Who by High Ordeal / Who by Common Trial

About halfway throughlast night’s three-hour festival of awesome known as HOLY HELL THAT’S LEONARD COHEN I MEAN LIKE RIGHT THERE MAN, I leaned over to Mr. A, who was putting up with my fangirling in admirable if slightly bemused fashion, and told him, “try assuming that all the songs are about vampires.” Hopefully that helped.

I don’t know a whole lot about music. I can’t impress anyone at parties with my obscure band cred or encyclopedic knowledge. I don’t usually go to a show knowing the entire set list, or all the lyrics, or have a story in my head to tell my poor friend about each song and when it was written and what it really means and by the way this is what he or she was eating when it was composed, and if you listen carefully to this part you’ll get all this on a level ordinary fans just can’t understand and etc. If I like something I just listen to it to death and then find something else to obsess about.

But by the time Cohen launched into The Partisan, my very favorite favorite of all my favorites of all his songs, I was deep into “and I love THIS SONG TOO” heaven and kind of babbling in sentence fragments. “And then … but this … and here … oh, my God, just …”

I found Leonard Cohen through the Internets, natch, and had read most of his lyrics before I ever heard his voice. And I know it’s like Dylan, in that a lot of people would prefer to hear his music from the mouth of Jeff Buckley or K.D. Lang or somebody with prettier pipes. Part of the fascination for me is the way he sounds different now than he did at 30, the grace age brings to poetry, that deep and worn-out and ragged intone. There was a moment last night, though, that I wish I could bottle and drink deep from, every time I forget what it’s like watching people do what they were put on this earth to do. This video doesn’t capture it exactly but it’s close:

A.

8 thoughts on “Who by High Ordeal / Who by Common Trial

  1. dan mcenroe says:

    Saw him at Madison Square Garden last week. Brilliant. Hey, if you’re looking for Cohen youtube awesomeness, allow me to whore out this clip I uploaded a few years ago:
    Leonard Cohen & Sonny Rollins doing ‘Who By Fire.

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  2. noblejoanie says:

    My kids keep saying the music was better back in my day. This proves it. (And also your supreme good taste, Athenae!)

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  3. whet moser says:

    You might enjoy “I’m Your Fan,” an album of Cohen covers. John Cale, R.E.M., Nick Cave, the Pixies – hit or miss, but some good stuff. Cale absolutely nails “Hallelujah,” which is better than the Buckley cover.
    Favorite Cohen song remains “Diamonds in the Mine.” It kills me every time I listen to it.

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  4. pansypoo says:

    i happened to grab an old CD of his, tho i had that jennifer warnes(?) CD, at the library and blown away.

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  5. Maitri says:

    Leonard Cohen. Just wow. The first time I heard him as a kid I stopped to listen to the whole song. Lucky you.

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  6. less Isbetter says:

    I an 62 or 63, somewhere in there. Anyone that does not react to music is not human.
    I will listen to anything except crying and whinging and the rap crap (NWA – Straight out of Compton is not possible to surpass.)
    I have listened to african music cut straight before the western influences enough to feel whether it is grief, a celebration, a war chant or a story. I can understand Mongolian throat singers with a 3 octave range. I will listen to Japanese noise bands that require gun ear protectors over standard ear plugs. I will never be able to sample the enormous range of music. I estimate that there are over 10,000 excellent albums that I will never hear before I die. But I have tried, momma knows that I have tried.

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  7. Skepticat says:

    Found Leonard late, can’t imagine how I’d missed him all these years, and I regret it. He’s definitely an example of “you’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” My big goal now is to see him live–except I’d probably have a coronary from the thrill.

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  8. Ghost of Joe Liebling's Dog says:

    He was wonderful in concert back when I was a whole lot younger — backed by Charlie Daniels, of all people, as I recall — and he’s wonderful now. I fell for him early (as a kid listening to a transistor radio — remember them? — late, late at night in bed when my parents thought I was asleep). And I stayed.

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