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Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 19:08 | SYDNEY
Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 19:08 | SYDNEY

I've seen the future, brother, it is murder

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5 February 2009 10:24

My thanks to Fergus for looking after the place while I was on a short break, the highlight of which was a superb Leonard Cohen 'on the green' concert at a Bowral winery last Sunday night. The memory of it will live with me for many years, and that goes for the entire enraptured audience. When he doffed his hat and smiled at them in that genial, benevolent way only certain older men can muster, every child in the audience wanted to hug him, every man wanted to drink with him, and every woman wanted to seduce him.

Cohen is a political writer but not an ideological one, and he never injected current political themes into his performance. They were in the air, though, and when Cohen sang that 'democracy is coming to the USA', the audience cheered as if still on a high from the Obama inauguration. But much as Reagan supporters mistakenly latched on to Springsteen's Born in the USA as a patriotic anthem, you can only feel uplifted by Cohen's Democracy if you overlook the rest of the lyrics.

In fact, Cohen's grandfatherly geniality disguised the often disturbing imagery of his poetry, and there's no better example than The Future, which he performed early in his first set.

A peculiar weakness of our modern age is that we seem to lack the ability to imagine real catastrophe, and people like Cohen can remind us that it is possible. I'm generally an optimist about global events, but one does reflect on the financial meltdown and climate change in a more sober light on hearing things like this:

I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder.

Photo by Flickr user Sofia Lens, used under a Creative Commons license.

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