Leonard Cohen Keeps Running Like Clockwork
Peter Torbijn from The Netherlands, who took the above photo, assures me that Leonard Cohen was not, appearances notwithstanding, introducing his cover of a Flavor Flav song.
It turns out that the Canadian singer-songwriter was instead using the clock to emphasize his announcement to the audience of the second Amsterdam concert (August 22, 2012) that, by special dispensation, the concert could continue until 23.45 rather than stopping, as was the case for the previous night’s show, at the 23.30 curfew.
Time To Make A Point About What’s Really Going On Below
Although fans have made much of the jocularity of Leonard Cohen’s clock/curfew schtick, no one has yet spoken to a more basic dynamic that is a likely driver of this behavior – Leonard Cohen’s acute recognition that he will die.
That this awareness is a psychological determinant for Leonard Cohen should not be surprising. A primary theme of his Old Ideas album is, after all, an individual working out how he will deal with the universal imperative of mortality.
So, for two nights in Amsterdam, Leonard Cohen both flouted and submitted to a municipal ordnance to cease activity at a specific, assigned time. His burlesque act with the clock was, indeed, based on his acceptance of and obedience to civil authority while simultaneously, insistently enjoying the process.
Consider this: A nearly 78 year old man, who has, with increasing frequency, written and sung words exploring old age and death, spends several minutes in two concert appearances parading about the stage wielding a huge clock as a comic prop, making himself, his musicians, and the audience laugh about the inescapable tyranny of the curfew. It doesn’t require a hot-shot shrink to interpret these actions.
My contention is that the 2012 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour is the same phenomenon writ large. Leonard Cohen is aggressively taking charge of his life – or at least those elements of his life that are under his control – and playing it to the hilt. Parading about the stage with a clock cradled in his arms, reviving a sentimental jukebox hit from the 1960s, playing four hour concerts in Ghent, creating a comic routine based on choosing a blossomless rose as his romantic prop (more about this later), and his downright enthusiastic interactions with serendipitously-met fans are all part of the same pattern – call it an especially ebullient gathering of rosebuds while he may.
Cohen’s intent at this point appears to be congruent with Horace’s succinct philosophical expression, memento mori (translation: remember that you are mortal), which urges us to savor life because we know it will end.1
Leonard Cohen’s employment of this strategy would appear a good choice for him – and a bonanza for his fans.
Credit Due Department: The top photo is, as indicated in the text, by Peter Torbijn from The Netherlands. The second photo of Leonard Cohen staring at the front of the clock with the back of the clock facing the reader, is by Maarten Massa._____________________
- There is a distinction between memento mori and the notion of carpe diem, but I sense that this is not the time or place for that elaboration. [↩]