Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Poet

When I was in high school, one of our textbooks contained prose by Canadian authors. One writer who stood out in my memory was Leonard Cohen. Even then, I was touched by the simplicity, humour and impact of his words.

I set him aside in favour of other pursuits, like horses and boyfriends and pond hockey. I finished high school, painted, tried to figure out my path in life, got married, had children.

When I took my kids to see Shrek at the theatre, one song made my throat tighten. It was Halleluja. I hummed it for weeks afterwards. Leonard had crept back into my life. When I look back at the songs that struck a chord, I discovered many that were written by Cohen.

A few weeks before Christmas, the good people at Indigo asked on Twitter for our favourite Cohen lines. I picked one from "Suzanne." Two days later, they informed me I had won tickets to see Leonard at the Air Canada Centre.

Thrilled, I arranged for my sister to go with me. We expected fair seats, but were surprised and delighted to get centre floor seats only 19 rows from the front. As the lights went down, I sat with my mouth open, my eyes afraid to blink. I didn't want to miss a second. I had forgotten my camera (stupid me) so all I had was the camera in my phone. These look far away, but it was actually closer than it appears.

When he strode onto the stage, he wore a fedora and a black suit, so dapper and slick. The band was pretty slick, too. Tight as all get out. The atmosphere, despite 15,000 polite fans, was intimate.

His voice was deep - deeper than I could ever imagine, yet he held a variety of notes within such a low register. He hid his gaze behind the brim of his hat, often cupping a hand beside his cheek as if to caress us, or to wave his words across the crowd. 

He knelt before us and rose with little difficulty. When his band mates performed their solos, he held his hat over his heart and bowed toward them, showing his respect for their talent.

Song after song washed over us - so many I knew, but hadn't realized they were written by Cohen. He spoke poetry, he joked, he skipped. 

Couples waltzed in the aisles.

It was over too soon. After three encores, we flowed outside along with four generations of wonderful fans. I want to thank the folks at @indigogreenroom for the fantastic opportunity to see a legend in person. And thank you, Mr. Cohen, for your inspiration, class and dignity. I'll remember this forever.