Leonard Cohen

Last night I went to see Leonard Cohen, the man who helped transform the 1960s and 1970s, at the Wang Theater. The old stager was every bit as good as ever, and, once again, he turned our hearts inside out. Perhaps part of his appeal is that he doesn't just sing about events, or things, or love, he sings about all these things in terms of what it means to be an artist who can't be anything else. Indeed, as he approaches 75 we might ask why would he do these gruelling tours? The answer is evident the moment he steps on stage; he does it because that's who he is. He's an artist who will write and sing about the poetry that comes to him, asking to be made into song, and he'll do so until he can sing no more. That's what was at the center of his heart-rending version of 'If it be your will'. It was a prayer to the gods of creativity saying he's always been in their hands, and if they want him to stop, then he won't have much control over that. And the unspoken part is that this would break him, but he'd accept it, as the will of a much higher power than any of us can contradict. Significantly he turned this song over to the Webb sisters, whose astonishing, delicate, clear harmonies were so beauteous, and in some ways so opposite to Leonard's gravel pit growl of a rumbling bass. It was, on stage, an enacting of the handing over to others that the song spoke about, a relinquishing that we all must face one day. I don't know if there was a dry eye in the house, and it was a full house, believe me. It's not often that a concert turns itself, with gracious ease, into an act of gratitude and prayer to the power of creativity that can be loaned to us, for a while. It's both inspiring and humbling. Last night we were in a sacred space. Isn't that what art's all about?