I saw Leonard Cohen and his fantastic band at the exquisitely intimate Paramount Theater in Oakland, CA last night. I’m still buzzing with both giddiness and a deep feeling of grace for being invited to 3 1/2 hours of soul massage. Aside from a sublime sound created by a 9-piece ensemble of talented musicians who have mastered the art of filling in just enough to let the greatness of these songs shine right through, I can hardly put in words how nice it felt to be carried through this musical journey by the simple power of . . . words.
There are love songs, the kind we are force-fed ad nauseum in daily radio and television diets, mostly shallow, formulaic professions of “Oh baby, you broke my heart, and I either want you back or you can go to hell.” Then there are Love Songs, the rare kind that strike a chord so deep that they make a connection between our individual human condition or predicament and the infinitely more expansive and universal mystery behind our collective suffering and joy. The latter, of course, is Mr. Cohen’s kind, tickling your soul’s G-spot with his poetic feather until you can take it no more and surrender to the sensation of tears and smiles running side by side.
Inviting you in, through, and beyond, is the essence of poetry, and words are the cosmic training wheels that take you there, wherever there is. The most powerful words, however, may be the ones that — like a caring guardian — slowly fade into the distance once you’re cruising, leaving you to explore all on your own the magic realm from whence they came while still feeling safely connected to their familiar ring. If these words are imbued in a deep dark whisper of a voice and carried by a cloud of sweet and gentle music, then you may find yourself catching a blissful glimpse of creation’s finest, right through that crack where the light shines in.