I guess we owe some kind of grudging debt to the underhanded business manager that stole Leonard Cohen’s money a few years back. That betrayal plucked the songwriter from his Buddhist retreat on Mount Baldy and sent him back out on the road to refill the coffers. A lot of people have had a lot of pleasure in a lot of concert halls because of what that guy did. Leonard’s one of them, actually.
If you’ve seen him perform, you know what I mean. As much as the crowd takes in, Leonard seems downright nourished onstage. Leon Wieseltier sums it up in the liner notes to the new CD/DVD release, Songs From the Road: “Throughout the show, it was never clear whose gratitude was greater, Cohen’s or the audience’s.” That’s plain and true enough but I missed the phenomenon Wieseltier goes on to describe: “Wherever this precious man wanders, the famous blue raincoat notwithstanding, people sing ‘hallelujah!’” Really? Doesn’t Leonard sign off on liner notes? Judging from his taste in musicians, maybe he does. The band is on the bland side and he hasn’t had good back-up singers in decades. All the more reason to admire the songs, which are worth hearing anyway. My only real complaint is that he messes with the lyrics, in particular a couple lines from “Bird On The Wire” that have come to act as a divining rod for me at certain moments...
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
I saw a woman leaning in her darkened door.
She called out to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
In the new live version, Leonard tosses these perfect words aside, and for this…
I say don’t cry, don’t cry anymore. It’s over. It’s done. It has been paid for.
I say don’t cry. You were always the one. It was you that this longing was made for.
As if to make up for this offense, there’s a little Cracker Jack prize included with your purchase. It’s a fortune teller miracle fish, made in Taiwan. The paper thin piece of red plastic tells you what you’re feeling when you hold it in your palm. Here are your choices: Jealousy, Indifference, In Love, Fickle, False, Tired or Passionate.