Leonard Cohen
March 2, 2013
The Paramount Theater
Oakland, Ca


…Then We Take Oakland. 

Remember the days when you used to watch a movie and part way through it you’d be like, “I’m totally gonna go down to My Local Record Store and get this soundtrack after I get my allowance”? (And, there were movies like The Crow and Pulp Fiction that every little fucker had the soundtrack to because they were so good.) Well this was my experience with Natural Born Killers. I remember buying that soundtrack and thinking it was soooo tits. This was how I caught my first glimpse of Leonard Cohen. I was eleven or so. He would remain nestled in my sub-conscious, not adamantly explored, until close to ten years later when one of my best buds Robb turned me on to the expanse of his recordings; from his earlier, more simple and modest recordings to after he had acquired the distinctive growl of his later years. I felt immediately attuned to the originality and straight-forwardness of his music, the angelic women harmonizing in the background, the sadness and modesty in his voice. Then, I listened to his lyrics and got knocked on my stupid head. Before long, I was buying every Leonard Cohen record I could get my hands on. He immediately achieved the status of myth as, at the time of my acquirement, he hadn’t any vocal notion (pardon the pun) of touring ever again. The man was in his mid-seventies, he hadn’t toured in over a decade and there he sat for me, amongst the likes of Mozart and Nirvana, within my own personal list of musicians who I would have loved to see play live, but sadly never would.

However! Music is a clever mistress and you rarely know when she’ll throw a Pop-Tart in your toaster. Mr. Cohen had the misfortune of having his manager of 16 years steal more than 5 million dollars from him. This sudden need for funds made it appropriate for the man to be wrestled from his retirement and re-acquaint himself with arenas, groupies, and months at a time on the road.  Although I feel horrible for what that assmunch did to Mr. Cohen, I still had trouble stifling my grin because it meant that the impossible was about to take fruition and I would have my chance to see one of the most remarkable poets in history stand in front of his congregation and hand his heart to us. Since his first resurrection in 2008, I’ve seen Leonard Cohen play four times. Every time I’m left wondering when I’ll be able to do it again. Let me tell you about the last time I saw him in Oakland…


The Paramount Theater on Broadway is like a time portal to the Jazz Era and/or one of those other rad decades of our nation’s history. Its ceiling towers above the third level balcony, decorated with amazing carvings. If I’d watched more Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego? as a kid, I might be able to dredge up the historical period from which they’re mirrored, but for our purposes let’s just say they’re Greek and were carved by fairies yielding ice daggers. Tonight the crowd consisted mostly of upper-crust poets and professors (or at least fellas trying exude such a disposition), enjoying a dollop of whiskey with their classy lass, arm in arm. It was a far cry from the (metal and punk rock) shows I’d been going to lately and I felt kinda out of place; like any minute they’d surround me and forcibly clothe me in a patched jacket and jam a tobacco pipe in my mouth or some shit. I also felt like I was at a Leonard Cohen look-a-like contest, with countless old men wearing the same brimmed hat he’s seen coolly sporting on the cover of his latest album Old Ideas. I guess we never grow out of trying to be our favorite rock star.



I found my seat on the floor and soon the lights dimmed. Everybody excitedly got settled as the band took the stage: a 12-string guitar, an electric guitar, a violin, a drummer, a bass, an epic keyboard set-up and three women (several members of the band would swap out one instrument for another throughout the set too). We all cheered them all greedily. Then Mr. Cohen stepped out. The crowd completely erupted, standing up and raising their applauding hands above their head. He took off his hat and gave a modest bow before stepping to the microphone and thanking us all for allowing them for playing for us tonight. As they launched into their first song the crowd grew silent and transfixed, drinking in his poetry with complete awe. The man is the epitome of a gentleman. Whenever one of his band mates would be playing a solo, Mr. Cohen would step out of the spotlight, face them and remove his hat until they were finished. Between songs he would say these remarkably lyrical things to us, all accented with jokes about how old he is and the fact that since he’s resumed playing live, he plans on doing it for as long as he possibly can. He made one joke in this vein referencing a chart of expected life spans they had in the lobby of the theater. I must say, any dude out there can learn a thing or two about wooing the ladies from Mr. Cohen. Every woman in there was positively and vocally melted. I was kinda glad Candice didn’t want to go because I figured if she were to see him I would be forever condemned to the ranking of second sexiest man alive.


He played for about three and a half hours, his set list spanning his entire career. He would take time between or during his songs to introduce each of his band mates by name, christening each with a small verse that expressed his appreciation of them. By the time he’d played his second encore the place wouldn’t be contained. It was like every solitary soul in there had suddenly found art in their loneliness and everyone who had a shoulder to lean on couldn’t contain their gratitude. And yes, I refuse to apologize for being such wimpy nerd when it comes to this man. He’s always made me feel like I should be proud of my dorky self, with all four of my eyes buried in a book and my respectfully bald head glinting in the moonlight.

Every once in while you’ll see a show that makes you feel so alive that you wonder what it is that makes us humans end up becoming numb the majority of our lives. That’s why I see Leonard Cohen every chance I get. It’s like waking up for a few hours before ducking back into the race with the rest of the rats. This was how I felt that night in Oakland and I can’t thank the man enough for it. Thank you, Mr. Cohen, I’ll see you next time.



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