Friday, 11 November 2016

It's closing time! It's closing time!

It's been a bad week for news.

 And now I hear that Leonard Cohen has died. I checked my phone and found a "notification" that a friend had "tagged" me in a post. All I could see in that notification was the start "RIP ..." so I had to investigate. And there it was: RIP Leonard Cohen! Well, he did say, not so many weeks ago that he was ready to go now, that he did not think he had time to work on the songs and poems that were still waiting. And I suppose 82 is a good age.

I had always loved his songs and when he came out of his Buddhist retirement because his accountant had robbed him of everything, forcing him to go on tour again, we had the chance to go to one of his concerts in Manchester. We were lucky. This was at the start of his come-back tour and he was not performing at one of the huge Manchester venues. We saw him at the Manchester Opera House, a small, intimate venue, and by some kind of serendipity, we had seats about eight rows from the stage. I was told later that there were all sorts of famous television personalities in the audience that night but we never noticed them.

The concert was magical, probably the very best concert I have ever seen. Sorry Bruce, your concerts are great but this was something else. Eat your heart out, Neil Young, and K.D. Lang for that matter; this Canadian did it better.

He was amazingly humble, grateful to the audience for being there, surprised almost that so many had turned out to see him. And, a perfectly old fashioned gentleman in his suit and tie and hat, he thanked each member of his tightly-knit band in turn. Spine tingling stuff! If there had been tickets left for the next evening's performance I would gladly have gone again.

The next day I spoke to an enthusiastic young music teacher at work, equally entranced by the previous night's performance. I am not at all sure how either of us got any work done that day. At the end of that academic year I retired and the following September we came to spend a year or two in Galicia.

As the summer of 2009 approached, I discovered that one of the concerts in the Castrelos Park, sponsored by Vigo's local council, was to feature Leonard Cohen. My friend, she of the tagged post this morning, was coming to stay for a week, coinciding with the concert date. So I hastily bought three tickets, for Phil, for me and for my friend.

The concert in the park was not so intimate as the Opera House, but magical in its way. What could be wrong with a clear August night, listening to fine music in the open air? We heard the same songs as in Manchester. All good. The fabulous Webb sisters did cartwheels on the stage. And the old man sang for a good three hours. At one or two o'clock in the morning we walked home, stopping for beer on the way, enchanted!

And now he's up there in the tower of song. Or maybe forever in Suzanne's place by the river, having tea and oranges that come all the way from China.

It's been a bad week for news!

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