Monday night I experienced three hours of sitting in a state of pure musical prayer at one of the best concerts of my life: Leonard Cohen plus eight world-class musicians performing at the gorgeous Midland Theater in Kansas City. Despite so many songs of having our hearts ripped open and the existing coming demise of politics and society, I felt such kindness and compassion, such presence and humor, such grace from the man who said in one of his songs, “I’m just a little Jew rewriting the bible.”
One of the moments that pierced me the most deeply was when Cohen sang “Anthem,” and particularly the chorus, “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There’s a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in” after he told us, “So much of the world is plunged into darkness and chaos.” I found myself crying in the cheap seats from which Leonard was the size of my thumb, but I could still hear most of his words and see all his gestures: the lifting of his hat when he bowed, the way he waltzed across the stage, the continual return to his knees to pour his song into the mic as he sang.
Both Ken and I were blown away by the musicians, particularly the Webb Sisters, musical sisters from England who, when they did a solo for “If it is Thy Will” that sounded like the most lyrical bells in the world ringing. Sharon Robinson, another singer and one of Leonard’s collaborators on many songs, also did a dazzling solo.
He did many standards we loved: “Suzanne” with just a guitar and his voice as he stood alone on the stage; “Bird on a Wire” that landed in me a whole new way; “So Long, Marianne,” which sounded a deep goodbye between him and us in one of the many encores; and the gorgeous “Dance Me to the End of Time” and “Hallelujah.” But I also experienced some songs that I somehow missed below — particularly the hauntingly beautiful “The Gypsy Wife,” which I still hear as I drive around Lawrence.
If you missed the concert, so sorry — at 75 years old, it’s probable he won’t be here again (but who knows?). Yet you can buy the CD “Live in London,” recorded in ’08, which has most of this concert on it. Play it in a dark room, sit in a comfortable chair and relax, and turn the volume up high. Let Leonard show you how much beauty and peace, meaning and astonishment you can enter into with all of his timeless music.