Saturday, July 6, 2013

Iconic Singer-Songwriter in an Idyllic Setting

I had heard of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland ( - 2nd largest in the world behind Montreal - for years but, like many famous events and places around the world, I'd figured I would probably never be in a position to ever visit. Becoming part of Donna-Lane's life, moving to Europe, changed my options and my bucket list.

Several weeks ago, she excitedly announced that she had secured three of the scarce tickets to a Leonard Cohen performance at Montreux. Tickets for her, her Geneva housemate J, and me.

Frankly, I had never heard of Cohen. But it was enough for me that she thought he was wonderful. After all, she had introduced me to the quartet Il Divo, Garou, and other musicians who are each fabulous in their own way.

Cohen is a Canadian, born in the English-speaking section of Montreal, and an award-winning singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. He's in the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and has won numerous awards.

D-L mentioned that Cohen is a folksinger, and I decided (somewhat by lack of time default) to not pre-listen to his music but just experience it for the first time at the concert.

We caught a late-afternoon train in Geneva through Lausanne, found our way to the Stravinsky Auditorium in Montreaux with a few minutes to spare, and carved out a space against the barrier for one of the video cameras where we could sit as well as stand in the standing-only section of the hall.

I figured, like many name musicians, we'd get a warm-up act to fill time, then perhaps 45 minutes to an hour at best of the headliner.

Instead, Mr Cohen, as many call him -- at nearly 79 years old -- performed for more than three hours ... about an hour before intermission, another hour in the second half, and then another hour of encores for an audience that did not want the evening to end.

Cohen has a deep voice and sings in an almost haunting style, sometimes tending a bit to an (understandable) spoken rap-style. Most of the songs he performs are his own compositions and carry themes of deep love, broken relationships, and social commentary in the tradition of Dylan. His backup musicians are as incredible, especially the string player from Barcelona.

Several of Cohen's tunes are definitely going on my iPod.

Here's a link to a YouTube clip of Mr Cohen singing D-L's favorite, Suzanne: 

It was midnight by the time the concert was over, and the soonest train back to Geneva did not depart for another hour, so we cooled off from the summer evening warmth with some fizzy water at a park where the sculptures are built of old bicycles, tires, a junk car with palm trees coming out of the roof, and bathroom procelain such as sinks and toilet bowls.

The tired trio arrived back in Corsier Port around 3 am, and untypical of me I didn't even turn on the computer. Basically fell into bed ... right after I squashed a spider that wanted to share my pillow. He must have figured at that hour we wouldn't be expected home for the night.

More images and D-L's version of the evening are on her blog:

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