There comes a point in life when a Jew starts to like Leonard Cohen. It’s not the music, you understand, it’s the name. It’s the fact that there’s this Jewish guy who’s a successful singer, a pop singer, noch, (OK, borderline pop), who didn’t give himself a new name. If Leonard Cohen were Bob Dylan he’d be calling himself Robert Zimmerman. Not only that, he’d be OK with his Judaism. OK, so Cohen plays around with Buddhism but that doesn’t count does it? It’s not like he’s converted.
And then there’s the secret code. While the gentiles are groaning along to “Who By Fire”, we’ve got this Rosh Hashannah thing going. When they listen to Hallelujah they get stuck on the bondage bit, when we listen to Hallelujah we get stuck on the King David bit.
I went to see Leonard Cohen last week at the O2 – the one in Docklands not the one on Finchley Road. (Am I the only person who finds it sad that a major public building is named after a mobile phone provider? Before long newscasters will be going over to John Sergeant who’ll be standing outside the HP Sauce Houses of Parliament). During the interval I played a game with my companions wherein we would award ourselves points for spotting Jews we knew. I scored 14, including 3 for a rabbi. That’s more than we managed at Shacharit earlier in the day. Which got me thinking. Why an interval? Who does intervals at rock concerts? The only thing I could think of is that Cohen wanted to give people a chance to daven Maariv. Great idea. So why didn’t they sell overpriced cuppels and siddurs instead of overpriced T-shirts and programmes?
The other feature of the evening that proved, if further proof were needed, that this was a Jewish event, it was the number of people who arrived late and wandered in and out as if they were in their own living rooms watching TV. This confirms my original point: Jews don’t really like the music of Leonard Cohen, they just go to see him in the same way that they go to T-Mobile Square for Israel rallies. They feel they need to give their support rather than because they want to be there.
Personally I enjoyed it. I only wish it had started earlier so I could have davened Mincha as well.
Originally posted November 16th 2008