Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

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Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by goldstei » Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:00 am

Well, this is probably a very foolish thing to do and I'll probably regret it in the morning, but we all like to compare things, right (romantic interests, colleges, cities, football teams, the beauty of our cats, etc), and since I've seen all of these artists recently (save for the Stones, will explain in it a minute), I thought I'd give it a shot. But I'll give away the bottom line at the top:
I've seen Leonard four times (recently) and have tickets to four more shows (none near where I live); I've seen Bruce twice recently and am going twice more; I saw Van a month ago and once about 30 years ago, but don't have any strong drive to see him again' I've seen Dylan twice in the last five or so years and maybe five times in my life, and you'd have to pay me major money before I'd ever go again; and, on November 15, 1969, the day the Stones were playing Champaign-Urbana, where I was then living (U. of Illinois), I chose instead to attend the anti-war "moratorium" mass demonstration in Washington, and have never had a shot at seeing the Stones again, so, in retrospect, especially as Nixon kept the country at war for another five years, I wish I had stayed and gone to see the Stones. Clearly, at least at their peaks (which in my view Dylan departed from about 30 years ago) these are all/have been great, great artists, but the numbers above sum up their overall present standing in my mind (although if the assessment was based on overall career rather than recent stuff, and especially recent concert appearances, Dylan would certainly rank higher, probably right up there with Leonard, but I'd still give Leonard the nod for extended amazing achievement and also for variety of incredible artistic works).

Some categories, based on recent concerts I've attended (concert films in the case of the Stones):

Overall enthusiasm, appreciation of audience response and obvious enjoyment while performing:

I'd put Leonard and Bruce in a tie, with the Stones slightly behind, Van trailing badly, Dylan off the stage. Leonard and Bruce clearly really get off while performing, although certainly Leonard shows it in a much more restrained way. But I have no doubt that these concerts and the deserved crowd adulation have been really good for him. Jagger and Richards, especially the latter, seem to also real enjoy performing, tho they're a bit more encased in a protective cocoon; Jagger comes across as amazingly normal under the insane circumstances he's had to deal with and Richards comes across as very authentic--others would look like fakers/poseurs in his outrageous get-ups, but he looks very natural. Van the Man has no audience interaction at all, doesn't even acknowledge applause and, at his recent D.C. concert, swore at his stage crew and stopped after about 90 minutes at most. Dylan seems to have contempt for his fans, perhaps out of boredom butchers his songs via weird arrangements to the point that they're often literally unrecognizable; according to friends who attended a recent concert near me (I'd had enuf!), he performed half the concert with his back to the audience. Even as far back as the movie "Don't Look Back" he came across as a jerk from a personal standpoint, although, as mentioned above, in terms of his creative gifts in his early career I'd have to rank up close to Leonard, maybe even, but I'm too pissed off!

Giving it one's all:

pretty much the same as above

Quality of performance:

Van ranks higher here--his concert was very good in terms of quality, he just either doesn't care about the audience or has adopted this as a public posture. Dylan's recent performances really sucked.

Egotism: Leonard is incredibly, modestly, graciously, humble. I think he's told himself that he's a vessel, that his gift flows through rather than from him, and I think this has helped him enormously in coping with his gifts in a healthy way. Springsteen and the Stones are clearly much more outwardly egotistical, but not in an offensive way. Springsteen does stuff like inviting young folks up to the stage to sing and dance with him, sometimes seems to walk through the audience (couldn't quite tell from my bad Chicago seat--maybe he was on a walkway) and I think has sometimes let audiences physically hold him up, all somewhat, at the same time, endearing, stunt-like, dangerous, egotistical, impressive. The Stones are sort of inbetween Bruce and Leonard here; Van and Dylan are puzzles on this count.

Overall concert experience:

Leonard's performances have not only been of extraordinary artistic merit but have had a mystical, quasi-holy, quasi-religious aspect in a way that none of the other performers approach. Many, many people (including myself) find themselves crying from awe and joy at his concerts. His generosity to his fellow musicians and overt appreciation for the crowd responses have been awesome. In short, his concerts have just been amazing.

Springsteen's concerts are terrifically enjoyable, although the noise level is very high and sometimes it's hard to make out his voice. Unlike at Leonard's concerts, probably few atheists would find themselves wondering if maybe there's a God afterall upon attending a Springsteen concert. In short, he's not a miracle worker, but his concerts rank at the very top rock n' roll experiences on the planet. I'd pretty much rank the Stones the same--and would go to a lot of trouble to see them the next time they tour. I like Jagger and Richards a bit more than I like Bruce, something to do with the ego question.

Van is a great talent, but his concert performances are too detached for my taste and have drawn a lot of criticism for his total detachment.

In my view, Dylan has always been a jerk, but he was once a jerk with amazing talent as a songwriter and performer. Something major has just gone from him, maybe a combination of expectations too high and impossible to fulfill, maybe a bit of loss of contact with reality derived from his fame. I don't know. I once played his music incessantly, but it's been a long time now.

Comments are welcome! Just don't throw bricks thru my computer screen if you disagree, as of course, is bound to be the case!
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by John Etherington » Sun Sep 27, 2009 4:55 pm

Hi goldstei,

Seems you've got things pretty well sussed, here. Here's my take on the artists under consideration:

Rolling Stones: Great band when Brian Jones or Mick Taylor were present, both live and musically. I have all of their Sixties/early Seventies stuff. Best albums Aftermath and Beggar's Banquet through to Exile on Main Street. Since then, largely self-parody. I've only seen them live four times.

Van Morrison: Great musically until the late 80s, then increasingly boring after he started whinging on about privacy and fame. His music and live performances reached a spiritual peak during the Eighties, especially with Beautiful Vision, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, and Poetic Champions Compose. Since then, I've found his attitude to the business and fans so off-putting than I've mostly ignored him.

Bob Dylan: I've bought every official record release (with the exception of the tripleTell Tale Signs). He's consistently interesting musically with a few turkeys. Greatest albums include Love and Theft, and I like Together Through life. Best live concerts I've seen were late Seventies, late Eighties, and early Nineties. With the exception of Wembley 2007, I haven't really enjoyed any of his live concerts since he started playing the keyboards, instead of guitar. I'd still go and see Dylan once on a UK tour, and have seen him live about 35 times. Dylan has always been a "boy on the run" and doesn't seem to know how to relate to people, honestly. His attitude to fans is pretty insulting, but of course many of them lap it up. This can still be entertaining, though!

Bruce Springsteen: I bought Greetings From Asbury Park at the time of its release, and then bought The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street shuffle on import. I've bought almost all of hs albums, but haven't got round to buying the latest yet (probably because I get so sick of seeing it forever at the top of Other Music!). I've only seen Bruce live a few times - very first ever London concert, Independence Day 1985 concert; Earls Court Nineties, and Emirates 2008. Didn't particularly enjoy the latter because I'm not keen on stadium gigs. Saw Glastonbury on TV and thought Bruce was great. Really nice guy, too.

Leonard - totally consistent live and musically (though of course his recorded output is less than the others mentioned here). Naturally I've got all of his official albums and books and have seen him live 22 times including every UK tour from and includng 1970, plus Isle of Wight. A truly great human being.

All good things John E

P.S. My favourite rock band were Arthur Lee and Love. I saw them live 19 times between 2002-2005. The other greatest musical genius for me is Brian Wilson, who I've seen live 36 times since 2002. His wonderful band includes the beautiful Taylor Mills, who I could imagine singing in Leonard's band. The BW band are the only band whose musical excellence I would compare to Leonard's band. Their concerts are also a spiritual experience. Love and BW were largely responsible for my near-bankruptcy. If only Leonard had made his comeback sooner I may have seen him more than six times since his comeback.
Last edited by John Etherington on Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:35 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by AvidCohenFan » Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:41 pm

I don't think Dylan is a jerk
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by cohenadmirer » Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:12 pm

OK These are all great artists , for me it's betwen dylan and leonard, but the reality is they are different and comarison is invidious. i saw the premiere of the leonard iow dvd last week in barcelona , and was interested that joan baez said of leonard's work almost exactly what she said of dylan's in 'no direction home'- that the work affects people at a deep and personal level . That's what distimguishes these 2 in my view from the other artists .

I've seen Dylan welll over 25 times from 1978 to 2009, and it is certainly true that his attitude to performance is quite different from leonards . it is an attitude of reinvention - His performances of any given song can vary greatly . To appreciate a dylan concert the attitude needs to be one of expecting and embracing the unexpected . an openess to change and ' newness'. with leonard you expect and get thoroughly rehearsed excellence.

having said that i've seen leonard 7 times , and of all the concerts i've ever been to by anyone the one in barcelona on his 75th birthday is the best concert experience i've ever had.......that's down to many things including the surrounding forum events

i'm a huge dylan fan , but am unsure whether i still want him to be touring when he's 75 !

Leonard's work resonates
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by Carmen » Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:25 pm

Excellent idea - and an excellent post, Goldstei.

I am sure it will prompt a great deal of comments here - on the highs and lows of fame, for instance, or on the "idol-fans" relationship in all cases.

Personally, I loved both Cohen and Dylan in the 80s, but always felt closer to Leonard (which is still the case, of course) ever since I was 15. I have always preferred the Stones to the Beatles (maybe because I was very young, they were the "bad boys" and my boyfriend at that time looked very much like Mick Jagger). Never too keen on Van (though I admit he is very good), yet temporarily enthusiastic for Bruce in the 1990 (true enough, I did not have a chance to listen to his music too often before the 1990s, unfortunately...).
But I would heartily go to the concerts of all of the above, if I had a chance - even to hear Dylan's (now) worn out voice, in memory of "Blowing in the Wind", for instance.

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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by John Etherington » Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:15 pm

Hi Carmen,

You're dead right when you say the "memory of "Blowin' in the Wind". At the Roundhouse earlier this year, Dylan was three quarters of the way through the song before I recognized it. Dylan used to re-invent his old songs, but these days he just likes to play boogie music using the same lyrics!

All good wishes, John E
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by kirb42 » Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:45 am

Guys I’m not trying to cut this debate short, but in my humble opinion, there is more than music going on with Leonard, if not from me, someone eventually on this forum was going to point this out…. the other musicians, while specially talented, don’t compare to Leonard, the longer and closer you get to Leonard, and the penny will finally drop, your climbing a pyramid, it becomes almost a way of life, a code of practice for all…. humanity, love and hate, laughter and tears, the whole shebang……to quote Dylan…
With God On Our Side… In my heart I could relate this comment to Leonard, for the life of me I can see no comparison…. As an Irish man I’m glad to see Van the man in the comparison line up, he apparently has soul…. Dylan is a masterful songsmith, But Leonard and only Leonard has God on his side………..
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by goldstei » Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:25 am

Hi Kirb42,

Of course Dylan used this phrase very sarcastically. I'm sure you don't mean in that way at all. My guess is that Cohen would feel very ambiguous about this idea, because, on the one hand, I do think he's decided he's a vessel and not the origin, and this has allowed him to keep his mental balance (if I'm right), on the other, the very humility which this allows him would hardly allow him to make such a claim. It certainly does seem like Cohen is tapping into something that is beyond most of the rest of us, however, which is why in my original comment I mentioned that attending his concerts makes even hard-boiled atheists (like myself) pause and wonder. Wherever it comes from, his powers, and especially these amazing concerts, have certainly been a source for joy and awe. I'm happy to just bathe in the stream without wondering too much about exactly where the water is coming from. Thanks for all the comments!

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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by Diane » Tue Sep 29, 2009 9:45 am

John Etherington wrote:haven't got round to buying the latest yet (probably because I get so sick of seeing it forever at the top of Other Music!).

A piece of advice for John Etherington, the man who has been to more music concerts than I've had hot dinners, and has impressive and encyclopaedic knowledge of Leonard Cohen: You should just pass over the things you don't like! It will be interesting to hear your opinion of Working on a Dream, should you eventually get hold of it :razz: . I only saw this thread because you mentioned it yesterday in News.

I too think it is fruitless to compare. Each artist you enjoy taps into different aspects yourself.

Van Morrison. I once listened a quite bit to him, esp. Astral Weeks and No Guru no Method no Teacher. Some of his lyrics and tunes are very good and I am glad to have seen him once but wouldn't go out of my way to see him again because I don't think he has much stage presence.

The Rolling Stones. I saw them on their last tour in 2006 or 7 in Cardiff for the first and only time. I thought they were OK, but it seemed a bit like they were just going through the motions. The visual aspect was impressive, with the stage moving around the stadium. But I had a rubbish seat from a touting agency (I don't like being confined to a seat at a rock concert) and was sitting next to a drunken mob. People I know who were down on the pitch thought it was fantastic. (Far better, imo, than the Stones if we are talking legendary rock groups, are Queen, who tour now with Paul Rodgers as singer.)

Bob Dylan I saw once, didn't understand a word he mumbled, didn't think he had any presence, almost never listen to his music, but do appreciate many of his songs, lyrically.

I have seen Leonard six times on this tour (plus once in mid eighties). I would have spread out my concerts more had I known in advance how long he would be touring, but didn't feel the need to see him more than six times, especially as the set-list didn't vary much (would have loved to have made Barcelona, though). Five of the six were outdoor concerts, which had a far better atmosphere than the indoor one, imho. Seeing Leonard Cohen live is, as someone said to me after the Cardiff concert, like going to a place of worship. He is a spiritual person who has confronted himself deeply over many years to become what he is and to create songs from the raw material. So, he projects something very special and unusual. I thought he was outstandingly good, and especially in Dublin and The Big Chill festival. I come away from his concerts feeling that he has echoed my own deepest sorrows, and that I am restored by this. At moments he lifts me right out of myself.

Bruce Springsteen I calculate I have seen twelve times in total including twice this year, and starting in 1985. (There was a time when he used to tour every four years. Currently it's yearly.) He doesn't confine himself to stadium-type gigs remember, and some of his output is more folk/acoustic than rock, so only comparing recent gigs doesn't necessarily give the best comparison, if you insist on making a comparison, with LC. Like Leonard Cohen he is a genuine person, and like Leonard Cohen, penetrating honesty goes into his songs. I always come away from his concerts on an absolute high, feeling that he has completely taken me somewhere I want to be, and that I have experienced the best that rock n roll has to offer - so I'm agreeing with you there Goldstei. (The only slight exception to that was last year in the Emirates Stadium London, which had some peculiar sound problems going on for half the gig.) The concert I saw of Bruce's on the Seeger Sessions Tour was at least as good as the best Leonard concert I saw, because the musicianship of the band as a whole was so powerful and uplifting.

If for the sake of argument you divide music into lyrics/vocals and accompanying music, musically, Bruce and The E Street Band (and the Seeger Sessions Band), win hands down, no contest, in my opinion. Bruce also writes very good lyrics, many of which speak to me more exactly than some of Leonard Cohen's (yes, they do). Leonard is a poet and a spiritual teacher. I don't think either of them would want to claim the other's territory, although they do obviously overlap into each other's territory. It's definitely not true that Springsteen doesn't affect people at a deep and personal level! Many of his songs are not as simple as they seem, and that's part of his genius. I could write a lot more but I already go on about Bruce far too much on this forum I'm sure 8) .

You mention that you think Bruce has a big ego. I don't think so. I think he has a healthy sense of himself, particularly considering his fame and wealth. He has been consistent in his empathy with the common man's struggles in his lyrics and in his life generally. He plays up the rock star act in concert, including plenty of audience interaction, because that's what people are there for, and he is extremely good at what he does, same as Leonard.

I don't 'idolise' Cohen or Springsteen, but I admire them both greatly.

Goldstei, I think it is possible for you to recognise spirituality (in Leonard or elsewhere) without necessarily believing in a supernatural God. Ask for example Albert Einstein, J Krishnamurti, The Buddha.

Anyway, I only came into this thread to have a word with John Etherington:-)
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by John Etherington » Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:50 am

Hi Diane,

I knew that line would drag you into this discussion! You're reasoning seems pretty sound, and I suspect you've saved a lot of unecessary expense through considered concert choices. I was offered a ticket for the Seeger sessions tour at Hammersmith Odeon, and I really wish I'd accepted it, now. I really enjoyed seeing the concert on TV, and bought The American Land edition of the CD (somewhat belatedly). The only track I've heard from "Working on a Dream" is "Outlaw Pete" which soudned a bit odd with that synthesized backing. How do you rate the album? (I can't be bothered to read the whole of that other thread!). My least favourite Bruce album is "Human Touch" apart from the title track, though I like "Lucky Town". I've never bought "Nebraska" though I have a chunk of it on the live triple. I've also never bought "Tom Joad" though I like the track that sounds like a slowed down version of "Love Minus Zero". I found "Devils and Dust" a bit of a downer, but liked one very Dylanesque track. My favourite low-key Bruce album is "Tunnel of Love" (an underrated gem).

That's all for now... God is alive, magic is afoot, John E x
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by Diane » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:50 am

I saw Seeger Sessions at the NEC, was fairly near the front and was amazed by it. On the way to the concert I remember wondering why I was driving all the way to Birmingham to hear Bruce sing a bunch of old folk tunes. I love it when I believe I won't like something but give it a go anyway and find something spectacular. I hope he does another similar project.

Working on a Dream will probably grow on me in time. Haven't listened a great deal yet. It's a mix of musical styles. My hunch is that you would like it, John, because there are a few Brian Wilson 60's type tunes. Outlaw Pete I originally thought I would grow to like a lot but no the music doesn't work very well (although it was OK live) and maybe he will do an acoustic, or at least a less musically overblown, version at some point. My fave tracks on the album are The Last Carnival, Life Itself and Good Eye. Most of it's OK except the title track - maybe because he wrote that song for the US election campaign he wrote it to be particularly radio-friendly and bland or something, I don't know, but that's the only real dud on the cd imo.

On Human Touch, listen again to Soul Driver, that's a great song, and Bruce gives it a very nice bluesy edge on in concert MTV plugged outtake not available on any official release but on youtube. I personally also like the title track, and With Every Wish. Tunnel of Love good album yes, with Brilliant Disguise the top track. I'm no expert on Tom Joad and tune out after the first track although one day I am determined I will listen to it properly because Kush rates it highly. Youngstown from Ghost of TJ is a concert staple and I have grown to like that. Devils and Dust is an excellent album imo, all of it. Which is the Dylanesque track? Black Cowboys? You don't mention The Rising (from the relatively recent albums that you do mention). That too is an excellent album. Also highly reccomend Hammersmith Odeon 1975 Live album, capturing Bruce and the E Street's glory days, which I have listened to tonight.

Please do pop into the thread in Other Music if and when you get the new album. We won't make you go back to the start and read it all! Much of it is us chatting about nothing to do with Bruce. I will write a letter to Jarkko asking him to create a new section entitled "Music with everything else thrown in", so that the thread can be moved there.

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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by Parsifal » Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:00 am

Leonard Cohen: I've been a fan since I was 17 - saw him live for the first time this year. He didn't disappoint - but does he ever? He may be a poet and a thinker but when he hits that stage, he's a showman, first and foremost: he's there to entertain an audience and send them out smiling. That's his job and he and his band do it superlatively well.

Dylan: often compared to Cohen, but could hardly be different as a live performer. Only seen him live once (on his dodgy tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) - on the basis of that, would never see him again. He came across as a shambling, graceless amateur. A shame, as his best records are undeniably great.

Springsteen: I was a fan in the mid-eighties, but he no longer does it for me. I like his early work, but find it very derivative (of Dylan, among others). I'll concede he gives a great live show, but there's always a faint whiff of the Superbowl about what he does: it's not for me. But I've never attended a concert, so will bow to those who have.

Stones: in terms of attitude, the most sophisticated rock and roll band ever. They have a real devil's stench about them, which is part of their appeal, I suppose. They were good with Brian Jones and great with Mick Taylor, but only variable with Ron Wood. Never seen them live, and probably never will.

Van Morrison: strange to report, but the one time I saw him, he was excellent and seemed to be in a great mood. Having said that, I wouldn't rate any more than 20% of his total output and he suffers from Neil Younitis (he records far too much and releases too much of what he records). Judging from recent reports, I wouldn't bother with the current Van concert experience.
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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by John Etherington » Fri Oct 02, 2009 11:45 pm

Diane: Thanks for your Bruce suggestions. The Brian Wilson comparison sounds probably know that Bruce came onstage with Brian for a few numbers in the States a year or two back. My personal favourite on "Tunnel of Love" is "Cautious Man". I bought "The Rising" and it totally blew me away the first time I heard it. Then strangely, on second play it didn't do much for me. It's probably too late to really get into it now?

Parsifal: I saw the Dylan-Petty tour. Dylan was truly shambolic on that. Petty and McGuinn far out-shone him (definitely the weirdest Dylan gig I've ever seen). I think you underestimate Van's output. He was pretty consistent from "Astral Weeks" to "Hymns to the Silence" (with the exception of "A Period of Transition").

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Re: Cohen, Springsteen, V. Morrison, Dylan & the Stones

Post by musicmania » Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:39 am

I cannot & will not attempt to even choose between Len & Brucie. I love them both & I agree with what you said in your post about Brucies gigs Diane. He like Len is BRILLIANT live. I saw them both within a 12 day period this year & thoroughly enjoyed both gigs & both give me a warm feeling when I think back to those nights. They both are in my top 5 favourite artists & yes there is comparisons between the 2 but there are also different dynamics there that fulfill me in everyway & I wouldn't wish anything to change in either of these 2 legends!

I would be a fan of all the artists music listed in this topic title although I have yet to see Dylan live (and I do intend to rectify this) I have no interest in ever seeing Morrison. The reason for this is I'm told he has a serious attitude problem. I spoke to people who were at a gig of his where he spent the whole gig with his back to the audience & kept shouting abuse at his band! He really should take a lesson in manners from Leonard! Maybe that gig was a once off & I'd be interested to hear from anyone that has a different stor to tell. As for The Stones, I find them a strange admission to this list. Yes great music & legendary live even though I've never seen them myself but where is the link between them & the others listed here? If it was a list that included U2, Status Quo & even The Beatles I'd understand but alas I'm a little confused here? I personally though wouldn't have Morrison in this list at all leaving out the story I told. Good he may be but he will never compare to Leonard, Bruce or Bob.
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