A brief note on Bob Dylan:
The man's voice is ridiculous. I have been describing it as what an elderly Muppet would sound like if it swallowed a dirty sock. Throw in a pack of smokes and I'd say I'm damn accurate. The concert last night was a lot of fun. Dylan's band was great, and leaned a lot towards a rockabilly, sometimes bluesy, sound.
Because of Dylan's rearrangement of the songs (the band didn't know what was going on, at some points) I often remained clueless as to what was being played, even though the songs were supposedly classics like "Highway 61 Revisited" and "It Ain't Me Babe".
When Dylan actually spoke at the end (he had until this point remained silent in between songs), his speaking voice was even more ridiculous. He said something like "Thank you, friends!" and proceeded to introduce the band... I THINK. This voice was not human, but rather sounded like a broken, haunted accordion. Please contemplate that!
The evening closed with "Like a Rolling Stone" and I of course droned "Didn't youuuuu" along with R. Zimmerman. The concert ended strangely, with the band and Dylan standing in a line, not bowing, just standing facing the audience. Dylan had his fists clenched and almost looked like he was trying to get jiggy with it. Thus, the Never-ending Tour moves on...
Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in seven days. Wow. Please, please Tom Waits, if you're listening... you need to come here next!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
A brief note on Bob Dylan:
Friday, May 16, 2008
I had my worries. The troubadour was older and out of practice. The range of his voice was in question, and I didn't think a long set was in store for us. I did not know what to expect from Leonard Cohen, last night, and in turn he and his band blew me away.
The first thing I must comment on is his voice. Cohen's voice has evolved over the years, from the high folk songs of the 1960s to the melancholy ballads of Dear Heather. I thought this would limit his song selection, but was I ever proven wrong! I firmly believe Cohen must have taken voice lessons, or else experienced a break-through in rehearsals, as I have never heard him sound so amazing. While some songs were altered ("So Long Marianne", most notably) for his lower register, he was able to hit the high notes without any problem.
The band was tight. There will no fumbles or mishaps. One thing that especially delighted me was the recreation of the end of "Who By Fire". Actually, it should be of note that with these musicians (included Cohen collaborator and back-up singer Sharon Robinson) Cohen has never sounded better---live or on his albums.
"Bird on a Wire" was the first song that really blew me away, with the second being "Anthem". Certain utterances of this poet always get to me. When he proclaimed "And I swear / by this song / and by all / that I have done wrong / I will make it all / up to thee" tears came into my eyes. When Cohen sang "Every heart to love must come / but like a refugee" I actually wept. His words were always first, for me, before the music. There's a certain potency to them that can't be denied, even by those who don't like his musical stylings.
Certain songs were surprising. "Gypsy Wife", for one, I did not expect to hear---a moving surprise. The biggest thrill of the evening, song-choice wise, was the inclusion of the dainty and tearful "I Tried to Leave You". It had a bit of a comedic bend on it, but still maintained its sincerity.
The songs that provoked the greatest reactions seemed to be "Hallelujah" and "First We Take Manhattan". I still stand by Cohen's "Hallelujah" as the best incarnation of the song. The live version I heard will trump Jeff Buckley and American Idol clones every time.
The full set-list is as follows:
Dance Me To The End Of Love
Ain't No Cure For Love
Bird On The Wire
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Tower Of Song
I'm Your Man
Take This Waltz
Heart With No Companion
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
That Don't Make It Junk (couldn't find it---listen instead to a lovely version of "Chelsea Hotel" by Rufus Wainwright)
I Tried to Leave You
The longevity of the performance was another treat. We were given two full sets of music, when even one would have been a standard concert. Then, a 40-minute encore that seemed like it just wouldn't end. The band didn't seem to tire at all, and Cohen's face was joyful and gracious. He seemed genuinely humbled by the audience's cheers, even after four decades of performing.
Cohen's stage presence was phenomenal. He didn't sit down, didn't take a single sip of water, and quickly reacted to things like his guitar-strap breaking. He danced and swayed and implored the audience to see that he really was their man. He played guitar on several songs (notably "Suzanne") and the keyboard on "Tower of Song".
I am so solidly impressed with Cohen's validity as a performer. A poet, an author, a recording artist, yes, but I never thought of him as a touring musician. This concert was a time for Cohen to shine as a songwriter and performer. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see him, even at the very end of his career. I wish him well as he continues down the road and across the pond.
Monday, May 12, 2008
apple slices browning sweet in the sun.
flesh flakes off sugary in the mouth,
lick and a suck for sticky fingers,
the heat working on them now,
turning everything to sway and blush.
shards of glass on the side of the road,
a little bit frustrating, a little bit tiring.
it's noon heat at 5 pm and dust on sweat.
collapse back onto the blanket, mind the ants.
where did summer go?
and winter comes north?
I think it just hides underground. snow grows like grass.
(felt as a tickle on cheek,
another traversing an eyelash,
pausing to taste the air.)
yes, like the ants.
Despite the weather's attempt to get me to stay inside all weekend, I made an escape from the city on Saturday and made a jaunt to the far-off, mystic land known as the Valley. The Valley, for me, means one of two things: apple pickin' and/or riskin' life and limb at Upper Clements Park (home of the world's most rickety wooden rollercoaster).
In an effort to educate my otherwise Halifax-centric brain, I tagged along with two lovely archivists for a day-trip to the Gaspereau Valley and Wolfville. Our mission was to battle grandmas from across the province in a fight at a yarn sale... but not just any normal yarn. Beautiful, hand-dyed, local yarn in every weight and colour you could imagine!
We arrived at the wool shop and set to work, with the two-dollar skeins being quite popular. I scored quite a few balls of purple and white mohair, from which I will make something tacky. The other ladies got quite a bit more than me, with the hemp blend being quite popular. The yarn store is actually on a farm, so with our purchases in tow we went to apologize to the naked sheep for stealing their wool. The llama seems indignant, but I do not know why. All were fed grass and coddled over.
Stash in hand we headed next to the Gaspereau Vineyards for a wine-tasting. Having just re-watched Sideways for the trillionth time, I was semi-elated; how I have been to a scotch-tasting and not a wine-tasting before this point, I do not know.
We tried seven bottles of wine---two white, one rose, and four red. Our cause was a noble one (to find wine for the CNSA Conference reception on Thursday) but the experience was pure indulgence. I haven't tried a lot of Gaspereau's wine before this point (as far as Nova Scotian wine goes, I'm a Jost girl), and I must say they really impressed me. Aside from a too-sweet white and a confusing red "for non-red drinkers", I really enjoyed everything I tried. I left with a tasty 2006 Seyval Blanc and held back from buying half-a-dozen more bottles.
For lunch we went to the granola-fed and dreadlocked town of Wolfville for lunch. Their farmer's market was a treat to meander through... it featured a banjo player who simply did not stop and a lot of fair-trade goodies. After a quick browse through a bookstore, we three archives folk had a great lunch at Tempest, whose menu I was drooling at several days earlier. If you're ever hungry in Wolfville, go here and have the butternut squash bisque (with a hunt of curry and Mountain Maple Syrup), which now owns my tummy.
The rest of my weekend was devoted to movie-watching (Blood Simple, Don't Look Now, and Chaplin) and book-reading (just finished What's Eating Gilbert Grape), as Halifax could not tempt me to go outdoors. The next few weeks will be a bit different, as I'm racking up on special events and concerts like the aforementioned CNSA conference, the Auditor General's visit to the archives, and evenings with two heroes: Dylan and Cohen! I'm brushing up on Blonde on Blonde and continually sneaking glances at the tour buses outside the Cohn. Life is so funny.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Good morning, world. I've recovered from a weekend that involved a beautiful wedding, copious amounts of wine and gourmet food, ice cream, Mario Kart, and Iron Man. Okay, recover isn't the right word... I am mourning the loss of this past weekend. It was good fun, filled with many friends, and passed by too quickly.
But here I am, this Monday A.M., with tidings of comfort and joy (comfort and joy). After neglecting to shut down the "contest" on Saturday, I received a few extra entries (one in the form of my Mom saying "enter me!"). But, alas, there can only be three winners, and they are as follows:
1. Joshua at The Blah-Blah
2. JB at La belle écrivaine
3. Chelsea at Chelsea Talks Smack
This lovely trio will be awarded something cheap and potentially fun. The two former, I shall award you in person, thus also gifting you with the pleasure of being in my resplendent presence. Chelsea, whose blog I just discovered and is officially hilarious and neat, I need yer mailing address.
On the topic of people who are hilarious and neat, it must be mentioned that it is my lovely ginger's birthday today. He is turning 23 and entering his first school-free year since he was a wee freckled Caper with Orphan-Annie-esque curls. Please send him picks for his new banjo (thanks Christine!) and t-shirts with either Harold Ramis or Eddie Furlong on them. Preferably Ramis.
Happy Birthday, Andrew. Please watch Blood Simple with me this week. Also, please loan me The Tenant. K bye.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Have you heard of The Hub Halifax? No, not the short-lived bar in Dartmouth (Aka The Ice House, aka M-T Bellies, aka Hells Angels Eat Here, and now... Hooters. Oy vey), but a new social space opening up in Halifax.
According to their website, The Hub combines a meeting space with technology and people. It's community-shared, whether by groups or individuals, and allows you to pay for time spent there, versus paying rent. Here's the blurb:
The Hub is an incubator for social innovation. We offer membership of inspirational habitats in major world cities for social innovators to work, meet, learn, connect and realise progressive ideas. The Hub is a place for making things happen. All the tools and trimmings needed to cultivate an idea, launch a project, host a meeting and run a business.
As someone with limited access to (properly functioning) technology outside of the office--my laptop is on its way to the grave--this idea intrigues me. The Hub will apparently be kitted out with wireless, voicemail, its own server, and various machines that provide you with the ability to print, copy, fax, project, and hold a web conference (if FinalCut Pro finds its way onto this list, I'm definitely there). Programs will be offered to members at the Hub to encourage networking and idea-sharing.
A few friends of mine are amateur filmmakers, and I see this as an excellent resource for them. Freelancers might also use this space as an office or meeting-space. I'm also sensing a strong non-profit connection. The fee associated with using the space ranges on how much you want to use it. $300 gets you unlimited hours per month, $200 amounts to 12 days, $150 amounts to 6 days, and so forth.
If the Hub sounds like something you would use, there is a membership intent survey offered that seeks to pinpoint what potential members are looking for in this shared space. Be warned, they don't have a home, yet, and plan to be open in Fall 2008.