"Book and music fans
fill Toronto streets for
free shows by Cohen, Fall Out Boy"

by Cassandra Szklarski


May 13, 2006
TORONTO (CP) - He's best known as Canada's most influential singer-songwriter and sensual poet, but on Saturday, Leonard Cohen was an anxious stage mother.

Crouched in the dark corner of an outdoor stage, his elbows rested on his knees and his eyes were fixed on his romantic partner, Anjani Thomas, as she braved her first-ever live performance of songs they wrote together.

Singing words Cohen had written, the dark-haired Hawaiian beauty cooed through a short set as her mentor watched silently, hands clasped together in front of his lips, mouthing the words.

But it was Cohen whom the several hundred book and music fans had gathered to see and it was only when he took the stage with Thomas that the street roared with cheers and applause.

"My apologies to pedestrians and drivers if they're inconvenienced," Cohen joked before reciting a poem from Book of Longing, his first collection in more than a decade.

The free concert, held on the edge of Toronto's ritzy Yorkville district, was a celebration of Cohen's return to the top of the literary charts - Indigo books president Heather Reisman declared Book of Longing the No. 1 best-seller in the country, the first book of poetry to reach that lofty position in Canadian history.

"We must be doing something right here," a giddy Reisman said to an audience that included her tycoon husband, Gerry Schwartz, and Toronto film director Robert Lantos.

The outdoor concert, which also featured performances by folk/pop singer Ron Sexsmith and members of the Barenaked Ladies, was one of several to take over the streets of Toronto on an overcast day.

Pop-punksters Fallout Boy got more than 3,000 fans screaming along to their hits during a free half-hour show along the city's main tourist strip.

After that, they and fellow emo rockers All-American Rejects took over Queen Street for a live MuchMusic appearance.

Several dozen fans, mostly teenaged girls, had waited as long as seven hours for an earlier radio station appearance by Fall Out Boy.

At the outdoor concert, they waved at cameras and screeched out lyrics as bassist Pete Wentz offered choreographed moves and audience banter the band's perfected after three months on the road.

"How many people here want to live forever and never get old?" Wentz asked to screams from the crowd.

The boys were to hit Europe for a week of shows after playing their last North American date in Toronto on Saturday night.

The 71-year-old Cohen, meanwhile, elicited repeated calls for encores from his significantly older crowd.

He sheepishly obliged, gingerly approaching the mike alongside Sexsmith and Barenaked Ladies frontman Steve Page.

"You guys start, I'll figure out a way to get in," Cohen said to his bandmates, who launched into "So Long, Marianne."

It wasn't long before Cohen took the mike on his own, his velvety baritone resonating through the first drops of rain.

The eagerly received performance comes as Cohen emerges from near financial collapse after millions were bilked from his retirement savings.

Aside from the book, Cohen is helping to promote Thomas's debut jazz CD, Blue Alert, which he co-wrote and produced.

© The Canadian Press 2006

"Cohen returns to limelight with bestselling book"


May 13, 2006
Poet and troubadour Leonard Cohen's first book in 22 years has become one of the top-selling books in Canada.

Indigo president Heather Reisman said it was the first time that a book of poetry has become a bestseller in the country.

Book of Longing had the second spot on Indigo's Canadian bestsellers' list this week, behind the Canada Reads choice, A Complicated Kindness, and is headed for the No. 1 spot, Reisman said.

The normally reclusive Cohen, 71, made an appearance in Toronto on Saturday to promote the book and his new CD project with romantic partner Anjani Thomas.

Cohen was greeted by a throng of fans that shut down a street in the busy Yorkville neighbourhood for a free outdoor concert, billed as a tribute to the Montreal-born musician and writer.

Cheers and applause greeted him as he took the stage, then recited a poem from Book of Longing. He also performed two of his most famous songs, "So Long, Marianne" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," with Canadian musicians Barenaked Ladies and Ron Sexsmith.

Thomas took to the stage for her first live performance of songs they had written together. The dark-haired Thomas sang a short set while Cohen watched silently, mouthing the words.

The eagerly received performance came as Cohen emerges from near-financial collapse after millions were bilked from his retirement savings.

Cohen recently won a $9.5-million lawsuit against Kelley Lynch, his one-time lover and manager of nearly 17 years, who Cohen says skimmed more than $5 million of his savings over eight years, leaving him about $150,000 to retire on.

Book of Longing includes sketches and poems written during Cohen's stay at the Mount Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles, where he was ordained as a monk under the name Jikan.

Aside from the book, Cohen is helping to promote Thomas's debut jazz CD, Blue Alert, which he co-wrote and produced.

Cohen is rumoured to be planning a fall tour and is working on a CD, a follow-up to 2004's Dear Heather.

He made another public appearance earlier this year when he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.