Wish I’d Been There

Leonard Cohen gave his first US concert in 15 years the other night down in New York. I don't really go to concerts any more, but this is one I'd have tried to go to if I had been just a bit closer. (Cohen will be up this way, in Ottawa in late May, but I'll be in Vietnam.) Anyway, I've been a fan for many years -- Cohen writes great songs and performs them with a hint of self-deprecation that I find very attractive. Like his fellow Canadian Neil Young, Cohen can write the occasional rhyme so awful that it's unintentionally funny and he can be bathetic on occasion, but his best songs imply narratives or settings without fully specifying them in a way that is genuinely mysterious. There is also a kind of existential joy in the midst of Cohen's usual gloom that creats a satisfying sense of irony in his work. NPR is going to make some of the songs from the concert available starting today -- I'll have to be satisfied with that. __________________ *Neil Young is much the worse offender in this regard, but rock is more forgiving than Cohen's folk / cabaret mode, which puts more emphasis on the words.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

3 thoughts on “Wish I’d Been There”

  1. I saw him in Zurich in October and it was one of the greatest concerts I have ever seen!

    (I saw Neil in Zurich in August and he was his usual brilliant self; his electric-guitar playing continues to develop more nuances with every passing year.)

  2. Cohen is going to be at the Arts Center, which would be a great venue. I saw Neil Young, must have been ten years ago, in Ottawa in a sports arena and it was a great show anyway, with Crazy Horse, though it may be why I have tinnitus in my left ear! Those guys play loud.

  3. I’ve seen Crazy Horse five or six times, including a show in Philly during the first Gulf War in 1991, with Sonic Youth opening. You’d think SY would have been as loud as CH, but no, the sound guy did not turn SY up as loud!

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