I’m the bird on the wire that you danced to the end of love (My Cohen night)

I went to see Leonard Cohen live at Fox Theatre.

Neither my companion nor I were exactly sure about the geographic location. We were walking up and down Peachtree in mostly wrong directions and didn’t make it on time.

Luckily, Cohen was late too. Was I ever glad!

Directions. My companion at least had valid excuses about his geographical ignorance. On the other hand, yours truly had spent half of last year trudging up and down Peachtree, and the other half of the year being ferried by Sibelius up and down the one-way streets in that part of the city. What a navigational disgrace!

Cohen was late though.

Fox smells of Alhambra married to Renaissance. It suited Cohen to a T.

He did two sets of seven-eight songs each. All intense, all rendered with great passion by his band. He had a professor  from UTA on the troupe. And sweet angels from Kent. The rest of them were equally brilliant.

He opened with Dance Me to the End of Love, went on to Suzanne and other samples from his illustrious career. Then the intermission. Then he did crowd favourites like I’m Your Man, Secret Letter and the ever etched-into-memory Hallelujah. Hallelujah was magical. It is a song that has held personal significance for a long time. It was heavenly to hear it sung by Cohen himself. Magical. He even did the Famous Blue Raincoat, which I hadn’t expected! He detoured into political satire with Democracy, which I loved. Witty, charming and one of the last gentlemen in music, no wonder why he made the crowd ecstatic.

What makes you a man, on an emotional level? Some say invulnerability in storms, some say ability to exercise power over others, some say natural inclination towards taking charge and some say worldly success. I’ve always thought a man should be vulnerable and sensitive, be able to bend and bow completely to love, be able to weep for his grief, be able to destroy himself should he go against his nature or bring grief to anyone who trusts him, and be able to gain victory in love through surrender. Cohen’s compositions often reflect this for me when I listen to them.

Some songs are personal. The men or women who compose them stay in our minds for a long time. My emo part likes Manson too much for what he sang for me (cough) in California. My bluesy self likes the plaintive nasal tones of Wainwright rendering Poses.

But sometimes, I am a bird on a wire, tearing at people who come too close, and I need to hear that someone else has done that and survived. Sometimes, I want to be danced to the end of love. Sometimes, I want a man on his knees looking up at me (like a dog in heat) and swearing that he would do anything for me. Sometimes, I want a man who sings about a famous blue raincoat. Sometimes, I want to know that someone else has lost their Suzanne (Anna, ever Anna).  Sometimes, I want faith and love and lust and despair and acceptance and hope bleeding together into a single shred of humanity. Then I want Cohen’s music.

He gave it all, as he had promised us in the beginning he would. For three hours, give or take. Brilliant, broken and  trying to encase the bleeding edges of us all into his music, bandaged with love.

I am sometimes a bird on a wire.

But that is fine, because I have tried to be never untrue to you, and I have tried in my way to be free too. It is just that doing both is sometimes hard.

I’ll make it up to you.

[Leonard Cohen – March 22 – Old Ideas – Atlanta (Fox Theatre) – Setlist]