“I’m just another snowman, standing in the rain and sleet. Who loved you with his frozen love, his second-hand physique. With all he is, and all he was. A thousand kisses deep.”
You brought peace back into my heart.
It’s been empty for quite some time. I walked around the world in my false hope, in my false peace, thinking everything was just fine. It wasn’t. Until you began to sing last Saturday at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas I realized what I thought was hope was pretend. You sang and the light came in. You sang and I was saved. Imagine yourself in a beautiful world, a perfect bright world. But you suddenly realize it’s all a sheen, a sham, a false front. You find a door on this stage and step through it into a blindingly white light. It was kind of like that. Not to venture into hyperbole (I’ve been known to dabble), but I was changed.
Now I sit here, attempting to describe how I feel and sounding for all the world like a turn of the century hausfrau who’s just returned from her first tent revival. I can’t stop humming “Who By Fire?” I can’t stop smiling. I feel calm. My dreams are more vivid. Not sure how long this can last. I know it can’t. Change is the only constant after all.
Why am I even writing? Because I looked for a decent concert review and found none. Just a half-hearted attempt from the local paper full of song quotes. Not written by a fan or someone even remotely knowledgeable about your musical gifts. Of course you could listen for years and not begin to understand. It’s a very “You had to be there…” kind of thing.
You sang for four hours. Four hours of song that’s indescribable. Chelsea Hotel #2, Bird On A Wire, Anthem, they all threw my heart up to the rafters, then down to the depths until I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I felt exhilarated and exhausted. Mr. Cohen, you’re a man in love. So deeply in love with women, and love, and sex, and life that every song reflects it. You’re the Pablo Neruda of pop – all your songs dripping with so much innuendo I found I needed some air when intermission rolled around. When you’re not singing love, you’re singing justice, and spirituality, and loss, and death, and wonder, all the things philosophers have been pondering for thousands of years. In your fedora and suit, skipping around, going down on one knee to pray, then arising to sing and skip some more. You’re a playful mix of Pan, Tom Jones, and Zen Buddhist priest all rolled into one. A dash of Bugs Bunny. With a little bit of superhero thrown in for good measure because you sang for FOUR HOURS.
I don’t even know why I’m attempting to describe my experience. Maybe it’s because 5 days later I’m still on a high, still feel saved, still feel full of pure light and love. Which is rare for me. I wanted to write about it. I needed to. I wanted a written record to say YES.
YES, I saw the flowers covering the stage.
YES, I saw your fans singing “Just Passing Through” to anyone who cared to listen during intermission. Swaying to the music. Willing you back onstage.
YES, I saw the young lady rush the stage to embrace you.
YES, I saw the blouses flying during “It’s Closing Time”.
YES, I saw my tattered tissue and my tears so many times during your performance.
YES, I saw my own jealousy emerge when I realized I’d never write as good as this. And yes, I saw it dissolve in surrender when I realized it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the right now.
YES, I saw my heart explode in wonder when you performed “A Singer Must Die” alone, with just a guitar as accompaniment. Poetry. Conviction. Simply the best live performance of a song I’ve ever seen anywhere.
YES, I saw your gratitude. You wear your heart on your sleeve Mr. Cohen.
YES, I saw the faces of the people afterward as they filed out into the din and blare and ping of the casino. Their faces beamed. Their hearts were full. They’d been changed as well.
That night I had a dream. You are wearing a tracksuit. Hatless. In disguise, sweeping the casino floor while all around you people file past, leaving the concert. The noise and the blare and the ping-ping of the slot machines leave you unfazed. All of it rushes past in a flood as you quietly sweep. I step closer. I thank you for the peace you have brought. You just lean on your broom, beaming. Your face beaming beatific in its gratitude, in its grace. So pure. So simple. What is your secret Mr. Cohen? What hides behind that smile? How can I have that smile too?
After something like that you cannot help but be changed. I just wanted a written record to exist somewhere. To say with the full gratitude of my heart and soul that I was there. I experienced what might be your last show and I’ll never forget it.
Thank you Leonard Cohen. You brought peace back to my heart. Got rid of the darkness, at least for a awhile. And that feels so good.