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A Concert-Goer's Perspective On Leonard Cohen's Priestly Blessings At The Tel Aviv Concert
September 26th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen And The Jerusalem Gypsy Meet In Tel Aviv
While perhaps not the most elegant or lyrical account of the Leonard Cohen Tel Aviv Concert, The High Priest, a post by Jerusalem Gypsy in the Jerusalem Wanderings blog may prove to be my favorite.
Jerusalem Gypsy, you see, admires Leonard Cohen and acknowledges that he is, indeed, The Man, but JG is not, as she points out, “a total fanatic.” And, although she seems confident of Cohen’s abilities, she is not willing to automatically cede her approval. She is attending the concert to watch Cohen perform, not to pay homage.
I also appreciate the details she provides about the setting and her admirably idiosyncratic responses to them. I’ve read reviews from the Jerusalem Post and Bloomberg.com, Cohen Defies Critics With Israeli Gig from The Independent, Yonat Frilling’s moving testimonial, and too many other descriptions and analyses of the Tel Aviv concert, but only Jerusalem Gypsy reports sacrificing the hot dog with sauerkraut to go she craved because she “decided [she would] rather starve than miss buses [to the concert].”
And certainly no other reviewer was willing to dedicate a paragraph to (justifiably, one perceives) defaming the bank that was willing to sponsor the concert and provide a gift bag to members of the audience but unwilling to refinance JG’s house loan.
This is a woman to whom I can relate. She is eager to attend the concert but she first has to finish her work because
The worst thing would be for me to come back to work on Tuesday, after the Yom Kippur vacation, to a mountain of shit on my desk.
Other folks, no doubt, are awaiting the start of the concert pondering the socio-political implications of Cohen’s show on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or contemplating the subtle shift in the cosmic consciousness Cohen’s songs would trigger that night. Jerusalem Gypsy, however, is locked on exactly the same issue on which I would have focused:
My first thought, as the concert began, was – am I going to feel that the concert was worth the 800 shekels I spent? [emphasis mine]
All that makes Jerusalem Gypsy’s record of her concert experience splendidly personal and her reaction to the concert, especially to the blessings at the end of the performance more moving to me than the most exquisitely written reports from others.
Excerpts follow, but the entire post is worth reading at The High Priest:
I kept on telling everyone at work for the entire week that on Thursday I had a meeting with the Jewish High Priest – the Cohen Gadol, the Priest of Priests. I managed to snag an expensive ticket to Leonard Cohen’s performance last night and I was sure the High Priest would bless his audience. I thought about it for quite a number of days – about what a great idea that would be for him to give the priestly blessing to an audience of 47,000.
I was awash in day dreams throughout the day, wishing I was his spiritual tour guide while he was in the country. …
… although I really like Leonard Cohen’s music, I am not a total fanatic, I don’t know the words to all of his songs. …
We all got off [the bus at] the next stop and had about 25 minutes before the concert starts. Leonard is known for being punctual. When we finally got to the stadium, the lines in front of the gates were frightening. Hundreds of people had yet to get into their gate. No one seemed as frantic as I. I went over to gate 10. There was nobody at the gate. It must have been a gate of people who had all come early. The guy looked at my ticket to see if it was a forgery or if it was real. It was real. Thank God it was real because I didn’t want to have to kill the guy who sold it to me, which was fine, because I ended up sitting right next to him and his girlfriend.
The concert began one minute after I got to my seat. There was a Bank Discount green bag on my seat, and I thought for a moment that someone had taken my spot. But I saw those green bags everywhere. That’s the least that stupid bank can do. I tried for two years to get refinancing on a loan where they were charging me 12% interest. They wouldn’t hear of it. So I changed banks. But I’ll take the green insulated bag – thank you. Fuckers.
My first thoughts, as the concert began, was – am I going to feel that the concert was worth the 800 shekels I spent? For one, my seats were fabulous. I sat around 30 rows back and only 2 rows up from the floor. I saw the stage clearly, but if I wanted to see Leonard’s expressions, I had to look at the screen. The same guy who did Leonard’s poetry reading in Hebrew in Jerusalem, had his translations of the lyrics shown as subtitles on the screen. I hope he got to meet the Man for his efforts. The Jerusalem Post’s review mirrored the same emotions/reactions/feelings I had about this concert. I knew about 80% of his songs, and I sang along to the ones I knew. I took some photos (to be posted tomorrow) and one video. And I wondered how this man could get everything so perfect – from the simple stage backdrop of flowing chiffon-like curtains, using only different colored lighting for the stage, which didn’t annoy the crap out of me because the lighting changes were slow and elegant, just like the entire performance. Leonard’s voice was perfect. The band was incredible. He was incredible. The audience was great. Noisy when it had to be, yet when he spoke, you could hear a pin drop. Everything was incredible. So, yes, it was worth the fortune I spent.
I loved the version of Who By Fire (or is the song called “who shall I say is calling?”) – probably one of the evenings favorites of mine. The Spanish guitarist/lute player, or whatever that instrument is, was amazing. Cohen gave so many encores, I lost count. I felt tears running down my cheeks by the end.
We must have been on the same wavelength somehow, either that, or I am psychic as all hell, because at the very end, right before he left the stage, he stood at the microphone with his hands up the way Jewish priests bless the people, and Leonard Cohen, the High Priest, blessed the audience in Hebrew with the ancient priestly blessing – “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”
And this is the video of that tear-evoking priestly blessing.
Leonard Cohen – Whither Thou Goest & Blessings (Tel Aviv, 9/24/2009)
Video by MajorTom2oo1