Beholden to Leonard Cohen for letting us reconnect with some real heart
From: The Courier-Mail
November 15, 2010 12:27PM
Real heart and soul . . .Leonard Cohen at his concert in Brisbane. Photo Adam Armstrong.
Picture: Adam Armstrong Source: The Courier-Mail
THE heart of Saturday night is a hell of a place to find but well worth the journey.
It's hearing a lyric and thinking: "I know how that used to feel." It's seeing a piece of theatre and being so moved, your breathing changes. It's watching dance and getting lost, everything else in the universe forgotten. It's being reminded of things that used to make your heart race.
It can be transformative. But first there is the traffic jam. And the long hard day. And the headache. And the screaming kids. And the bills and unfinished paperwork. And the fuel light's just come on. And, you are kidding! The touch carnival is where? At what time? Great big slabs of real life get in the way of finding the heart of Saturday night.
The heart of Saturday night is remembering what makes you tick, what moves you, what made you fall in love, what made you cry.
You might be 40 years down the track or have two marriages under your belt or a string of loves and losses but there are still stirrings and inklings. You're not dead yet.
Is there no better way of remembering your reckless ways and lost loves and late discoveries than listening to the dense, glorious lyrics and rough baritone of gentlemanly singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen?
He passed this way early last year on his sell-out Australian tour.
I saw him in a Victorian vineyard under a cold, navy winter's sky, full of wine, and have never witnessed a crowd so entranced.
I then saw him again in Brisbane.
I don't believe in revisiting. Motto: Never go back. Some people try to recreate a situation because it was wonderful the first time. I'm all for letting sleeping dogs lie. A perfect concert should be left alone as a perfect memory.
So what am I doing in that long line of traffic, with red brake lights winking all the way to the barn of an entertainment centre on Saturday night with 10,000 other people?
Right before the concert, panic sets in. This is doomed. It can only be a disappointment. Surely, nothing can top the previous show sitting in the long dusk, his first on Australian soil in more than 20 years. This time I was tired, cranky, with plenty of work to do at home. This is a mistake. You should never, ever go back.
Good concerts don't have to be perfect. They can be flawed. The first half of Rufus Wainwright's concert in Brisbane recently was perhaps pretentious, if you consider requests for no applause throughout the first half plus a cape the length of a road-train like some mourning dress pretentious. And his diction was dodgy and the songs' beautiful misery too similar.
But the second half was sensational, right through to Walking Song, the Kate and Anna McGarrigle song from the 1970s written by his mother about his father, Loudon Wainwright III. Flawed yes, fabulous yes.
We turn up for concerts and theatre and events in our lives in all kinds of shonky conditions, with headaches and heartaches, tired and stressed, wondering: "Why aren't I at home with a quiet whisky and Peter Temple novel." The traffic has ticked us off or we've fought with the husband or wife on the way there. That's just the minutiae of life, the sediment of the daily grind. So, you need to shake yourself like a mongrel dog ridding itself of annoying fleas before taking your seats.
On Saturday night, I shake myself free and adjust my thinking. Don't worry about what's come before or what's after. Surrender yourself. The 76-year-old man in an immaculate suit skips on, takes his place with nine fine musicians and turns a rock arena into a cathedral.
All Cohen fans have Kelley Lynch to thank. His former flame and trusted manager allegedly depleted Cohen's accounts of $7 million, almost all his savings, leaving him with $150,000 and propelling him into incessant work of touring.
Oh, but what work! His world tour has floored the critics, won him a generation of younger fans and brought the artist the busiest time of his career. He looks rejuvenated by the work. The man next to me cannot work out how Cohen is so nimble, getting down on one knee or two and simply popping up again, with NO grip rail or groans, throughout the show.
The queue at halftime for the male toilets, for once in concert land, was longer than the females. "All our old prostates," a male near me said, before recalling the Cohen lyric: "I ache in the places where I used to play."
It was one of the most diverse crowds I've seen at a concert (apart from the Zimmer-framed man in skinny black jeans at Bob Dylan's show). There were plenty of 20-somethings there, too.
Cohen's songs appeal because they tell us failure is all right, it is human, but redemption is possible. They are songs that suggests it is enough just to have lived. They are songs at the very heart of Saturday night.
The heart of Saturday night is that part of you that is alive, that stirs you, that sustains you, the bit you can't explain, the mystery.
It doesn't have to be $200 premium entertainment centre tickets. I've paid $18 to see Canadian (what is it about these Canadians?) Serena Ryder play a football club in West End and remind us all why life's worth living.
Several people text me after Cohen: Best Concert Ever. One man I know cried at Cohen's spoken word A Thousand Kisses Deep. I liked him a little bit more for that.
There was a woman two seats in front of me, white-haired, wrinkles, easily 80. Hope I'm heading out the door on a Saturday night to hear someone express thoughts as beautiful in my eighth decade.
Can we go back? Should we go back? Can we repeat something that good? Before Saturday night I would have said, forget it, baby. But, be damned, we can. Anything can happen when we go looking for the heart of Saturday night.