Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dancing on the Rim of the Well: Leonard Cohen

With idea, sound, or gesture, the duende
enjoys fighting the creator on the very
rim of the well. Angel and muse escape
with violin, meter and compass; the duende
wounds. In the healing wound, which never closes
lie the strange invented qualities of a man's work.
Federico Garcia Lorca

Three and one half hours into Leonard Cohen's Phoenix concert; half way through the fourth encore, I thought of Garcia Lorca and the stated roots of art and duende. Lorca spoke of "black sounds" issuing from the essential, uncontrollable quivering common base of wood, sound, canvas and word…and there up on stage was Leonard Cohen and the guitars and female voices and wind instruments and percussion. Violin, meter, compass and angels. The musical soundtrack of lovers and poets and toreros and arch-gypsies and holy madmen who have stumbled down from the Zen mountain. Cohen was either kneeling in supplication or skipping off stage after another encore. There was nary a bad line sung; lest a bad song. It was akin to listening to an ancient Sevillian bard serenading his dead lover with deep song….at her graveside. Dead roses weeping. All the deep, beatific hits. The thoughts, and poetics and rhymes tumbled down till you forgot you were in the 21st century in the middle of the Arizona desert; you were watching this "little Jew who wrote the bible" tear though the heart of a deep repertoire, as he danced on the rim of the well of eternity.
So much for the poetics. There are no hard edged, journalistic set of tools to sum up an experience that washes over you and renews your faith that someone out there is still singing exquisitely crafted songs. Artful songs. Songs that cascade one after the other and resound in your worn soul. It was an ancient circus with guitars and horns and pretty girls and stuffed monkeys with plywood violins. And it was music untouched by time; not hacked to death with the politics of worry over the economy, baseball scores or God's broken ankle. The world, for four hours, wasn't run by "killers in high places," nor codified by the rules of love and engagement from afternoon talk shows. And I was the kid in the third row, enthralled; understanding for a swollen moment why I had joined up with the minstrel trade; why I had opened up in my soul… that "healing wound which never closes."


editor said...

That was a beautiful thing...

Remi said...

Yup, that about sums it up. I went to the first Toronto show last June and it was magic.

Peter said...

Thanks for leaving landmarks now and then!

editor said...

As synchronicity would have it, a friend just gave me a live Leonard Cohen set from London.

And away she spins...

David249 said...

Thank you for this. On the night of April 7, I, too, was the kid in the third row (in San Diego), transfixed and transported by Leonard Cohen's eloquence and pure love of the game.
Sadly, my better half was in Mexico, on a different communion during Holy Week in Cuernavaca. We have not yet conquered the laws of physics that preclude us from being in more than one place at one time. I'm not sure Leonard Cohen is so limited.
Hope to see you again soon on the rails.

Saddle Tramp said...

Eyes & Ears / Circus By The Sea / Dancers In The Night with Cowboys Under The Mogollon Rim & Open Sometimes . . .

TR . . . You have eloquently described in words as close as is possible to that which can only be witnessed with eyes and ears; that being the benediction absorbed in the presence of Leonard Cohen. The closest I have got is in his DVD's and most recently the " Live in London " concert and I am most thankful for that . . .

I was delayed two days on my Florida load so I took off and headed to Sarasota and the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Circus Museum, Estate, etc. Ruben's the size of Billboards. Bruno Zacchini's Super Repeating Cannon. An army of clowns marching through the World's
Greatest Show. Banyon trees abound throughout the
grounds. A place frozen in the 1920's. Time has been very kind to her. On up the coast to Anna Maria for dinner on the beach and over to a local bar where drunken dances
entertained. An old salt took the mic being passed around and sang ( with an Irish accent ) a bawdy sea shanty that ended up in bed. The song backed up by chorus of drunken laughter. Drinking and laughing away their pains
of the day.

The next day on up the coast again and lunch in Ybor City at the 104 year old Columbia Restaurant that is art in itself.
" Gem of Spanish Restaurants. " A myriad of dining rooms each with it's own flavor. I sat next to the piano in the bar. Flamenco dancers summon duende nightly. Down on the
corner El Tabaqueros at Gonzalez y Martinez still hand-roll
cigars. Hecho a mano. The smell of roasting coffee beans soaks the air outside from El Tostadors still carrying on their trade since 1921. Back to work . . .

Under load en route from Auburndale, FL to Modesto, CA. I stopped in Grosse Tete, Louisiana at the Tiger Truck Stop. The current tiger is an 8-year old Bengal- Siberian mix
named " Tony " who languishes in his cage. Suppresed
duende. A twenty year history of tigers with many cubs born here and given to zoos.

On across Louisiana swamps and on into Texas and Sonora, Texas for the night. The next day rolling into Sierra
Blanca just before noon. Parked across from the Ellison Motor Co. and hurried across the street to the front door
where a sign read: OPEN WHEN I AM HERE

The door was locked. Struck out again. I left him a note
near the door. I had planned on lunch there anyway so I backtracked to Curly's Bar-B-Q and sat alone in Curly's for an excellent mix of all of it. I asked about Tom Ellison and
they said he was in his shop earlier. Finished with lunch I headed back west through town and when passing Tom's
shop again I saw that the overhead door was open. I quickly parked and went inside to find him cutting some
Palo Verde wood with an electric saw. He had no problem abandoning his work. " Just piddlin' around " he said. I gave him the background of what brought me here. He
moved around very spryly for being in his 80's and gave
me the whole tour with great enthusiasm including showing me the handwritten history of his family ( 1867 - 1946 ) and
how his Grandfather and uncle were the some of the first cowboys to be out on the Chisolm Trail. His uncle's chuckwagon is in a museum in San Antonio. He showed
me a 1917 photo of his father as a Texas Ranger. He showed me his books on cowboys, Texas history and a copy of " Cowboys Under The Mogollon Rim " by "Slim" Ellison. Tom's stories were peppered with a wry sense of humor. He showed me his old wrecker and on and on including the chair that Pancho Villa sat on. You cannot sit on it as it
hangs from a wall. I could have spent a day just taking it all in and he would have gladly allowed it had I not had to
leave after a two hour visit. I will try to stop again. I bought my own " Black Rock " from him along with some others. These are the moments that make it worth being out here
living the road. Thanks for the lead Charlene.
[ Panch ] Via : Sierra Blanca

-saddle tramp
Via: Ripon, CA where I am cooling my wheels after tying the knot in another 7,000 mile loop . . .

" That endless turning of the wheel . . . "

-Dave Stamey " Wheels "

Lynda said...

I was in the same situation in 1969, but I was in my parents living room in Rapid City SD listening to my record on the stereo. Over and over again. Deeply moved then. Thank you Leonard.

Charlene said...

So vividly written! Thanks for sharing Mr. Tramp. I'm glad you liked your visit. I still think you should write a book. CA

Saddle Tramp said...

Charlene . . .
Thanks again for getting me there courtesy of TR and his Borderland saga. There is plenty more to go through in Sierra Blanca if our host perchance gets there. Sorry about the spelling errors, etc. Haste and format may explain . . .

Sierra Blanca

On the day before Easter

Texas Mountain Trail

( Hwy Haiku )

-saddle tramp
Via: N. Las Vegas Pilot en route to Melrose, MN

Rochrunner said...

Well, you talked us into it. We went right out and bought tickets for his concert in Detroit in May.

Jan Kristoffer Dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan Kristoffer Dale said...

I'm going to try to catch Cohen live this summer. He is playing in Langesund. I just got his new live album, and I picked up the "Live in London" DVD too. Beautiful stuff. The version of "Sisters of Mercy" made me want to watch Altman's "McCabe & Mrs Miller" again, it could be my favorite Cohen song.

Oh, and Tom. I wrote about your performance at Herr Nilsen in Oslo on April 30 in my blog, feel free to read it. It was a killer show, and I enjoyed the hell out of the new songs! Thank you!

John said...

True, saw him at Glastonbury last year, a humbler man has never sung to so many