Leonard Cohen Concert Review – June 29, 1985 Los Angeles
Searching for a reference to a Leonard Cohen held at the Wiltern in 1988, I came across this review by Ethlie Ann Vare in Billboard (June 9, 1985) of the Cohen show that took place that Los Angeles venue June 29, 1985.
Most of the review appears to have been composed by the boilerplate phrases that one assumes is given to all reporters assigned to Cohen Concerts. For example, “Cohen is first and foremost a poet.” Moreover, he uses “his usual self-depreciating tone” when speaking to the “reverential crowd.” And there is the appearance of the always popular “Cohen hasn’t toured America in [fill in the number - 10 in this case] years.”
Leonard Cohen On His Songs
The description Cohen gives his own songs, however, doesn’t seem to be found elsewhere online and certainly seems worth memorializing. His songs, he told the audience, are
The kind of songs you sing when you don’t feel like singing
Leonard Cohen On Leonard Cohen
While not recorded in the review, it was also at this concert that Cohen described himself as
… an old veteran of the rainbows, rambling on in his invisible trench.1
Leonard Cohen On Guilt
The other quotation recorded by Ms Vare is thoughtful and poignant but appears elsewhere in slightly altered form:
Guilt has gotten a lot of bad press lately. Guilt is the only way we know we’ve done something wrong.
This is a rephrasing of his introduction to “The Law” the previous night, June 8th, 1985, in San Francisco:
It’s [The Law is] about our current dismal catastrophe. It’s about the Age of post-guilt. Guilt has been given a very bad name. There are entire medical industries that are devoted to describing guilt as a disease. Actually it’s the only way that we know that we’ve done something wrong.2
At the December 4, 1988 Mannheim concert, he worded it
Yes, guilt is a very under-estimated emotion. It has a lot of bad press today, guilt has. Actually, it is the only way we know when we’re doing a wrong thing. 3
And Ethlie Ann Vare Scores
I’m also going to give the author credit for her rendering of Cohen as “the black-clad troubadour of the minor key” and her hyperbolic observation, “You can’t really sing along [with Cohen's songs] (hell, he can’t really sing along) … .”
And A Final Word About Record Labels
The phrase “Cohen’s new Passport album” used in the review refers to Various Positions, the album that Cohen’s label Columbia Records refused to release in the US. (Yep, this is when Walter Yetnikoff, president of the company, called him to his office in New York and said, “Look, Leonard; we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.”) Various Positions was subsequently picked up by the independent label Passport Records. The album was finally included in the catalog in 1990 when Columbia released the Cohen discography on compact disc.
Credit Due Department: The photo of the Wiltern Theatre was taken by Carol M. Highsmith, who has stipulated it as part of public domain. It was found at Wikipedia.