Monday, September 28, 2009

Leonard Cohen - Live in Ramat Gan

On Thursday, September 24, 2009, I went to see Leonard Cohen's live concert at the Ramat Gan Stadium. This concert was one of the most anticipated shows in Israel this year, and the 50,000 tickets sold out on the first day of sales. We sat opposite the stage, but a long way back from it, so while the stage itself seemed small, we had a clear view of the screens. The sound was perfect. The concert started on time and lasted 3 hours, with a 30-minute break.

The song list was very similar to that of the CD "Live in London", with almost all the songs, in much the same order, and the same arrangements. However, hearing them live was a much more vivid experience than listening to any recording. For me, the highlights were my favourite Cohen songs, "Who By Fire" and "Lover Lover", which I have known since childhood. Cohen sung expressively, and seemed to enjoy himself. His musicians and singers were outstanding, and the entire show was professional, moving and impressive. Even the weather was perfect, with a pleasant temperature and slight breeze.

For me, Cohen has always been a singer I appreciated, though not one I often played. I was happy when I heard his songs at other people's homes, or on the radio. In this respect, my attitude to his music is like my appreciation of classical music. I also think my early exposure to his work was formative, and that some of the artists I like today have some similarities to his style. I have always admired his writing, with lyrics expressing the passion, the spirituality and the complexity of relationships, and sometimes including Jewish themes, which always resonate with the Israeli audience.

The practical arrangements for the concert, however, were less perfect. Parking was difficult, even for those who arrived early. There were long queues at the gates, and for the toilets. I think the organizers should have provided additional portable toilets, instead of relying on the insufficient facilities of the stadium. During the concert people smoked, which bothered me, but I know that it would be difficult to enforce a smoking ban in an open-air venue. At the end of the concert there were traffic jams.

It has been reported that Cohen will donate the proceeds from the concert, about $2 million, to a new charity he has set up, the Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Peace. Some of the proceeds will be given to existing bodies: the Parents Circle-Families Forum, the Palestinian Center of Research and Information, Radio Kol HaShalom, and Saving the Children - Peres Center for Peace. During the concert he spoke touchingly about the work of the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a group of bereaved Jewish and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in the conflict and are working together through their mutual understanding of the price they have paid. He has called on other performing artists to donate the proceeds of one of their concerts from each tour to this new fund.

I really enjoyed the concert, and it was worth waiting for.

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