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Dance Me to the End of Love

July 16, 2013

LC.Summerfest

What. A. Show.  Remember when I saw Elton John 2 years ago?  The band walked on stage and I thought, “Ooh, aging rockers.  This could be pathetic.”  And it was so much the other thing that I was exhausted when they were finished performing.

It happened again.  Last week it was Leonard Cohen in the same intimate little piazza for the Lucca Summerfest.  He has been a troubadour for 45 years, meaning we went to see a 78-year-old man perform live in the July heat of Tuscany.  3 years ago, the 69-year-old David Crosby ~and his what, 3rd?, liver~ had to rest on a stool and leave the stage for several songs.  Wait, 69?  That’s older than I thought.  Coo-eee, the 60s were a long time ago.  Well, good on ya, David, for coming out to us and making the music however you may.  Your voice is still golden.

But back to Leonard Cohen.  That man should turn in his AARP card.  I noticed (with the assistance of the JumboTron) that the stage was covered in Oriental rugs.  A nice touch.  Little did I suspect how much they would see of that man’s knees.  He’s soulful, a poet in his bones.  And limber~  He cradles the microphone with his whole self, bending, yielding, down onto his knees.  Then back up again, without so much as a grimace.  When he looks into the camera, his focus snaps from reflection to connection… with every one in his audience.  At an age when many folks are looking back on a life well-spent, Leonard Cohen is still out there, spending it.  For us.

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He reminds me so of Johnny Cash, a similar mold filled with different stuff.  Scripture and faith figure prominently for both, but Cohen feels the power of it without seeming to find the truth in it, still searching.  Each fills the depths of his music with longing, regret, and hope for redemption.  Rest in peace, Johnny.  I hope you found it.

Cohen’s new album, and the tour, are called Old Ideas.  I don’t know if the band’s attire reflects that or it’s a more long-standing style for them, but they all wore some combination of collared shirt, tie, vest, and/or jacket. with a fedora.  The back-up singers were … strikingly … dressed as flight attendants, old school, real FemBots.  All of them must have been roasting up there, but they looked good.

They played an hour set, took a break, played another hour, left the stage, and came back thrice for encores.  Every time, Mr. Cohen bounced off the stage, clearly having a ball.  Life on the road takes its toll on body and soul.  His voice may be fading at the edges, but Leonard Cohen is still a force, continuing to gain new fans in younger and younger generations.  Thank you, sir.

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