Back in December 2008, I watched the video: Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man. That was it, I was a goner. I declared Mr. Cohen, my new superhero! I cried several times watching that video. The words struck a tender place in my heart. It’s not just the words either. Without the words, the music holds the intensity of the feeling. Without the music, the words stand alone. The combination is simply brilliance. He’s a genius.
I made it a personal goal for the New Year in 2009 to see Mr. Leonard Cohen perform. My friend Stacey, in DC asks, “When are you coming to visit me?” I tell her, “I’ll come when Cohen plays New York.” A week after I said that, I found out he was playing New York at The Beacon Theatre! Then, I found out he hasn’t played in the States in over 15 years! It all seemed very strange to me. How could I just find out about Cohen, make it a personal goal and the next week the opportunity appears? I felt it was destiny for me to go.
I got on Ticketmaster at the allotted time to get the prized ticket. I kept getting the same message: not available, try again…I kept hitting the back button for almost two hours. Finally I wrote to my friends on the Jam Cruise forum to ask what’s the deal with Ticketmaster? I was informed they sold out in the first seven minutes and what the hell was I doing. When I heard that, I immediately started crying. I couldn’t believe it and kept hitting the back button to try again until I called Ticketmaster myself and they informed me that the concert was sold out. I walked away from my computer, sat on the couch, curled up in a ball and continued crying. How could this be? I felt I was meant to go. I head back to my computer and find out the tickets were coming up on ebay for a thousand bucks and there were links to other scalper sites. I bought a scalper ticket, for four hundred dollars. I didn’t care. I felt it was worth it. I was happy once again!
The only problem was the ticket wasn’t that great. It was the 27th row. I like to be closer to the stage. I discovered the Leonard Cohen website. On their forum I found people with extra tickets, or looking for tickets. There was one guy with a 5th row ticket, but he was looking for someone to accompany him to the concert, the pre and post parties as well as some hockey game the night before. We were staying at the same place, The Hotel Beacon. I told him I didn’t know about the hockey game but I would be happy to accompany him since I was alone anyway. He promised me the ticket but then ever wrote back. I wrote to him a few times to confirm but never received a reply. A week before the show I tried one last time. He agreed! I was shocked. He had another friend, Lena, who wanted his ticket but she could only afford 100 bucks, the ticket cost two hundred and fifty. I told him, I’d sell my ticket to her for a hundred. I wasn’t going to sell my ticket for the scalper price, that wouldn’t have been right. The original cost of my 27th row ticket was a hundred and twenty-five. I wasn’t going to split hairs for 25 bucks. The deal was made. Later, I found out he had hundreds and hundreds of emails requesting his ticket. “Why did you choose me?” I asked. He said he didn’t know. Strange.
Meanwhile, I discover all these Cohen heads on the Cohen website. These are fans, like I’ve never met before. Every few years they gather in different places in the world, just to celebrate Leonard Cohen, without a concert, without Mr. Cohen, they unite to celebrate him, to salute him! I was informed I hit the mother lode. People were coming from all over the world to see this show. There was a pre-show reception for those who had the lucky tickets. There was a day before the show party and post show gathering all arranged by the Cohenites. I met people from Ireland, Britain, Finland…San Francisco, Boston, Florida…it was a big deal.
The pre show reception started at 6pm. I was supposed to meet Lena at 5. She calls me at five to tell me she doesn’t trust the ticket. “How do I know it’s good?” “What? You are telling me this an hour before I am suppose to be in the show? I was doing you a favor. Do you know how much I paid for this ticket?” I couldn’t believe it. I did not want to hassle with looking for someone to sell the ticket to, to have to go outside now, when I should be getting ready, walking up and down in front of the Beacon was not what I wanted to be doing. I called a few friends first, to put the word out. I went outside and looked around, I saw someone else doing a transaction, and a man approached me. “Do you need a ticket?” I should have known. He was a scalper. I sold him my ticket for 100 bucks. I don’t know what this means about scalpers and tickets and Ticketmaster or about me. He was making a living, just like everyone. Maybe I should have more patience. I should try harder. I should have walked up and down the block a few times. As I was standing in line to go in, I saw a young man with a sad face holding a sign next to will call that read, I need a ticket. I have to believe that scalper maybe made twenty five bucks on my ticket. That’s good for him. That’s good for whoever bought my ticket. I tried to go back to find that seat, just to say hello to the person with my old ticket, but never made it. What’s done is done. There’s got to be a lesson there. It’s something I’ll have to think about. Forgive me!
About The Beacon, I’ve never been in a more beautiful theatre. There were gigantic golden statues flanking the room; a beautiful goddess holding a staff guarding the sanctity of the stage; lions, proud and regal watching over the upper balconies; men in armor, fierce and unrelenting, as they should be. A deep red velvet curtain opened to our man. He skips out on the stage. The Webb sisters do cartwheels. He started the show with, Dance With Me To The End Of Love. Dance with me to the end of love? Dance with me to the end of love?!! I really wanted to dance. That’s the kind of song that lovers should be dancing hand in hand, cheek to cheek with a few swirls and dips. I had to sit down during the whole show except after every song I stood to applaud. I was able to express my appreciation and feelings in that small way. I like to sway. I like to raise my arms. I like to look up and feel the energy around me. I stayed in my seat because I was fifth row and I certainly would not want to obstruct anyone’s view, everyone was sitting down, but I appreciated being close to the stage. I know some people have a tendency to laugh at anyone dancing at a Cohen show. The music is kind of slow and sultry. I cried quite a bit during the first set, it was so moving and reverent, like when he got down on his knees and sang, “like a bird on a wire…I shall be free…” He’s a funny guy too. He totally had us laughing, joking about his many years of depression then he goes into his song, “there’s a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in...” He might repeat the same jokes at every show but the night was fresh and fun for me, full of mischief, light, laughter and the deepest sincerity. There was an extraordinary feeling coming from the audience of love, gratitude and the greatest respect. It really was an ultimate concert experience. I think it comes from the intensity of emotion.
All the rest is history. The next day I went walking around New York, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue…and I couldn’t help but cry walking down the street. I called my friend Stacey who I was supposed to meet. She was having family issues. I didn’t visit her. She didn’t make the show. I cried trying to talk with her on the phone. It’s actually taking a while for me to recover. It really is that intense. It’s like a love affair. It’s like being caught up in this whirl wind and all of a sudden you’re back down on the ground looking around trying to remember, one foot in front of the other. I suppose it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Only the hardy can handle Cohen!
Here’s the set list:
Dance Me To The End Of Love
Ani’t No Cure for Love
Bird On The Wire
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Hey That’s No Way/Sisters of Mercy
The Gypsy Wife
I’m Your Man
Poem (recited) – A Thousand Kisses Deep
Take This Waltz
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will (Sung by Webb Sisters)
I Tried To Leave You
PS. The hockey game turned out to be the Rangers Vs Islanders at Madison Square Garden. We had seats directly behind the goalie. Rangers won.
PPS. Here’s a link to download 12 songs from the show.