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

“[First We Take Manhattan] appeals to a certain constituency that is alarmed and at the same time fascinated by the general vulgarities of things” Leonard Cohen

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Leonard Cohen interviewed by Hans Pfitzinger in Paris, 1988. Originally posted 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 []

Leonard Cohen Video: Energetic Performance Of First We Take Manhattan – Ghent Aug 12, 2012

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Leonard Cohen – First We Take Manhattan
Ghent: Aug 12, 2012
Video by Thomas Delbecque

Note: Originally posted Aug 13, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Terrorism, Kerouac, Songwriting, Zen, Dylan, Joan Baez, Chelsea Hotel #1 and #2, Jennifer Warnes, & Irving Layton (1993)

Plus Paris Models Recitation, Using Computers To Write & Draw, Origins Of “Way Down Deep” and “Do Dum Dum Dum, De Do Dum Dum” In Tower of Song

Leonard Cohen interviewed about The Future
Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight – June 13, 1993

From the Soundcloud description:

This originally aired live on the Sunday night sojourn of Idiot’s Delight on WXRK (92.3 KROCK) in New York. The first attack on the World Trade Center in late February 1993 was still on everyone’s mind; thoughts and questions about the nature of “the terrorist mentality” were very much in the air. Leonard’s latest album was “The Future.” He was in New York for a concert. His thoughts on the subject were vivid and have proved chillingly prescient over the years. Note : The music played that night has been truncated for this Podcast; same with the commercial breaks. Otherwise this is how it went down. Leonard Cohen was unique … it was a great privilege to spend this time with him.

Notes:

A transcript of this interview is included in Leonard Cohen On Leonard Cohen, Editor Jeff Burger

Leonard Cohen Video Of The Day: End Of 2012 Montreal Concert Compilation

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This video is an honorary member of , the informal Cohencentric series based on the  realization that some Leonard Cohen concert photos taken from the cheap seats more than compensate for the lack of closeup shots with intriguing angles and perspectives hidden to those photographing the show from directly in front of the stage. In this case, however. the obstacle is not bad seats but the video police. The videographer, cohenadmirer1, explains

I was told not to film but got some rough video towards the end of the concert.  Here it is. Includes Going Home … First We Take Manhattan…Closing Time …. I Tried To Leave You.

The result is a video salmagundi of action taking place in the audience as well as on the stage and telescreens with abrupt visual and audio cuts, distorted views, jumbled images, … Featured alongside the performances are such delights as an audience member intently videotaping the show while singing along, drummer Rafael Bernardo Gayol blowing a kiss and not blowing the drumstick toss and catch, closeup guitar picking, and – yep – much more. (See the gallery of screenshots below)

And, it’s great, capturing the excitement, tension, joyfulness, and ambivalence that mark the end of a Leonard Cohen concert.

Leonard Cohen In Concert
Montreal: Nov 29, 2012
Video by cohenadmirer1

Note: Originally posted Feb 16, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric