Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press
Published: Saturday, May 13, 2006 Article tools
* * * * TORONTO (CP) - He's best known as Canada's most influential singer-songwriter and sensual poet, but on Saturday, Leonard Cohen was an anxious stage mother.
Crouched in the dark corner of an outdoor stage, his elbows rested on his knees and his eyes were fixed on his romantic partner, Anjani Thomas, as she braved her first-ever live performance of songs they wrote together.
Singing words Cohen had written, the dark-haired Hawaiian beauty cooed through a short set as her mentor watched silently, hands clasped together in front of his lips, mouthing the words.
But it was Cohen whom the several hundred book and music fans had gathered to see and it was only when he took the stage with Thomas that the street roared with cheers and applause.
"My apologies to pedestrians and drivers if they're inconvenienced," Cohen joked before reciting a poem from Book of Longing, his first collection in more than a decade.
The free concert, held on the edge of Toronto's ritzy Yorkville district, was a celebration of Cohen's return to the top of the literary charts - Indigo books president Heather Reisman declared Book of Longing the No. 1 best-seller in the country, the first book of poetry to reach that lofty position in Canadian history.
"We must be doing something right here," a giddy Reisman said to an audience that included her tycoon husband, Gerry Schwartz, and Toronto film director Robert Lantos.
The outdoor concert, which also featured performances by folk/pop singer Ron Sexsmith and members of the Barenaked Ladies, was one of several to take over the streets of Toronto on an overcast day.
Pop-punksters Fallout Boy got more than 3,000 fans screaming along to their hits during a free half-hour show along the city's main tourist strip.
After that, they and fellow emo rockers All-American Rejects took over Queen Street for a live MuchMusic appearance.
Several dozen fans, mostly teenaged girls, had waited as long as seven hours for an earlier radio station appearance by Fall Out Boy.
At the outdoor concert, they waved at cameras and screeched out lyrics as bassist Pete Wentz offered choreographed moves and audience banter the band's perfected after three months on the road.
"How many people here want to live forever and never get old?" Wentz asked to screams from the crowd.
The boys were to hit Europe for a week of shows after playing their last North American date in Toronto on Saturday night.
The 71-year-old Cohen, meanwhile, elicited repeated calls for encores from his significantly older crowd.
He sheepishly obliged, gingerly approaching the mike alongside Sexsmith and Barenaked Ladies frontman Steve Page.
"You guys start, I'll figure out a way to get in," Cohen said to his bandmates, who launched into So Long, Marianne.
It wasn't long before Cohen took the mike on his own, his velvety baritone resonating through the first drops of rain.
The eagerly received performance comes as Cohen emerges from near financial collapse after millions were bilked from his retirement savings.