Sunday, October 26, 2008

Leonard Cohen, Zurich, October 25, 2008

I got a ticket for Leonard Cohen at the last minute because someone couldn't go with my friends Peter and Sophie. I had heard from many sources that his concerts this year have been extraordinary, and all the sources were right.

I have long liked Cohen's songs without particularly liking the albums of his that I have heard (except for the first one, and I admit to not having heard them all). The production of "The Tower of Song," for example, made me not like the song very much, even though it was clear what a great song it is.

But the arrangements with his current band are fabulous, always serving each song so wonderfully, and without any leanings toward the "poppiness" that I found annoying on some of his recordings.

And (in Zurich last night at least) the lyrics were mixed just right, so you could hear all the words really well. Cohen articulates quite clearly when he sings, and the mix and his clear articulation made the poetry of his work come through all the more powerfully.

Further, the concert was enough of a "show" to be satisfying, without its getting too "showy." The "show" side of the concert never got in the way of the music. In this, it was reminiscent of the early eighties concerts by Talking Heads that were turned into the movie "Stop Making Sense": the show served the music.

And finally, there were the songs I knew well already, especially "Suzanne," which has long been one of my favorite songs to play on the guitar and sing (despite my weak voice).

What can I say? I've seen a lot of great concerts, and this was one of them.

Other great memories: those Talking Heads concerts in the early eighties, Grateful Dead at the Greek Theater in Berkeley in July 1984 (and the two shows at Ventura County Fairgrounds the following week), the World Saxophone Quartet and the Dave Holland Quintet at the Great American Music Hall in the mid-eighties, various shows by the Paul Motian Trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano (especially in Berlin in 1992), the Tom Harrell Quintet in Basel in 1996, Dylan in Freiburg in 2003, Lovano with Hank Jones in Basel a couple years ago, and several Dave Holland Quintet shows in Basel over the years. And then there was Chris Smither and Greg Brown at the Great Waters Folk Festival!

I'd go see Holland in Zurich next week, in fact, if I weren't exhausted from the events I attended this week: FC Basel against FC Barcelona on Wednesay, the Swiss Indoors on Thursday (with Nalbandian, Blake, Del Potro, and Federer winning), and Cohen last night. Time to focus on work! :-)

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