You say that you feel that Leonard's work is intensely personal, and I totally agree with you, as far as his recordings go. Whenever I play one of Leonard's records, it has to be because I really want to listen to it. I also have to hear it in otherwise total silence. Thus, if I listen with someone else, they have to go along with this. I never ever play Leonard as background music.
However, my experience of Leonard's live concerts has been different. I have always found the audiences to be extremely respectful, and there is a shared sense of communion. One can only get a hint of how great it is to hear Leonard live from videos or DVDs. I have found Leonard's concerts to be profoundly spiritual experiences, and most especially the one at The Royal Albert Hall in 1976.
Experiencing Leonard at the Isle of Wight, was something totally different to witnessing one of his indoor concerts. However, I found
the I.O.W. concert was also very profund in its own way (as the one-off event that it was). For this, I was lucky enough to get a central spot, just behind the press enclosure at the front, so I saw the concert from as good a viewpoint as possible.
The thing that I personally can't stand is listening to most other people singing Leonard's songs, or the sort of ghastly "singalongalenny" sessions that have taken place at some gatherings (that I have seen on DVD). One exception to this was the
joyful, spontaneous, almost-hymnal singing of virtually the whole Leonard Cohen song-book that took place at the Lincoln event, which I attended.
I do have some concerns at what might transpire at some of the forthcoming shows, however. First of all, this will be the first tour where people have the opportunity to hold up their intensely irritating little mobiles, so that they can put some random snippets onto
youtube (strange how many people seem to find this more important, then watching the show). Also, because of Leonard's much wider
cult-appeal and the fact that younger people seem to have more money, the concerts could attract some of the same types that have turned up for Dylan, in recent years. At Brixton, talking and drinking seemed to be the main priorities. I even had someone standing next to me holding a conversation on a mobile while Dylan was singing "Girl From the North Country"! (presumably these sort of people just want to tell their friends that thy've "done Dylan"?!). Another problem that I have experienced is when parties of people from record companies just turn-up for the event - regarding it as a party night out. Despite these concerns, I will still see as many Leonard shows as I possibly can, because I realise that this will almost certainly be my last chance.
All the best, John E