“It’s from the point of view of the nervous breakdown and beyond that the song is written.” Leonard Cohen On Waiting For The Miracle


[Leonard Cohen]  wrestles with shifting emotional states in “Waiting For the Miracle” …

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[There are] people who are bitten by this particular bug, where meaning has evaporated and significance has dissolved. Many people now confess to me that they inhabit this kind of landscape, where nothing has much taste. I mean, they’re not selling fifty million Prozac pills a week for nothing; we are undergoing some kind of nervous breakdown. And it’s from the point of view of the nervous breakdown and beyond that the song is written.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

The Loneliness of the Long-Suffering Folkie by Wayne Robins. Newsday: November 22, 1992.

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

Photos, Videos, Review: 2009 Leonard Cohen World Tour Re-Opens For Business – With A Twist – In Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Leonard Cohen Displays Revised Repertoire In Fort Lauderdale-Southern Florida-Sunrise-BankAtlantic Center1

While all the reviews of the Leonard Cohen Fort Lauderdale concert I’ve read have been laudatory and at least one has examined the performance in some depth (more about that later), only a few comments at  LeonardCohenForum from fans who attended the performance and the videos of the actual songs from the concert revealed that several of the songs that have been mainstays of the World Tour for the past 16 months have been recast in new arrangements.

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Rather than compose paragraphs of explication that would inevitably flounder in musicological muck, I offer a simple comparison and contrast example of this phenomenon.

Leonard Cohen – Waiting For The Miracle
Fort Lauderdale: Oct 17, 2009
Video from mayormyq

Compare that version with the same song performed by the same musicians just over two months ago in Lisbon.

Leonard Cohen – Waiting For The Miracle
Lisbon Aug 3, 2009
Video from albertnoonan

OK, it’s arguably a tad less dramatic than the shift in content I described in Leonard Cohen World Tour ON ICE – New Marketing Strategy For Florida Shows, but, still, …

Given the undeniable success and popularity of the World Tour and the fact that many of the venues scheduled for the final swing through the USA have never previously been the site of a Cohen concert, it would have been easy to argue that changes were unnecessary and perhaps contraindicated since the new formats could prove less popular than their predecessors.

Besides, shifts in the arrangements of songs would seem to have slight marketing potential. “The Leonard Cohen World Tour, now featuring a new, more complex lyrical formulation of Waiting For The Miracle” just doesn’t strike one as an effective TV commercial in Southern Florida markets.

Finally, there is the matter of logistics. Exactly when, during the hectic concert schedule, were the changes conceived and rehearsed?

My core cynicism notwithstanding, the only likely  rationale for these musical rearrangements I can devise is that Leonard Cohen thought they were indicated for artistic purposes and the audience might enjoy them.2

ftlauderdale-dino

The Concert Review To Read

At least one review, Hello and goodbye: Leonard Cohen’s first-ever Florida concert in Sunrise is likely his last by Sean Piccoli (Palm Beach Post: Oct 19, 2009), went beyond the typical reports that listed the songs played and reprinted the standard Cohen cliches to offer some insight into the concert experience. Excerpts follow but do yourself a favor and read the entire piece at the link (Update: The original source is no longer online; a copy of the article is preserved at LeonardCohenForum):

... circumstances point to Cohen’s first-ever concert in Florida — about 40 years in the making — also being his last. There was an undeniable sense of hello-and-goodbye to the old pop laureate’s performance on Saturday night at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. “I don’t know when we’ll pass this way again,” he said early on, “so we’re going to give you everything we’ve got.”

Backed by nine players, all skilled and closely attuned to their frontman, Cohen sang more than two dozen of his emotionally eloquent songs, the centerpiece of every one of them being his unusual voice. Cohen’s dusky baritone is anything but trained, but in concert it helped give his confessional lyrics the weight of experience — good, bad and ambiguous.

Inside the slow, soulful waltz of “Bird on the Wire,” Cohen managed to sound both rueful and philosophical — perched between “I’m sorry” and “Oh, well”– when he sang, “I have torn everyone who reached out for me.” His singing was frank, but not without guile.3

… It [his voice] had a way of authenticating language that could be considered archaic (“If It Be Your Will”) or abstract (“Famous Blue Raincoat”). To create a vocabulary for his spiritual self, his inner life, Cohen has dipped into poetry and scripture, and chosen words that might sound florid and dated in other contexts. Here — and partly because he’s been so good at getting every syllable to fit his voice — the lyricism is solid and durable.

… Cohen was also a pleasure to hear between numbers, and an absolute gentleman who kept finding inventive ways to thank the audience — “for climbing the vertiginous heights to your seats for braving the menacing, psychotic, abrasive qualities of people you don’t know for the warm and welcoming reception.”

… it’s not inconceivable that he would play Florida again. But his worldview, as spelled out in his songs, is about the fleeting nature of things. Whether or not he returns here, his thinking on Saturday seemed to be: Play like it’s your last time, because after that it’s all just memory and hindsight.

Credit Due Department:

All of the outstanding  photos of the Fort Lauderdale concert displayed in this post were taken by and used with the gracious permission of hassan.

Note: Originally posted Oct 19, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. The locations listed, Fort Lauderdale, Southern Florida, Sunrise, BankAtlantic Center, and BankAtlantic, have each been used, usually without reference to the others, by various news sources and blogs to identify the same October 17, 2009 Leonard Cohen concert site. []
  2. I know. I’m disappointed in me, too. []
  3. Emphasis mine. I think this is a wonderfully accurate and succinct characterization of Leonard Cohen’s songwriting and singing. []

Leonard Cohen’s Explanation Of “Waiting For The Miracle”

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The miracle is the vision from the other side of waiting. There is a miracle that we are all waiting for that somehow goes along with the construction of the human heart, of the human psyche…There’s another position, where you move across the waiting, to the other side of waiting, where you recognize or acknowledge or affirm that you’re waiting for the miracle, but this is a position of freedom rather than a position that is imprisoned or fixed. Waiting is fixed, the other side of waiting is free.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, CBC Radio Interview (August 26, 1995). Originally posted December 4, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Is This 1993 Finnish TV Promo Featuring “Waiting For The Miracle” The Most Uneventful Leonard Cohen Video?

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Waiting For Something, Anything To Happen In Leonard Cohen’s Hotel Room

A cliche has it that Leonard Cohen’s voice is so compelling that his fans would buy a recording of him reading a telephone directory. I submit that this clip – which has garnered 264,420 views on YouTube – is the video equivalent.

Part of a Leonard Cohen Special broadcast on Finnish TV in 1993 (the Special also included an interview and several songs from his April 29, 1993 Helsinki concert), this TV promo, probably shot in Leonard’s hotel room, features Waiting For The Miracle as the soundtrack and the following highlights: Leonard playing his keyboard in bed, channel surfing, making his bed, gazing from hotel window, organizing desk, putting on his cap, reciting selected Waiting For The Miracle lyrics, closing his window and curtains, and pointing to an emblem on his suitcase lining.

pointAnd, indeed, Leonard manages to generate an air of gravitas performing these mundane tasks. And, I suppose one could construct an explanatory hypothesis that the video somehow employs this four minutes of remarkably unremarkable activity to signify the metaphysics of Waiting For The Miracle. Either that, or it’s the most uneventful Leonard Cohen video ever.

Leonard Cohen – Waiting For The Miracle
Helsinki: April 1993
Finnish subtitles
Video from Robert Knight

Note: Originally posted Aug 1, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Waiting For The Miracle Featured In Piero Messina’s L’Attesa

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Possession and control drive the precarious relationship between two women in L’Attesa. Inside an enormous villa in the mountains of eastern Sicily, Anna (Juliette Binoche) is welling over with grief after the loss of her son, Giuseppe. His French girlfriend, Jeanne, arrives on the scene apparently oblivious to the recent tragic events. She has not heard from Giuseppe for days and leaves a barrage of voicemails on his phone wondering where he is. The backdrop is beautiful. The villa is cold and foreboding. Anna and Jeanne are meeting for the first time, and Anna cannot bring herself to tell Jeanne the truth. So they wait. Jeanne thinks she is waiting to reunite with her lover. Anna thinks she is somehow keeping Giuseppe alive by not speaking of his death. Piero Messina’s drama is contemplative and quiet as the waiting game plays out between matriarch and ingénue. It’s Easter weekend and, as Leonard Cohen sings Waiting for the Miracle, Anna hopes for a different kind of resurrection.1

In this key sequence from the film, Jeanne has invited two young men to Anna’s home for an dinner. drinks, dalliance, and dancing. The video captures Jeanne and one of the men dancing to Leonard Cohen’s “Waiting for the Miracle.”

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  1. L’Attesa CIFF41 []