“This song is a direct response to the boredom, to the anxiety, to the sense of weightlessness, that I feel in my daily life.” Leonard Cohen On First We Take Manhattan


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This song is a direct response to the boredom, to the anxiety, to the sense of weightlessness, that I feel in my daily life. I don’t know whether anybody else feels this way. I suspect some people do feel this way – that the world has disappeared, that the catastrophe has already taken place, that the flood has already come, that we don’t have to wait for the nuclear holocaust, that the world has been destroyed somehow. But you can’t take these ideas with you on the street.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

I’m Your Man, by Alberto Manzano (Rockdelux (Spain): May 1988)

Leonard Cohen Lays Out His Plan Once He Takes Manhattan And Berlin

lc-1988

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But even your immaculate hospitality will not deter me from my appointed task which is to take Manhattan and then Berlin. And as soon as I take them, I’m going to give them back, because I don’t want them… unless they really insist. Just my way, that’s all. There’s no punchline to this joke. It just leaves you in a blue limbo of ambiguity, a landscape that I happen to know extremely well. I hope I don’t meet any of you there.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, introduction to “First We Take Manhattan” at the April 28, 1988 concert at Jaahalli Helsinki, Finland, Originally posted Nov 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard “Happy To Be Here” Cohen Performs So Long Marianne & First We Take Manhattan – Amsterdam 2012

Well, you know that I love to live with you
But you make me forget so very much
I forget to pray for the angels
And then the angels forget to pray for us

Highlights: Leonard skipping on and offstage, Alex Bublitchi’s solo in So Long Marianne, the enthusiastic audience reaction – but most of all, Leonard’s smiles.

Leonard Cohen – So Long Marianne & First We Take Manhattan
Amsterdam: Aug 22, 2012

Note: Originally posted Aug 26, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Employs Sergio Leone, Motown, Bubble Gum For A “Different Twist” On First We Take Manhattan

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Without that Sergio Leone-Eastwood track it would have been truly demented geopolitical fantasy. But with that soundtrack and with the Motown chorus veering over to bubble gum, you get a different twist on the thingquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Folk-Rock’s Poet Laureate Returns By Jeff Bradley. AP story, printed in Times Daily – Sept 3, 1988. Originally posted Nov 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Takes Berlin But Not Without Struggle – Tour Tales 2009

But love is not a victory march,
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!

Leonard Cohen’s Battle For Berlin

As noted by concert-goers, Leonard Cohen’s July 2, 2009 Berlin concert was not an automatic triumph. This report from LeonardCohenForum by brinberlin limns the situation:

… the Webbs and Sharon Robinson came on unsmiling, stony-faced, morose, and despite the obligatory standing ovation LC looked ill at ease to say the least. One problem must have been the audience. What a lack of vibe. Mostly over 50 (as I am, but not like them!) and looking as if they just came for an evening out, provincial in the most pejorative sense of the word, they could have been watching anyone really. They marched up and down the aisles with wines and beers as he sang, talked amongst themselves, clapped and whooped each time they (wrongly) thought a song had ended… really embarrassing. … They were only waiting for Suzanne, and the rest seemed to pass them by as they hysterically took mobile phone footage of each other and the screens…

While others who attended disagree about the appearance of the performers and the extent of the philistinism rampant in the crowd, the consensus is nonetheless that the Berlin show was challenging in a way that many other stops on the World Tour have not been.

Many previous Tour concerts (including the one I attended at the Beacon Theatre) have been as much worship services of gathered Cohen  acolytes as they are entertainments.  The greatest risks posed in such circumstances has been competitions by audience members to demonstrate who is most appreciative of, knowledgeable about, and emotionally intimate with Cohen and crew.

From both the reports of those in attendance and the press, there is little doubt that, by the end of the Berlin show, Cohen had won over the audience. What is striking is that this was a victory accomplished by the overwhelming display of professionalism and grace by Leonard Cohen, the backup singers, and the band.

Keep in mind that this is the grown-up version of the Leonard Cohen who walked off the stage in frustration in a 1972 concert. Of course, this is also the Leonard Cohen who thoughtfully considers his responsibilities as a performer:

You definitely go into a concert with a prayer on your lips. There’s no question about that. I think that anything risky that you do, anything that sets you up for the possibility of humiliation like a concert does … you have to lean on something that is a little better than yourself I feel I’m always struggling with the material, whether it’s a concert or a poem or a prayer or a conversation. It’s very rarely that I find I’m in a condition of grace where there’s a kind of flow that is natural. I don’t inhabit that landscape too often. … Well, I mean this in a kind of lighthearted way. When you walk on the stage and 5,000 people have paid good money to hear you, there’s definitely a sense that you can blow it. The possibilities for disgrace are enormous.1

Leonard Cohen’s 2009 Strategy For Taking Berlin

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  1. From An Interview with Leonard Cohen” by Robert Sward. A Side. Montreal, Quebec. 1986 []