25, Marengo, IL
As if to confirm his reputation as a lover not a fighter, on the eve of his 80th birthday and the release of his exquisite 13th album, Popular Problems, Leonard Cohens hand quivers only slightly as he grips the microphone into which, in that singular, apostolic basso profondo, he will compel his guests, an intimate cadre of friends and journalists, to enjoy nine new songs.
This goes by pretty fast, Cohen winks, like some rogue or oracle, some firebrand or libertine, the almost amaranthine meanings of such a simple comment being one of the blessings and curses of Leonard Cohens being Leonard Cohen.
He is talking about the album, right?
So while the maestros grip in mixed company may be less than sure on that autumn evening, Cohen, by evidence of his elegant, intrepid new album and his lithe manner of holding court, rakish in a well-cut suit, a trademark fedora shored upon his knee, still holds in firm possession a twin nature that has become the stuff of myth and gospel, prattle and prayer. There is the wit that can be scabrous, the meditations that are by turns reverent and apocalyptic, the tenderness that shifts suddenly savage, the imperishable questing within and without that appears at once futile and cardinal, the humor often mordant and swiftly bewitched, the meter of longing, the rhyme of despair, the sullied shoes marching or stumbling ever toward that which will make.