Thursday, October 09, 2008
It's Cold Out There Berlin, Don't Catch A Cold
Godspeed You! Black Emperor has a song named Static. It contains an eerie recording of an Evangelical priest talking on long wave radio. He talks about the fate of those who have seen the real face of "God". Some end up in mental institution, and some, like the preacher himself and his followers, reach salvation by becoming "Godmen, Godwomen, and Godchildren."
I don't buy any of this, but the song helps me to put the three prophets of the religion Dylano-Coheno-Reedianism in context. It is as if the prophets have seen the reality -what the preacher refers as the face of God- from somewhere we have not been able to - perhaps from the Tower of Song- and reacted differently. Bob Dylan saw it in an early age, and shouted it out loud, never loosing his youthful anger, and self esteem. Lou Reed on the other hand, was probably high when he saw it, and chose not to tell what he saw, but make jokes about it, hoping we get it somehow.
Leonard Cohen on the other hand, was taken up the hill by his father when he was a little kid, just like in his song Story Of Isaac. What he saw remained as a childhood dream, which he sought to recollect all his life. He climbed this hill everyday, falling on the road, and climbing again, while we went on with our lives. He came down from time to time from the hill, to tell us not of what lies above, but of his journey up the hill. And this very fact, that he tells us of the journey up there, and not what he seen there, sets him apart from the other two. Because we all need to climb up there from time to time, but we can never be sure if there is something to see up there. Maybe Dylan and Reed, just like the preacher, were just dreaming...
74 years of climbing, and you may have expect a tired man. Or a stuck up man who has the answer. After I watched the documentary I'm Your Man which featured many interviews with him I had an idea, that none of these were true, and that Cohen was a very intimate and sincere man, but I had doubts about how much of these could be come across in a 15 thousand seater arena.
Well, to my and those attended his Berlin concert's surprise, this man was able to emit all the sincerity and intimacy through his songs, his interaction with the band and the audience and his gestures. He did not talk much during the first part of the concert, which was more of a warming up, filled up with more popular songs. Second part opened with Tower of Song, in which he gave "the answer to all the questions" and followed with his only solo performance of the night, and my personal favorite from the concert, Avalanche. After the ices broke, he chatted about his last time in Berlin, when he was -quoting- "a wild 60 year old teenager", about the financial crisis, about why he wrote certain songs. He did an amazing 3 encores, thanks to the insistence of the audience which he joked about with stressing song lyrics like "i tried to leave you at least a hundred times" or "if it be your will, for me to sing." He was obviously touched, by the emotions his songs were able to create, as much as the audience were from his songs.
Talking about his songs, one has to mention the musical perfection his band delivered during the night. I am not mistaken to call them the best live band I listened to. The Spanish guitar player and the vocalist -and his long time collaborator- Sharon Robinson were the best part of the orchestra. The Webb Sisters', who were the other vocalists, cover of If It Be Your Will was my only disappointment of the night.
After 3 hours of musical bliss, Cohen said goodbye to his 15 000 audience, as if they were friends leaving a night out together:
"It's cold out there Berlin, don't catch a cold. Drive safe, and be safe"
Unfortunately, I did not listen to my friend, and caught a cold. He had warned me about this:
"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"
Here is the track list:
Dance Me to the End of Love
Ain't No Cure for Love
Bird On Wire
In My Secret Life
Who by Fire
Heart With No Companion
Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye
Tower of Song,
I'm Your Man,
Take This Waltz
So long Marrianne,
First We Take Manhattan
Famous Blue Raincoat,
If It Be Your Will,
I Tried to Leave You
(*) photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thegolfer/
(**) Here is the original Last.fm entry with song links.