http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/mus ... 17fm6.html
Poet, Lover, Gent: Cohen Still A Hit With The Ladies
November 5, 2010
"He is very funny and a true gentleman" ...
Charley Webb, left, and her sister Hattie have toured
and sung with Leonard Cohen for three years.
YOU may have noticed in all the reviews and stories around the Leonard Cohen tour, which began nearly three years ago and returns for a second Australian round from tomorrow, a marked level of reverence, if not fawning, over every aspect of the man and the show. Fans, reviewers and the bloke who picks up the rubbish all seem to chorus a round of ''we are not worthy, we are not worthy''.
It's understandable for one of the great songwriters, poets and lovers, but maybe we can get the ''truth'' from Englishwoman Charley Webb who, along with her sister Hattie and Cohen's longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson, has provided the female vocal foil and backing voices since the tour began.
Tell us, Charley: there must be an alternative reality, a world where Leonard Cohen is not the charming, sexy 75-year-old doffing his hat and making the arenas feel like his living room? One where he tells filthy jokes, throws back the beers after the show and gooses the lighting tech while being a slob at the table?
''If only,'' Webb says, laughing gaily at such absurdity. ''I'm afraid I'm forced to disappoint you. He does make a lot of jokes but they are not disgusting and he is very funny and a true gentleman.''
For cynics, there is an infuriating level of warmth and respect off and on stage at these shows, with everyone responding to the individual displays of talent with delight. They are in every sense an ensemble, not the hired help.
''There is no clocking in or out; it's a family affair, and everybody is part of it and is keen to be there,'' says Webb, who with her sister has performed with Sting and Rufus Wainwright. They have also released several albums of their own.
''I sometimes wonder why we are not bored because we're doing a lot of the same songs and it's 2½ years since we began. But I don't think there's been one moment of boredom or distraction for anybody who is on the tour. None of us has had enough.''
Still, in what may be a sly reference to the financial difficulties Cohen found himself in five years ago which prompted him to return to the road after several decades of being a homebody and Buddhist monk, Webb says money may play a role in the continuing run of shows.
''There's a joke in the band 'Are we going to keep doing this [touring] until the musical director's mortgage has been paid off in 15 years?'''
By then Cohen will be 90, and likely still a winner with the ladies. In fact, Cohen is one of those rare male songwriters who can be both intensely personal and masculine in his writing and appeal not just to female fans but to female singers. Does Webb have some special insight into Cohen, having spent several years singing with him?
''I really enjoy spending time with Leonard and I love singing with him but there are people out there who've been listening to and loving Leonard's songs a lot longer than I've been alive,'' she says. ''I'm sure they know him in a certain way from some of the songs that they've taken into their lives and made their own. I know him in one way but this is also his seventh decade and he may have been an extraordinarily different man in his 40s. I don't know that man; I know Leonard now and I'm very glad for that.''
Leonard Cohen plays at the Acer Arena on Monday and Tuesday.