The ‘Sisters’ were there but, emotionally, Leonard, thankfully, gave no mercy.
As you might expect from Leonard Cohen he worked an almost imperceptible seduction at the Entertainment Centre in Perth last night. As humanity packed into the auditorium, I imagine Leonard was ‘out the back’ oiling his vibe, summoning us to his bedside, whetting his poetry into a magnificent point.
And what a vibe it is.
Ill fitting suit and trademark hat. Everything you would expect, except his shock of grey hair every time he reverently took off his hat in honour and respect whenever any of the exquisite musicians were engaged in a solo. Leonard, at these moments, was a deeply compelling human being. Humble. Respectful. Honouring of others. Aware of his own shortcoming as an accomplished instrumentalist. Unendingly grateful and appreciative that their sublime talent continually rarefied his poetry and music.
The Sisters were the Webb Sisters and his long time partner/collaborator Sharon Robinson. They were honey in his hive, jive, vibe. Faultless.
Sharon Robinson sang ‘Alexandra leaving’. Exquisite.
The Webb Sisters’ version of ‘If it be your will’ –perfect.
Cohen is obviously a heady mix of artistic sensibilities: The Poet. The Musician. The Lover. The Watcher. The Boy. The Man. The Saint. The Sinner. Artistic Heartthrob. Icon.
And woven imperceptibly into the fabric of his persona is his immense compassion and understanding of the human condition. And intelligence. His mind turns on an exquisite point. The point being that we suffer, make mistakes, need succour, and love, have to leave, forgive, remember, and get wise. That we are broken, caught, inexorable, alone, aching in and out each others’ arms is gut wrenchingly rendered in “a thousand kisses deep’
the undeniable highlight of the evening, the ageing hippie beside me reduced to tears, squeezing my hand, and then my knee, the audience hushed all around us as if the whole of humanity as one was listening to the deepest darkest most sacred secrets of the soul. As if it was Church. Delphi. Varansi. Mecca. Gethsemane. Vajrashila. And not simply Perth. A small uninspiring suburban outpost of human confluence.
And in the midst of all this, between songs, he unexpectedly (for me, having never seen him live), showed a childlike joy, skipping on and off the stage, indulging us with encore after encore, the Persian carpet beneath him a luscious symbol of his exotic and yet intimate riches, undeniably shared (as if we know him and might have a chance of knowing ourselves) with pleasure and passion.
And I am glad he sang ‘Suzanne’. I watched the river pass by, thick and mellowed in a nostalgic and personal memorial.