My timeline is stuffed full of doctors, epidemiologists, public health officials, and health journalists, and they are not an optimistic bunch of late. While Ontario / Canada seemed to have had a reasonable handle on Delta, the two-week’s worth of data on Omicron is not looking promising. Seemingly quite contagious, seemingly fairly evasive of both vaccination and prior infection, it looks poised to spread at exponential rates in the coming weeks and months, once again threatening to swamp Ontario hospitals whose already limited capacity is actually worse now when this happened last year.
Meanwhile, I had tickets to my first crowded indoor event of the pandemic: a sold-out Blue Rodeo concert at Centre in the Square.
Ballet Jazz de Montréal brought their Leonard Cohen – Dance Me program to Centre in the Square recently. It assembles the work of three choreographers into a single program that pays tribute to Leonard Cohen’s body of work.
Much of it was, of course, very sexy. Less expected was the funny—“Tower of Song” is a pretty wry piece, when you think about it. And the dance interpretation definitely did have you thinking about those poetic lyrics in a new way. Though just when you were getting into that groove, they’d shake it up. Interspersing Leonard’s image, his voice (in interviews), his words (projected on a screen). For “So Long, Mariane”, the dancing stopped in favor of a woman just singing the song. The inevitable “Hallelujah” was treated similarly, albeit with two singers.
The whole thing was terrific. Despite not being particularly a Leonard Cohen fan, Jean quite enjoyed it as well. It was very well attended (not quite sold out, but “limited availability”) and was much lauded at the end.
Most of the music came from the later part of Leonard Cohen’s career, with a number of live selections. This pleased me, as to this day, I have trouble listening to his earlier, folky oeuvre.
I first got into Leonard Cohen music via Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat album, which I adored (and still rather like). I thought of that when they danced to “Famous Blue Raincoat”, obviously using Leonard’s version, not Jennifer’s. Warnes subtly changed the lyrics of that song, such that I could never make heads or tails of what was going on in it. When I finally listened to the original, it was like, oh, now see I. Not “You treated some woman to a flake of your life”, but “You treated my woman to a flake of your life.” Completely changes the meaning and feeling of the next line, “And when she got home, she was nobody’s wife.”
I recently heard Joan Baez’ version. She just sings the original lyrics, right down the the “Sincerely, L. Cohen” at the end. His songs are so “covered”; I guess everyone, especially women, have to decide how to make them work. K.d. lang’s “Hallelujah” skips the verse with the line “I remember when I moved in you”; other women (like Emilie Claire Barlow) keep it in. At Ballet Jazz (where it was mostly sung by a man; a woman provided harmonies) they did a shortened version overall. I would guess might have skipped the song entirely—it not being that danceable—except that you can’t, really…?
Amazing how iconic it’s become, given a what a flop it originally was (and Cohen’s original version… still isn’t my favourite thing to listen to). Malcolm Gladwell has a really interesting podcast episode on the song’s long road to success (even if it doesn’t have enough k.d. lang in it).
“Dance Me to the End of Love” and “Take This Waltz” were more obvious choreographic choices, and were featured early in the program. Warming up the room nicely. Brought to mind the film Take This Waltz, which features one of the sexiest scenes I’ve ever seen… though that’s probably a woman thing, because the two participants are fully clothed and don’t touch each other. They’re contemplating what to do with their lust for one another, given that she’s married (and not to him). “I want to know what you’d do to me,” she says.
And then he tells her. Wow.
Leonard Cohen himself played Centre in the Square once. This was after he’d decided to go on tour, to make some money, having found out that his manager had embezzled all his earnings. Not being sure how the tour would be received, Cohen played some smaller venues, like this one.
I had the opportunity to buy tickets early, but I was like, well, do I even really like Leonard Cohen himself, versus some woman singing his songs? So I passed. Which, of course, turned out to be really stupid. The tour was amazing because (as the podcast gets into) Leonard Cohen is something of a late bloomer, and his mature voice and (especially) his terrific full backup band—not to mention all those great songs—made them so. I love his live albums.
Other residents of KW were smarter than I, and the show sold out quickly, so there was no getting late tickets, either. After that initial, very successful tour, it was all stadiums in big cities. So I never saw him live, except on video.
Per tweet, people stand through the whole thing, from opening chord to closing greeting. Glad I wore comfy shoes.
There are far more people in the world than you’d think who know the words to every Carly Rae Jepsen song. The whole thing was a grand singalong. I myself found that I knew the lyrics better than I realized. [I mean, I do have a few of her albums. I didn’t just randomly show up at this performance.]
She does not end the show with “Call Me Maybe”. She just throws it in there as song five.
Nor does she end with “I Really Like You” (song 13). The honour goes to: “Cut to the Feeling”.
Per Jean, this was the greatest crowd to watch. He especially enjoyed as they evolved from the tentative, awkward standing to totally in-the-groove dancing along. The overwhelming feeling was warmth. The Carly Rae Jepsen fan base might be small, but it’s passionate.
We were among the oldest people there. Although… Guess that wasn’t really a surprise.
So this was a September 18 concert at Centre in the Square, and it was a hoot. The opening act was Ralph, whom I hadn’t heard of before, but she was also rather fun. Cameras were allowed, but we didn’t bring one, so I’ll feature a photo from Centre in the Square:
People were a bit bemused when we said we were going to The Monkees concert. “The ‘Hey, hey we’re The Monkees’ guys? They’re still around?”
They’re actually not all still around, Davy Jones having died in 2012. Peter Tork is still active in the music business—too active to go on this particular nostalgia tour. Leaving Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith to perform in what was dubbed “The Monkees Presents: The Mike and Micky Show”.
Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, and band: The Mike and Micky Show
The show was to feature the hits, along with some “deep album tracks.” Or from my perspective, songs I know along with songs I don’t know.
Interesting how people often lump all types of “musicals” as being one thing, and categorically answer “yes” or “no” (more often “no”) to that question.
Do I like musicals? Some, very much. Others, not really. Loved Moulin Rouge, Les Miz, Once More With Feeling (Buffy musical), Rocky Horror, Singing in the Rain, Tommy (the play), Hair (the critically drubbed movie), and Grease. Didn’t so much care for Chicago (despite the Oscars), Oklahoma (the play), Tommy (the movie), and Hair (the play).
So wasn’t sure what I’d make of Hairspray, part of the Broadway Series playing at Centre the in Square. Would I be transported, or sighing as yet another song stopped everything dead?
Not having seen the original movie, the movie remake, nor any other version of this play live, I have to say, I thought this was fantastic. (And so did Jean which, trust me, is high praise.) The swing dancing was top-notch and a lot of fun to watch; the very good-natured plot moved along swiftly; the tiny lead actress had a serious set of chops; and many characters—particularly that of the best friend—were just comic gold.
I will recognize that the lead actress was not quite as good a dancer as the part requires, and that a couple of the slower numbers in the second half did seem a little—slow. Overall, however, no matter. I went in sleepy and grumpy and emerged upbeat and smiling. That’s a fine musical in my book.
Up next: the local production of The Producers. [Postscript: Which turned out to be another musical… I didn’t enjoy.]