What Leonard Cohen Taught Me Backstage After The 2012 Austin Show

Leonard’s Lessons, The Austin Edition

At the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin show, Duchess and I were invited backstage for post-concert refreshments and conversation with Leonard, his musicians, and tour crew members. Amidst the casual banter and chatting, I picked up a couple of Cohenesque concepts.

1. It turns out that The Show Must Go On isn’t just a cliche

The following description of the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin Concert is from the aptly titled Leonard Cohen Kicks Off His Last Tour With Uncommon Flair by Dan Solomon:

The set, which included a 20-minute intermission and ran for three and a half hours, was vital and full of energy. Cohen sprinted to the mic at the beginning of the evening, and skipped offstage at the end, and in between, delivered a reminder of everything that has made him the icon and legend that he is.

Backstage after that same high-energy show, [Warning Be alert for dropping names ahead] Roscoe Beck called out a farewell to his boss that included “Feel better soon.”  Cleverly grasping the implications of this well-wishing, I drew upon my years of medical training and experience, to ask Leonard, “So, were you sick?”1 This brief dialog followed:

Leonard Cohen: I was under the weather

DrHGuy: But you went on anyway, of course and then went full speed for the entire show.

Leonard Cohen: [shrugging] Well, I can’t say  ‘Tell the audience I’m not going on tonight – but maybe tomorrow if I’m better’ just because I’m not feeling great.

Then, Leonard Cohen, the 78 year old veteran performer, shook his head, silently chortling over the far-fetched notion that he could do any less than “give [concert-goers] everything we got” – regardless of his health, worries, obligations, …2

 2. Clean Up After Yourself (My mom would have loved Leonard)

While it was precisely in character with everything I know about Leonard Cohen’s behavioral style, I was nonetheless taken aback – and simultaneously impressed and charmed – by the sight of the Canadian singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-icon and winner of multiple music and literature honors, who had just finished a 3 hour+ sold-out concert, after two months of similar concerts in Europe, placing his membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in jeopardy by tidying up the place, carefully picking up the trash from his own post-concert snack (he recommended the egg salad on which he chowed down) and depositing it into the waste and recycling bins.

Other Stuff I Learned Backstage From Leonard Cohen: What Leonard Cohen Told Me Backstage In Chicago

Credit Due Department: The photo of Mr Cohen, The Duchess aka Penny Showalter, and DrHGuy was taken at the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin soundcheck by J.S. Carenza III, the Road Manager of the Leonard Cohen Tour. Originally posted Nov 3, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. There is no combination of words that convey the information “I was in face to face communication with Leonard Cohen” that  doesn’t come off as boasting. I know; I’ve tried them all.  (This may have something to do with the fact that I am boasting, but still …) []
  2. In fairness, I should note that my father adhered to the same principle of working despite suffering significant illness, but somehow “The used car sales must go on” doesn’t scan as heroically. []

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Amen – Ghent 2012

Tell me again
When I’ve been to the river
And I’ve taken the edge off my thirst
Tell me again
We’re alone & I’m listening
I’m listening so hard that it hurts
Tell me again
When I’m clean and I’m sober
Tell me again
When I’ve seen through the horror
Tell me again
Tell me over and over
Tell me you want me then
Amen

Amen is a track from Cohen’s new album, Old Ideas.  The 2012 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour is what is conventionally called “a tour in support of the new album.” Given the shift in the economic model of music industry, a more accurate phrasing might well be “an album issued in support of the forthcoming tour.” Regardless, I am surprised to find myself much more appreciative of this song after watching a recording of a live performance than when I simply heard it on my iPhone.

Leonard Cohen – Amen
Ghent: Aug 14, 2012
Video by

Note: Originally posted Aug 19, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

2012 Leonard Cohen Austin Soundcheck: Viva Cohen Identifies Guy Singing Light As The Breeze – “Papou”

Duchess and I (in foreground of above photo) had been paying homage at the soundcheck prior to the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin concert for a few minutes when Kezban Özcan, Cohen’s assistant, and Viva Cohen, his 20 month old granddaughter, joined us.  Noticing the man in the suit and hat on stage, Viva began excitedly pointing at him, gleefully announcing to us,”Papou, Papou.”  This small commotion, in turn, caused the Grocer Of Despair to flash the broadest of smiles and wave happily – all without missing a beat as he continued his rehearsal of these lines:

it don’t matter how you worship
as long as you’re
down on your knees.
So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
at the cradle of the river and the seas.

Yep, I suspect the Papou version of “Light As The Breeze” is going to be stuck in my head for a while.

Note: The latest entry on the Leonard Cohen Nicknames List is

227. Papou1

Credit Due Department: Photo of DrHGuy & Duchess by  Kezban Özcan. Originally posted Nov 15, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Viva Cohen, personal communication []

Video: Sharon Robinson’s Impeccable Performance Of Alexandra Leaving – 2012 Leonard Cohen Ghent Concert

And you who were bewildered by a meaning
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost

Sharon Robinson inevitably performs Alexandra Leaving, a song she and Leonard Cohen co-wrote, with overwhelming intensity and power. In this solo effort at the August 14, 2012 Ghent show, she outdoes herself.

Sharon Robinson – Alexandra Leaving
Ghent – Aug 14, 2012
Video by

Note: Originally posted Aug 19, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric