You know he’s half-crazy, but that’s why you want to be there—although it’s easy to forget that before singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was the elderly, messianic folk statesman of today, tipping his fedora benevolently and crooning, “Hallelujah” out into the rapt, swooning pews, he was as twisted as a corkscrew. Exhibit A: His novel Beautiful Losers, one of the most experimental novels of the ’60s, remains the most bizarre, hysterically priapic string of syllables ever printed, an endlessly detonating confrontation of the racial and sexual ambiguities of the Beat era. Revisiting it today, the book cleanly links to the sinister politics behind some of his most famous songs—including “Everybody Knows” and “First We Take Manhattan”—and reminds us that Cohen frequently wrote gorgeous, loving poetry but equally, and eloquently, embraced animosity. Now, at age 75, he’s a wonderful, heartrending performer with that glint of disobedience in his eye; absolutely do not miss him.
Fri., Oct. 23, 8 p.m., 2009
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2009