Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leonard Cohen Live at The Isle of Wight (1970)

(we are quite happy that our friend Ben is now a part of this jam. here he comes now. - ed.)

After three days of bad vibes, vandalism, and fires, Leonard Cohen started the penultimate performance at the third Isle of Wight festival by asking everyone in a weary crowd of six-hundred thousand to light a match. Big big balls.

I went and saw Murray Lerner's documentary of this performance earlier tonight (playing through Thursday at Cinema Village) and it was soooo satisfying. The movie is crystal clear and simple, catching Cohen while he was writing Songs of Love and Hate and tottering on the lip of his own sound. The band is world-class and huge too, constantly switching instruments while semi-circled around the Ladies Man and looking as laid back as a baked-out livingroom. And Leonard is smiling most of the time, even when giving the ultimate bummer a beautiful melody or dedicating songs to dead friends. Strolling on to stage in pajamas and a safari coat, Leonard-as-Young-Man looks a lot like a hybrid of Bob Dylan/Billy Madison: a little Jewish prankster who thinks too much about pussy but is too smart to really get in trouble. Dig it?

Lerner occasionally wanders into a dialogue about the controversy and violence of Isle of Wight, but these bits mostly feel like little caricatures of hippie angst, framing the moment well but ultimately just disrupting the Cohen. He does best when he stays with the songs, shooting with two cameras only, one looking up at Leonard from the pit, and another casually ambling around stage like a lost band member. The setlist is prime, dipping into most of the heavies from the first two records while framing some tunes that were brand new at the time (a throat ripping "Diamonds in the Mine" stands out...). But, really, I don't want to spoil it for you, my friends. I don't want to spill the beans. Because its fun to pretend you are seeing Leonard Cohen in the 70s, really fun. And who the fuck wants to read a concert review of a film anyways?

The movie is only 64-minutes long too, the perfect length. Go on your lunch hour.

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