Leonard Cohen

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

I was lucky enough to go to a Leonard Cohen concert here in Wollongong in December 2013.

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Brilliant. As reported at the time:

“Friends, I don’t know when we’ll meet again, but I can promise you tonight we’re going to give it everything we’ve got”.

But at 79 years of age, still jogging on stage for a three and a half hour show and now on his third Australian tour since audiences thought they’d never see him live again, no one is game to suggest he won’t be back.

And it becomes apparent over the course of the night that a three hour show is virtually required to properly honour his endless suite of music.

Surrounded by a carefully chosen band of virtuoso musicians, the touring Cohen of today is out to provide a smorgasbord of quality to accompany his poetic lyrics.

His voice has never been his trump card, and while it seems to have found even richer depths with age, it’s the exquisite harmonies of his female back-up singers (Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters) that lift and complement the Canadian poet.

As expected, the set-list was a greatest hits onslaught, each drawing a new round of applause from the almost full Wollongong Entertainment Centre.

From his opening ‘Dance me to the end of love’, then ‘The future’, ‘Bird on a wire’ and ‘Everybody knows’, it was a concert drawing on tracks from the 1967 ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ to last year’s ‘Old Ideas’.

But you soon realise it doesn’t matter when a song appears in a Leonard Cohen set – there’s always another trick up his sleeve.

While most bands save their biggest hits until last, Cohen has amassed a career of them he can afford to drop in anywhere.

‘Suzanne’ early in the second set? No problem – simply go straight into ‘Chelsea Hotel no. 2’.

‘Hallelujah’ before the first encore? What about following it with ‘Take this waltz’?

While the crowd was varied in age, it was largely baby boomers enjoying the soundtrack to their adolescence and early adulthood played by a man who can still do his songs justice, but oozes humility.

And there is the enduring beauty of Leonard Cohen – his strength is his lyrics, each word carefully chosen and dripping with imagery and meaning, while he brings in a brilliant band half his age to carry those words.

And as he comically dances and jogs off stage after a third encore, you get the sense it’ll be Cohen’s decision rather than his body that tells him when it’s time to say ‘so long’ for good.

See also Leonard Cohen again.

And why not?  Leonard Cohen performed at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre last Wednesday. As he mentions on his Facebook page he is one of Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now:

26. Leonard Cohen

Cohen emerged from a fifteen-year hiatus in 2008 with marathon shows that showcase all of his best songs. His band is absolutely stunning, and, at 78, his deeper-than-deep voice is captivating. The three-and-a-half hour show seems to pass by in minutes.

Last night ABC Local Radio played his most recent, now valedictory, album You Want it Darker. What a leave-taking that is: “I’m leaving the table, I’m out of the game.”

Anthem

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

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