Southeast Asia-based doom-mongers are rejoicing at the once-in-a-lifetime news that Leonard Cohen will be playing Phnom Penh on November 27
By Joel Quenby
Unlikely it may seem, but this legendary singer–songwriter and Canadian national treasure will grace the Cambodian capital’s 1960’s Olympic Stadium for an indoor concert, rumored to be his final performance.
If the show is indeed Cohen’s curtain call, the 60,000-capacity sports arena—designed by Cambodia’s greatest living architect, Van Molyvann, and once considered the region’s finest—will provide a stately setting for his last gig.
“Leonard is deeply honored by this invitation, and we hope that in our small way, we can both assist in cultural restoration and personal healing,” said Cohen’s manager Robert Kory.
“The world is aware that Phnom Penh, once a cultural Mecca, and its people, suffered a brutal genocide 35 years ago …We are hopeful that the concert may become a first step in celebration of the city’s rebirth as a vibrant cultural center and serve to aid those who have suffered.”
An artistic force since the late 1950’s—and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008—75-year-old Cohen is a veritable nickname magnet (random examples: “Grand Master of Melancholia,” not forgetting the “Poet Laureate Of Commitophobes” and, for sheer weirdness, my personal favorite, “Master of the Egg Salad Sandwich”).
In 1994, Cohen retreated to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles for five years of seclusion, during which he was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk, taking the Dharma name Jikan, meaning “silence.”
In 2005, he alleged that his longtime former manager helped himself to more than US$5 million from Cohen’s retirement fund, leaving only $150,000. The artist is unlikely to ever see the money again, despite winning a $9-million court ruling over the affair.
His discography has been revived in recent years via popular covers of his song “Hallelujah,” notably by doomed late troubadour Jeff Buckley.
See the Mekong Sessions for further details.