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."