphasis might suggest.

As you might expect for a 76 year-old, his voice isn't always resonant. However, I was amazed at how resonant it was in a great many places where it was especially important. And it goes without saying that the lyrics retain all their spiritual and philosophical resonance.

A bit over a year ago Cohen introduced a new song into his repertoire called "The Darkness", which is particularly delightful both because of it's surging, rocking, rumbling guitar notes as well as it's darkly humorous lyrics. In it he says: "I caught the darkness, drinking from your cup, I said 'Is this contagious?', you said 'Just drink it up.'" His delivery is superb and you find yourself chuckling and slightly apprehensive at the same time.

Cohen is that rarest of breed who manage to marry uncompromising art with celebrity within his lifetime. There is no doubt in my mind that his songs will stand the test of time and continue to delight and inspire musicians and music fans for decades and even centuries. To see him in person was a great privilege and one that I will savor as long as memory allows.

He has announced plans to record a new album in 2011, which I am thoroughly excited for.