Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
directed by Murray Lerner
There’s only one man whose swagger could quiet a crowd of 600,000 people on the cusp of rioting. His name is Leonard Cohen, and once again the poet/musician surfaces from images of the past.
This DVD/CD takes you back to the 1970s, when politics meant more than just faces on the late night news. It was the last night of that year’s Isle of Wight festival, and with fires and angry hippies soaking in the music of Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen finally took the stage. Hendrix would’ve been an impossible act to follow for anyone else but Leonard Cohen — this man has the voice and words to stop you in your tracks, slap you in the face (gently of course), and pour out all the little secrets that you only wish you could tell. He commands attention and it is given.
Cohen plays all his swooning hits with his “army” of men with their array of instruments and, of course, the voices of three angels, who sing so beautifully, to his right backing him up. He starts out with “Diamonds in the Mine,” and it almost feels as though he is screaming these lyrics in your face and you want to shut your eyes but you can’t. He chitchats in-between songs, which he still does to this day at age seventy five, telling jokes and making the little remarks that only poets can. Cohen stands onstage with his olive skin, his shoulder-length brown hair, his beige coat, and the distinguished lines on his face that could only be brought on by emotions and feelings, many, many love affairs, and drugs. A splendid life, in my opinion.
This is the infamous show during which Cohen asked the crowd to light matches, “fireflies” he called them, as he wanted to see where everyone was in the dark of the night. His delivery of “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong” is so emotional — the way he just stares off and sings and stretches out his words to make them more meaningful is epic — and why I think so many people consider his music sad (which is somewhat true, but this is real life, raw emotions and all, and he did it oh so well). It seems as though Mr. Cohen was (and I think still is) so ahead of his time with his lyrics that no one really appreciated him until much later, when all of the ’60s and ’70s free love generation finally grew up and realized that in order to fight for what you believe in, you have to first understand people and the words that they use. For those who still haven’t heard of Leonard Cohen, I’m urging you to check out this genius of a man.