Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

September 21 - November 30, 2008. Concert reports, set lists, photos, media coverage, multimedia links, recollections...
pironi
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Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby pironi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:38 pm

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12391
SHARON ROBINSON

First signed on with Cohen for 1979’s Field Commander Cohen jaunt. She's co-written many songs with him (the first, “Summertime,” was covered by Diana Ross and Robert Flack) and produced and sang on his first albums of the new millennium, the excellent 10 New Songs and Dear Heather. Cohen painted the cover for her solo album, Everybody Knows - “A masterpiece,” according to the great man.

UNCUT: At what point did you become involved in this tour?
SHARON ROBINSON: I came in about a month into the process, in March. Leonard was definitely adjusting to another mode of living. The prospect of touring can be quite daunting. But I think he got through it quite nicely. He maintains a very hospitable and gracious demeanour no matter what’s going on. Occasionally you could see he was daunted during rehearsals. But he’s somewhat of a perfectionist, and I think he loves the work itself. That part of him takes over. No matter what the overriding issue is, his ability to get into the work is unchanged.

On the ’93 tour, the backing singers claimed that in rehearsals Leonard made them sing and sing till in tears.
Whatever work we did was completely appropriate to the task at hand. There were a couple of times when he would go on and on with a song. “So Long Marianne” I remember doing verse after verse after verse; I guess in an effort to get comfortable with it. Other than that it was completely appropriate. The rehearsals were long, and somewhat exhausting. But we had a big job to accomplish. To a large extent, the arrangements were taken directly from the original recordings of the songs. We would listen, and in many cases simply copy the record. Though a lot of that process occurred before I got there.

How about the first performance, in Fredericton. Was he nervous in the build up?
I think so. Moreso than our performance, he was not sure how the audience was going to receive the whole idea. He takes all of his work very seriously. He’d determined to do his best possible work. In that respect, he was a little worried before he went on. We go on stage as a team, and we wish ourselves a good show; it’s a group effort back-stage, right before the show. When the audience gives us their complete acceptance and warmth, it tends to take the tension out of it. I’m sure that happened in Fredericton.

Did you celebrate afterwards?
Leonard leaves the venue immediately after the show, so we don’t have a lot of opportunities to celebrate afterwards together. I think we have some celebrations that are well overdue!

How about when you made it over to Europe, for that first show in Dublin?
We weren’t sure whether our concert would translate in those larger, open-air venues. Because it is a rather intimate show. That was of concern to everyone. As it turned out, it translated really well. That has a lot to do with the audiences being very familiar with and committed to Leonard’s work as a whole. They go there to love it, and allow themselves to be immersed in it.

Glastonbury was one of the key dates on that first leg of the tour. It was certainly the biggest in terms of numbers. What’s your memories of it..?
The scale was incredible. Looking out from the stage, and barely being able to see the end of the crowd was really thrilling. It was fantastic. We were lucky there wasn’t much mud that day. I think Leonard was very pleasantly surprised by the response and the involvement of what was basically a younger crowd. During the time we were playing, I think he attracted most of the people that were there. That was something of a revelation to him. He wasn’t sure, the extent to which younger people are interested in his music. But it’s clear that that is a growing segment of his audience.

Leonard on tour: what other memories come to mind?
He’s a devoted workhorse. He works harder than any of the rest of us, and has reserves of energy that no one can quite tell where they come from. And he is moved by the response of the audience, and the overall sense of an almost spiritual connection that is going on between him, his work and his audience. The whole thing is a real phenomenon, and Leonard is very moved by that.

How different is he than when you toured with him before?
He’s a little older. He’s been through a number of personal changes. He’s quite a bit happier than when I knew him 30 years ago. His voice is lower, but he’s singing great. He’s doing very well. As he’s said, the unexpected lifting of a certain dark cloud, that depression that has been well-documented, is a big change.

Do you socialise much with Leonard?
Occasionally. Leonard and I are old friends, we’re very close, and those are magical moments for me. I always love connecting with my old pal. But in this environment it isn’t often possible, because these tours are somewhat of a 24/7 gig, and it takes a lot of focus off the show, to be able to do what we do during it.
Sometimes we’ll have something to eat, some coffee, and we talk about family, friends, and the state of things. The kind of things that close friends do. He doesn’t go to his old haunts much as we’re travelling. Except in Montreal, of course, which is his home. We went to a couple of his favourite places there. We often talk about how hard the work is, being on tour. But I asked Leonard once, during the last leg: “But aren’t you enjoying it?” And he did admit that he was enjoying the audience’s pure involvement in the music, and that there was something very special going on. I felt good about bringing that out!

Does he ever talk about the theft of his money that was the trigger for this?
Well yeah. He and I have talked about it quite a bit. But I was very pleased to see that it hasn’t, as far as I can tell, put a severe dent in Leonard’s mood. Something like that can really be devastating for a person. But he seems to be dealing with it really, really well.

Do you think the years at Mt. Baldi gave him a spiritual preparation for this test?
I think it must have, yes. Because one of the things you learn is that you don’t necessarily have to be attached to these things that are happening to you, on the outside world.

Is it fair to say that although the theft was an awful thing, this tour has been a gift for Leonard?
Well, I guess you’d have to look at it that way, in part. Because there’s a lot of value in discipline and work, and the structure of what we’re doing. That can all be quite therapeutic. I think there’s probably an element of that going on for Leonard.

When I first heard about the tour, it seemed awful that he’d have to go out on roa,d singing for his supper essentially. Would he rather not have done such a long tour, if he didn’t have some financial impetus to?

Perhaps. But if he’s feeling that and thinking that, it’s definitely not part of our day-to-day atmosphere. He’s completely involved in the music, and the excellence of its preparation.

And after the Big Chill. Did you celebrate then?
No. Everyone went their separate ways. We were somewhat anxious to get back to our lives, and families, and take care of things. There was an element of exhaustion at the end of the last tour. Not terrible. But it was time to go home. And so we went our separate ways. And reconvened at rehearsal.

So has the set changed much now you’ve started the second leg of the tour?
The set has changed a little. Leonard has added “The Partisan” to the show, and “Famous Blue Raincoat” is coming back in. There’s a heightened musicality, I think, that’s coming from the band. Because we know the set now, but there’s another point of view on it, based on time and experience, and having had some rest.

You’re all getting deeper into the songs?
Yes, I would say so. There’s more of an interaction between the various elements of the band. Our chops are up, in terms of this music.

Are new songs coming in?
Not yet. That was supposed to happen during August. But it didn’t! I’m not sure why.

NICK HASTED
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Interview with Javier Mas

Postby pironi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:39 pm

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12410
Today we present Javier Mas.

The man Cohen reverently calls “shepherd of the strings” was born in Zaragoza, Spain and picked up the bandurria aged nine; by twelve, he’d added 12-string guitar, drums and laud to his repertoire. He learned rock and roll by paying along to Kinks records, and has worked as a composer and musician around the globe. His collaborative album with percussionist Jordi Rollo, *Tamiz*, a melange of Spanish, Asian, African and blues influences, appeared in 2002. He was musical director for major Cohen tribute concerts in Spain in 2006 and 2007.

Part three of seven, will be published online Friday (November 7)!

***

UNCUT: How did you get involved with Leonard, and the tour?

MAS: It’s because I was doing a tribute album in Spain two years ago, I was its musical director, doing arrangements for very good Spanish singers of Leonard’s songs. We made a record, a few concerts and a DVD, and we released the album here in Spain. Leonard had the album and he liked what I did very much, so he called me to tour with him. I went to LA in February and began rehearsals.

What were those early rehearsals like? Was Leonard rusty?

Because he was 16 years without playing concerts, he wanted to come back again. At the beginning, he had Bob Metzger, who was playing for him for many years, and Roscoe Beck. The rest of the band was new; he was trying to get a band together. And of course, he was trying to get the songs to sound like he wanted. He took a long time, two-and-a-half months, to make it good. Then we started in Canada, and it was good from the very beginning, because we had so much time for rehearsals. A very calm period, when we worked on each individual song.

Was it difficult for Leonard, having not played these songs for so long?

Yeah. He was a few months by himself at home, trying to remember all the songs, and playing the guitar again, and coming back to the music. But because these songs are made a long time ago, and they have a lot of history in his life, it was easy for him to come back to them. Also, it was like he’d had a holiday from them - you come back with new energy. And for him it was very good that we took so much time at the beginning, because he was getting into the songs very slowly. That was the time I found my position in the music too. So it was very good for everybody.

Were you a big fan of his..?

Yeah. When I was 15, 16, I was playing Spanish folk music, and then rock’n’roll, The Kinks and all these good bands from Britain. And then of course I heard Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, and of course Leonard Cohen. So I started translating his lyrics with a book, trying to understand “You Know Who I Am”, “Bird on a Wire”, “Suzanne”, I was playing all these songs on the guitar when I was 15. So for me, now, it’s a privilege to play with him. But at the same time, it’s natural, because I know the songs. I don’t have to think of them. They’re part of my knowledge, since I was young.

What is Leonard like as a person?

This person has been living a lot. His life has been very interesting, so he’s a man that comes now with a lot of knowledge. He’s a maestro - one of the best poets in Canada, and the world. He’s a very humble man. He takes care of everybody. It’s really a pleasure to work with him, because he always thinks about others. He knows I am different, because I’m Spanish and the rest of the band are American. He makes sure I’m alright, you know.

What did you learn from being around him?

I learned how to make a song sound as good as it can with the people you have around you. And I learned how to treat other people in the music business. And it works, because the concerts are sold out. So with the agents and managers, the ambience is easy. Sting and Paul Simon and everybody goes to see him. He’s a maestro to everybody. He takes his time with everybody, and listens to you about your problems, and he’ll give you advice, or maybe not - if he doesn’t have anything to tell you. But always you have the possibility of speaking with him if you need it.

Do you all socialise together then - Leonard and the rest of the band?

Yeah. He’s like a big brother. We’ve been together for six months now, from 10 in the morning till maybe 1 at night. We’ve become very good friends. We need each other. We’re like a team, a football team.

And Leonard is part of that? Do you all go out after the show, drink some wine, talk?

Yeah, yeah. The only difference between him and us is the age. He’s 73, so he needs to rest at other times. He has a different day-time schedule, when he rests more than us. Because he’s older. And we play concerts for 3 hours, sometimes more. He’s on-stage singing for 2 ½ hours. He needs a lot of rest to make it good, and remember all the lyrics. But for the rest, he’s the same. We live together.

So is it physically hard for him, this tour? Is he tired after those 2 ½ hours?

It’s hard for everybody. I’m not accustomed to play that long.

Has he said why he wants the concerts to be so long?

He really wants to play for the audience. He’s so happy to come back, for the response he finds from the audience. Sometimes, the audience stand up and clap even before we start. He wants to give them everything, so that makes for a long concert. In Athens, people were clapping and screaming for one song, so we had to play it too. When you are up there, you forget about your age!

Does he have any backstage routines before he goes on-stage?

No. Every day is different. Sometimes at a festival, you just change clothes and go on.

What have been the best moments of the tour so far?

It was great that we started in Canada. We had four nights in a great big beautiful theatre in Toronto, and the second was maybe the best concert we’ve had. Manchester. Athens was very good, they like Leonard there - “Sisters of Mercy” and “So Long, Marianne” were inspired by there. And in Lisbon [going to re-check, Spanish pronunciation] it was amazing. The people were singing the songs outside the concert, and sometimes they sang better than we played! Those were very emotional nights. I think this music is made to be played in theatres, like our four nights in Manchester, not in festivals. But people want so much to seem him - we don’t even have tickets for family.

But because he keeps playing, most people will get a chance to see you in the end…

Yes, because so many people want to come. It depends on Leonard, and the band, of course. If we make it good, we can carry on. If we are not happy, we have to stop it. I think we’re now going to do Europe again, and then Australia and Japan after Christmas. And then we have to play in the United States. I would like to play in Spain. So we have some time to carry on, you know.

Are the set lists changing?

He’s got so many beautiful songs. We have to play “Hallelujah”, we have to play “Suzanne”, we have to play “Bird on the Wire” every night. We try to change other songs. And now in Los Angeles we’ve been rehearsing “The Partisan”. We’ve been rehearsing a few new songs we’re going to try to put into the new tour. But there are so many, that’s why it’s three hours!

I know you sit beside Leonard on stage. How does it feel to be almost serenaded by him every night?

That’s beautiful. When I played the first rehearsals and I heard the songs, I couldn’t believe I was there. And I had to play all of the time, so it was a lot of responsibility. But at the same time it was a real pleasure. I don’t have to tell you how great he is. So to be on the stage with him is amazing.

NICK HASTED
Last edited by pironi on Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Interview with Leif Bodnarchuk

Postby pironi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:40 pm

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12428
Today we present trusted guitar technician, Leif Bodnarchuk.

Self-described “mercenary, Buddhist, jerk,” Bodnarchuk is trusted guitar tech on the tour, a job he summed up for the roadie’s online bible, *Sure Notes*, thusly: “Day to day, you take it out of the box, tune it, fix it, play with it, let some famous man or woman play with it, put it back in the box and put that box into the truck-shaped box.…”

Part four of seven, is coming up on November 12!

****

UNCUT: When did you get involved?
BODNARCHUK: I got involved in April this year. I think the band rehearsed from around February until May, give or take. This leg, they were in for less than two weeks. They seem to have it covered.

How's it going?
In a nutshell: OK. We've just been in rehearsals for a couple of weeks in LA, following a three week break after our gruelling Canadian/European trek of May-July. We're set to be out until the very end of November on this run, with a December break; if rumours are to be believed, we shall get another crack at it in early January with rehearsals and gigs to follow.

What does the job involve?
My job involves looking after Bob Metzger's and Dino [Soldo]'s guitars; 4 electrics, two acoustics, a National/Dobro sort of dealy and a pedal steel guitar. During the last leg, I was looking after Bob, Roscoe [Beck], the bassist/MD and a couple of 22-string harps belonging to Hattie Webb, but that was crazy! Too many strings - 114 per night - that translates into 19 guitars belonging to 4 other sets of ears - sod that! Thankfully, we drafted Chris Bynum in to halve my workload. He's a very welcome addition to our dysfunctional family. I don't look after Leonard personally, Mickey Sullivan does. Mickey also looks after Javier's instruments. Basically, Mickey's the acoustic guy, I'm the electric guy. but in a pinch, we all look out for one another anyway. It's a pretty cozy atmosphere on stage left.

How hands on has Cohen been with the production?
Well, I haven't seen him in the truck! He is actually very aware of what's going on. He's as sharp as a tack, approachable, generous and humble. I saw one article describing him as the godfather of misery! That couldn't be further from reality. But if he's not happy with something in the gig, he'll let it be known. We respect him a great deal, so if the man asks for something, we try our best to make it happen. He doesn't ask for anything outrageous, nor does he throw tantrums - and I've seen my fair share of those from a few pop stars.

Does he have any special requirements with guitars and amplification and so on?
On stage, he plays Godin guitars for a few songs, dropped down in key. We were using an SWR amp, but he's not all that bothered with sound coming from behind him; he's fine with it in his monitors. And it's one less thing on stage with a mic, picking up other things. He seems genuinely interested in the quality of the final product on a nightly basis. He's not selfish - he just wants to play his part. As for "so on" you could stick him in a broom closet and he'd be happy. He's an inspiration to us - how to be happy with what you have and not long for what's not there.

What have the highlights been for you?
The first show, Fredericton was a mind blower - the initial audience reaction to Leonard's presence on stage was amazing. I don't think I've ever seen such a genuinely enthusiastic reception. I've see kids go wild, but this older audience was incredible. Over on stage left, we were stunned! I don't think I've seen a stage entrance reception that rivals it. The Dublin crowd are my personal running favourite; they sang the loudest and had the most fun of that leg. And the crowd in Glastonbury was overwhelming. It was a surreal experience. Call me crazy, but even I got a little emotional!

Has the tour changed or evolved since it started?
It has changed a little - all tours do. We all know one another a little better now than we did in the beginning. Right now, we have a good feeling. We're in a "been there, done that" position.

INTERVIEW: JOHN LEWIS
MaryB
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby MaryB » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:07 pm

WOW! Thank you for posting these interviews! Maybe they will shed light for a number of fans on whether or not singing along and showing enthusiasum during the concert is an appropriate reaction :D

Warmest regards,
Mary
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
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mirka
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby mirka » Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:46 am

Yes, a big WOW !
Thanks for posting those interviews.
This is exactly how I imagined artists feel about the audience. They need to have a feedback, otherwise the essential part of the show is missing: the connection between the audience and them. And without this connection it would make no sense to attend a concert, one may as well stay home and listen to CDs.

Mirka
--
/Warsaw March 22 1985 / Halifax May 16 /Charlottetown May 18 / Dublin June 15 / Vienna Sept 24 2008/
Oakland April 13, 14, 15, San Jose Nov 13 2009/
Las Vegas Dec 11 2010/ Oakland March 2 2013/
MaryB
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby MaryB » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:35 am

Mirka,

There have to be more than just the two of us who agree, especially after reading these interviews. They should be required reading for all persons attending an LC concert :)
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
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mirka
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby mirka » Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:49 am

Hi Mary !
judging by the audience response at the concerts I saw, there are many who agree on this.
Turns out the audience is country specific /it's true even for LC audience !/ and the response changes according to the degree of intro- or extroverted behavior accepted in the country. Austria/Vienna/ with their tradition of chamber music was excellent example, apparently showing enthusiasm beyond politely clapping is not appropriate there.

I agree with 'required reading for all persons attending an LC concert', maybe a footnote could be added to the posters at the entrance "Audience enthusiasm appreciated" ;-)

mirka
--
Last edited by mirka on Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
/Warsaw March 22 1985 / Halifax May 16 /Charlottetown May 18 / Dublin June 15 / Vienna Sept 24 2008/
Oakland April 13, 14, 15, San Jose Nov 13 2009/
Las Vegas Dec 11 2010/ Oakland March 2 2013/
pironi
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby pironi » Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:24 am

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12447
Today we present singers CHARLEY AND HATTIE WEBB.

Adding their plangent tones to Robinson’s to complete Cohen’s trio of back-up angels, the Kent-born multi-instrumentalist sisters recorded their debut, *A Piece of Mind* in Nashville in 2001. A second album *Daylight Crossing* followed in 2006. They’ve recently collaborated with the Kings of Leon’s man in the shadows, Angelo Petraglia.

****

UNCUT: When were you approached about the tour?

HATTIE: We were in Los Angeles, and a friend of ours, Sharon Robinson, who we’d written with a year before, emailed us and said Leonard was looking for people to join the band, and she’d recommended us. We went down to the rehearsals mid-March. Leonard wasn’t there. We met all the band, and Roscoe, and sang a couple of our songs, and Roscoe gave us a couple of Leonard’s to work on. Then we went back the next day and met Leonard and sang them with Leonard and the band. And we went back the next day and were asked to join the band.

They’d been looking for people, one by one, to join the band, since Christmas. It sounds like Roscoe and Leonard had talked almost a year previously about possibly doing a tour; obviously they’ve got a relationship going back decades. They’d thrown around ideas of people Leonard had played with before, but he wanted something fresh in the vocals. Leonard did say to us since that there’s something about the flavour of artists playing together that is a fantastic vibe. I was touched that he seemed to have noticed the songs that we’d written.

Was there any sense that he was rusty, having not played so long?

CHARLEY: It seemed like something he had been doing for 40 years. I didn’t see any rust falling off him. It felt like a very organic process. First of all, it was like playing chamber music - so, so quiet you could hear a pin drop in the room, even when we were all playing and singing. And just gradually, as the rehearsals developed, we became louder and at times rather raucous. That was the development. Leonard as always seemed to take things in his stride, and be ten steps ahead of everybody else. When the rest of us in the band would be wondering what was going to happen with this song, or this arrangement, there was always this vibe in the air of don’t worry, it’ll work out, and Leonard seems to know already what’s going to happen.

That sounds very Zen-like…

CHARLEY: Yes, he’s very considered and thoughtful. He goes about things in a very considerate way. He never tries to push anyone. It all happens in its own time. He’s a bit like a lighthouse that never has its light on. He’s never waving his arms in the air. But if you actually look, he’s always there going: “Here you go, friends - this is how we’re going to do it.”

HATTIE: It’s a very long concert. I’ve now discovered some very comfortable shoes!

CHARLEY: I’m always shocked at the end of the night that we’ve been playing for 3 ½ hours. There’s something about the way Leonard weaves threads between each song. Even when he doesn’t necessarily speak, the songs that he chooses to be in certain orders, and the ebb and flow of the set is a little bit like a long meditation, I think. I’m sure it’s not an accident, after years of sitting in a horse-hair shirt.

HATTIE: The main body of the set is very consistent, and then, at the end of the first set, a couple of times we’ve changed the last two or three songs, and the encores change from time to time. Manchester was the first time we played “Famous Blue Raincoat”. We’ve talked about putting new songs into this Fall leg. But there are so many songs that people are requesting at gigs that we haven’t even touched on yet…

Do you think some people would find him playing new songs indulgent, when there’s still so much great material in the back catalogue to revisit?

HATTIE: Exactly. Although I’m not sure how much Leonard would worry about that. He just hasn’t introduced those new songs yet. We’re still exploring those other songs - sometimes playing them differently, in different time-signatures or with a different feel, and seeing how the audience respond.

What about that first show in Fredericton? What can you remember about that?

CHARLEY: Leonard seemed really excited. For the first couple of gigs, there was a sense of anticipation, and nerves. Leonard does talk of his nerves that he’s had over the years, and why he used to drink two or three bottles of wine a night to get himself through a performance. He occasionally has now what he calls his “nip” - his whiskey and soda.

HATTIE: Actually one night I quite fancied a whiskey and soda in the interval, he was pouring me one out as well. It looked a strange colour, and then we realised that he was pouring Guinness instead of soda. [laughs]

CHARLEY: He didn’t seem to mind…

HATTIE: We both cracked up, and then he started afresh.

CHARLEY: Back then, [at Fredericton], Hattie and I weren’t plugged into what to expect. We’d never seen Leonard live before. A religious experience is an appropriate phrase, for how people see his shows. We would walk on - and it took a while to harden to being affected by grown men and women crying and sobbing and screaming directly in front of you. But Leonard seems to be warmed by that. It’s almost like he could part the Red Sea. He lifts up his microphone, and everything settles.

HATTIE: In Fredericton, it was quite overwhelming. Everybody felt it was going to be quite an electric atmosphere. But it was beyond anything that we’d imagined. And so intimate. That was a very small theatre. I think it was a very smart way of Leonard to start the tour. Instead of being in an enormous arena with less personal connection, you could really see the faces of the first twenty rows. It was so tiny, it was like one of those old London theatres. You could almost picture people in Victorian dress. Leonard immediately connected with people, and his own nerves dissipated within a couple of songs.

CHARLEY: We all knew what a weighty night that was.

And Dublin? The first gig in Europe…

CHARLEY: Dublin was raucous, high-energy. We were freezing to death on-stage. It was the coldest I’ve ever been, all of our kneecaps were going up and down, trying not to completely shudder. It was outdoors at night, and the hardy Irish were swinging and dancing in the rain to “So Long, Marianne”, knowing all the words. The outside atmosphere and the weather added to a completely different energy.

Was that raucous energy consistent through the Dublin shows, though?

HATTIE: It was. There were three nights in Dublin, but the second was the first to be booked and officially sold. The first night was energetic, but the second, with all the die-hards, was absolutely mental.

CHARLEY: The security people got completely squashed and swept out of the way by the tides of people coming towards the front, insisting on polkaing and waltzing. Cameramen even zoomed in and captured some couples on their knees - one person was proposing with a ring during “I’m Your Man”. It was crazy.

How did the songs stand up to that atmosphere?

HATTIE: Something like “Take This Waltz” is very uplifting. Everybody was singing along to that, and “So Long, Marianne” is quite a chanty, beer-swilling song.

CHARLEY: But Leonard does some spoken-word poems during the set. And then it was really special to see and feel 13,000 people be completely still. You felt like you were in some kind of church. People would feel and take the weight of the moment. And then be instantly relighting the raucous fire.

HATTIE: I think it’s important the set’s long. When we play festivals and we’ve only played for an hour, it felt like you hadn’t quite been able to get into the depths of the feeling. Because just as soon as you’re in it, you’re out of it. It’s like this weird thing that happens in yoga, where you’re in a pose, and you’re hating it and you’re struggling and it hurts, and then you break through to the other side and there’s this feeling of being elated that you’ve managed to hold it for three minutes. Leonard’s sets are like that. Some of his songs are reflective of such pain that he’s been in in the past, in his extremely low points. You go through maybe three songs that reflect that atmosphere. And then you come out the other side and do something like “Closing Time”, extremely light in a way and comical and silly, and you see that side of him. And he takes the audience with him.

So over those three hours, you’re being taken through a life, in all its variety?

HATTIE: Exactly.

And what of Glastonbury? It’s fair to say that was one of the key shows on that first leg?

CHARLEY: For a lot of us, including Leonard, Glastonbury was a really important gig. It was the biggest audience, and there was an electric atmosphere for us back-stage. Leonard seemed to be resonating with expectation of playing to a huge crowd. He is someone who is eager to entertain and please, despite the fact that that’s veiled in his own apparently relaxed atmosphere. He did seem like he was a little nervous. He usually makes a wisecrack backstage. Somebody took his photo as he was going up the steps, and then we got to behind the curtain. And we stood there all together, and he peeked round the curtain, and said: “There’s a few people here tonight, friends…” And there were 100,000 people in front of us.

Does he conspicuously get nervous for those crucial gigs?

HATTIE: I only ever see him excited to play shows. I don’t see him nervous.

CHARLEY: I think he’s often a little nervous. But, being in his seventies, and having brought up two children, and done so many shows before, he does lead the band on. Every time we walk on, he says: “Come on, friends, let’s go!” I think he feels an obligation to all of us to lead us on. So I think he doesn’t like to show his nerves too much. But I think he is nervous.


From what you were saying about dark times in his life - do you get the impression that he draws on, or revisits, those times as he sings?

HATTIE: He sings every night really, truly from the heart. I’m sure he revisits the true emotion it came from.

CHARLEY: He seems like someone who is very present. He does talk about things that have gone on before. But sometimes he says, “Oh, I can’t remember that any more.” I’m amazed he remembers all the words, to be honest. Sometimes he seems to reflect on things that have happened before. But most of the time he seems to be here and now, going forward.

The final gig of the first leg was The Big Chill. How was that..? Was it like the last day of school..?

HATTIE: It was very exciting. It was like the last day of school, when you’re hugging all your friends, and everyone felt very happy. Charley and I went into the festival a little early, and I walked back-stage in a hippie festival dress, and Leonard said to me: “You’d better cover up your knees, darlin’, because there are old men in here!”

CHARLEY: I think everybody was quite happy to play that festival, but also happy that it was the last of the leg. Because we had been out for what seemed to be too long. Too long certainly for Leonard. When he was on-stage you would never have known, because he’s so professional and really gives it his all. But off-stage, he and all of us were weary. It was the music and the energy of being on-stage that kept us going. It was a little too long to have been away from the realities of life. Leonard talked of really wanting to spend some time in Montreal, and at his home in LA. He wouldn’t mention things like that very much. But if pressed, he’d say he was looking forward to that. Everybody was tired by that point. And so, a little like a toddler who gets more energy in the last couple of hours before they go to sleep, we were like that on-stage, knowing that that was the last one.

You reconvened for the Fall leg. The first show, in Bucharest, took place on September 21, Leonard’s 74th birthday. What can you tell us about that?

CHARLEY: It was a good birthday. We were quite surprised, because Leonard’s family are all Virgos, so none of them are that big on fuss. We talked the day before, as a band: “What shall we do on Leonard’s birthday?” And we agreed “Nothing” was the right response. But the people in Bucharest were really charming, and the show was punctuated with “Happy Birthday to you,” the only lyrics, over and over, which we were all laughing at. And then some people come up on stage with some enormous cakes that were heavier than Leonard, which he held for a few minutes, till we rescued him.

HATTIE: I actually had a piece, I don’t know if he did. The whole cake was made of foamy icing, there was no actual cake.

CHARLEY: It was the kind of cake you could’ve pied someone in the face with! Leonard always tastes, but he never really indulges in an enormous portion. He’s a sensitive person, so I’m sure he was touched. He didn’t talk of it much, because he gets whisked away from the stage immediately after the performance, in order to maximise the rest he’s got to have. But he always seems touched by any personal gesture like that. It’s probably a mixture of embarrassment, and being touched.

We’d be interested, I think, in some of your memories and impressions of Leonard…

HATTIE: He has such an amazing smile. His sense of humour and his kindness - always thinking of everyone, from someone who’s taking the guitars to a guest who’s visiting, he’s so considerate. His jokes, and funny quips. The other night, in Bucharest, we were coming off at the end and it was raining, and the steps down from the stage were wet. I said, “Oh, Leonard, grab my arm, it’s very slippery.” He said, “Don’t worry, darling! I’m as sure-footed as a mountain goat.” [laughs]

Does he go out very often with the rest of you?

CHARLEY: Leonard doesn’t often go out after the show. We often don’t finish till 12.30 at night, and that also means there are people who’ve been to the concert around the hotel, seeing if they can see Leonard. It can be very intrusive for him. So after the gigs, he goes back, and often we don’t see him till the next day.

HATTIE: We socialise and have a meal together before the gigs, at the venue. Leonard always has his nutritious Smoothie. And we often socialise as we travel, and those are the times that resonate the most, in terms of togetherness, and getting to know the real Leonard.

CHARLEY: Leonard will always choose the smallest or least comfortable seat in the room or on the plane, and he’ll always leave the nicest ones to other people. He insists on that, he quietly goes about it, and if you try to change it he goes: “No, please, after you…” Total graciousness and gentlemanliness from Leonard, all the time. But then surprising openness, with very amusing stories. We have very interesting social conversations all together, about marriage, divorce, infidelity, religion, politics. And Leonard isn’t quiet in those conversations. He almost always says what he thinks, there’s no question about that. Those are the times I’ve enjoyed the most.

HATTIE: One time we were on the plane and it was incredibly bumpy, and all the people around me were very frightened, and of course you’re reading stories all the time of small planes going down. I was gripping hold of my drink, and seeing my life flashing before my eyes, and I looked over at Leonard. He seemed completely and utterly calm, and said: “Don’t worry, darling, nothing can happen to you - it’s just the way it is.” That’s what we take from Leonard. He worries about the small things and deals with those. And with the big things, he lets nature take its course.

CHARLEY: Whilst he eats a very healthy diet, like a Zen Buddhist would, every now and again we discover he’s slipped out the back door and gone to McDonalds to buy a Filet O’Fish!

HATTIE: He sometimes goes on a walk when we get to a town, looking in windows and sucking up the scene.

CHARLEY: We tried to say to him that if he put a baseball cap on, and a sweater and an old pair of jeans, he wouldn’t be recognised. But he’s always got his fedora on, and his long rain mac over the top of his suit. There wasn’t even a glimmer of thought that he might consider wearing anything else.
I think a lot of towns he’s been to before. So in those moments, he takes some time to have some silence and quiet to himself. Sometimes he’ll go out for a walk, or a croissant or a coffee. But in places that he’s been to before, he can resonate on those memories looking out of his window in the privacy and silence of his room. I think that’s quite important for him, bearing in mind people are always engaging him when he’s outside.

HATTIE: This tour’s been very enriching for me - not just being around Leonard and his amazing spirit, but the songs, and their diversity and complex lyrical nature. As a songwriter as well, it’s been a great insight. To actually sing his songs every night is different to just whacking them on the stereo.

CHARLEY: There’s certainly a magic to the way Leonard moves - a spark in his eye that you don’t really see in people. It’s not just Leonard’s songs, not just the way he expresses himself. It’s him as well that people respond to. I’m sure that’s why, for decades, people remain enthralled. For me, the richness of all his experiences, the way he’s seen the real rock’n’roll culture of the Sixties, the way he’s been on the interior of stories that have been handed down through press and our pop culture - he was there, and he’s experienced that. But he’s also been the father of two normal yet lovely children who he’s brought up himself to be adults. He’s also investigated and been part of so many religions.

I don’t always agree with what Leonard says. I don’t always agree with his social choices. But he doesn’t make any apologies for the way he feels, and he’s not nervous to say what he thinks. When we discuss men and women, and the way we interact, romantically or socially, Leonard makes no apologies for men’s desires and expectations, and the way society requires men and women to have traditional roles. When Leonard talks about his past relationships, I’m always impressed to hear that lots of the women that he seems to have been with, respect him and still speak to him and still want to be friends with him - despite the fact that you read Leonard was rather a Lothario. He seems to have been able to lead that life, at the same time as retaining the respect and the love of the people he’s been with.

INTERVIEWS: NICK HASTED
Suzana123
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby Suzana123 » Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:11 pm

Thank you so much for these interviews. They are most precious.

I am looking forward to seeing an interview with Leonard after the tour - I do hope when he relaxes and rests he will be gracious enough to give some.
clionamhic
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby clionamhic » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:42 am

He’s a devoted workhorse. He works harder than any of the rest of us, and has reserves of energy that no one can quite tell where they come from. And he is moved by the response of the audience, and the overall sense of an almost spiritual connection that is going on between him, his work and his audience. The whole thing is a real phenomenon, and Leonard is very moved by that.
Thank you so much for posting these interviews - what a wonderful insight. I've had to dry my eyes more than once reading through them.

There is no doubt but that there is a spiritual connection going on between Leonard, his songs and those whose hearts are open to that connecting. I have stopped trying to figure out just what happened to me at both concerts that I attended, but it was something very profound - a real phenomenon, as Sharon says.

By the way Sharon, Boogie Street in Cardiff was INCREDIBLE!
MaryB
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby MaryB » Sat Nov 15, 2008 7:03 am

mirka wrote:maybe a footnote could be added to the posters at the entrance "Audience enthusiasm appreciated"
Well said, Mirka!
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby pironi » Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:03 pm

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12456
Today we present: BRUCE RODGERS

Founder of the company Tribe Inc, Rodgers has been behind the set designs for musical extravaganzas from the touring shows of Madonna, Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez, through to the all-star tributes to Brian Wilson and Johnny Cash.

****

UNCUT: When and how did you get involved in the project?
RODGERS: I was contacted by Anne Militello, a friend and a great lighting designer. She was already on board and wanted to introduce me to Leonard and his manager Robert Kory. I was on the east coast however and booked pretty solid so my introduction happened via email and phone calls and Anne handled all the face to face time.

You've worked with lots of other big names and projects -- how does it differ from them?
On every project the first thing I do is dive into the music. I was aware of Leonard's music but once I started listening and feeling around for a look I became his greatest fan. I found a connection easily. The biggest difference was the music could stand on it's own ...it needed no scenery per se...it made me find a way to stay as subtle as possible and let Leonard and Anne do all the work.

How involved was Leonard in the design? Is he very hands-on?
As far as the design and layout he was very involved, he was the master planner of the placement of all his band members. We tried a few platform layouts but he finessed the final plan once the set arrived in rehearsals in Los Angeles...he wanted his musicians as close and intimate as possible and we were glad to help.

Is there a theme that you were working with, design-wise?
Not necessarily a theme but I took the approach to design the set as an extension of who Leonard is to me, Leonard is a very elegant gentleman and dresses that way. His music is from the heart and he's also a great artist. He allows us to see into his heart when he sings and I wanted the feel of the set to be like him, subtle and silvery grey and translucent, mysterious and full of light at times, dark and moody at others. My setting this not only gave me the feelings I was after but also gives Anne the ability to tone the space thru out the evening.

Do you transport the set everywhere or do you make up different backdrops in each country/region?
The set we built in Los Angeles is the set used everywhere.

Do you socialise with Leonard? What's he like?
I didn’t...but Anne and Robert tell me he's a real gentleman. As an artist I get a vibe from him that he's real like us but his ability to make music allows him to transcend to higher places. I'm proud to be a small part of his life.

JOHN LEWIS
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby pironi » Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:05 pm

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12478
Today we present: ROSCOE BECK.
Another veteran of the Field Commander Cohen campaign, Beck played on Cohen’s Recent Songs album in 1979 and went on to become a multi-Grammy winning producer, helping Jennifer Warnes create her well-received Cohen covers album Famous Blue Raincoat. Musical director of Cohen’s current tour, he recently released his debut solo album, Walk On, and, by the way, has had two Fender basses named after him.

Final part of the series coming this Friday (November 21)!

****

UNCUT: You’ve known Leonard Cohen for a long time, since the late Seventies. Did you keep in touch after the 1994 tour finished?
BECK: We’ve kept in touch, off and on, through the years. I was involved with him in 1979 and 1980. And then during the years I lived in Los Angeles of course we kept in touch. And then we worked again in 1986 on the Jennifer Warnes record Famous Blue Raincoat. And following that he asked me to help him with his I’m Your Man record, and I worked on that in 1987 and ‘88. And in ’88, I was his musical director, I put the touring band together for him in 1988, but I didn’t go that time. I had some other things going on, but I put the band together. And that band lasted together from ‘88 – ‘93. And from that point until really maybe two, two-and-a-half years ago we’d trade an occasional email. But we weren’t involved, just friendly correspondence.

What were your immediate thoughts when he contacted you about touring again?
I was kinda surprised when he called me up to say he wanted to go back out on the road. By the time he actually called me, I’d seen the I’m Your Man documentary where he kinda hints at going back on the road, but I was still very surprised. My personal opinion is, I think he would have gone out again, anyway. He missed it. He really does love performing live and performing to an audience. And there was such a demand building for him to tour. I’ve been involved in three different touring bands now, and I’ve never seen the kind of demand or response for Leonard that there is now.

What can you tell us about the process behind the rehearsals?
Rehearsals started in about February. Leonard and I started working last year. He called me around Thanksgiving and I flew out to LA and met with him – I was the first one hired – and we started talking about things and I think we started auditions for the band maybe in January. We held auditions for the band and there were a lot of chord charts and such left over from the 88/93 touring band, and of course anything written since ‘93 we didn’t have charts for. Once the auditions were concluded, and the band was in place, in the early stages since many of the musicians were new to the band, except Bob Metzger and Sharon Robinson and myself, Leonard would give guidance to the musicians, in terms of learning the songs. But the musicians are of such a high calibre that he’d let them learn the material and kinda sat back and said, “Let’s see what they come up with.” Leonard has been very positive all along about this tour. Of course, choosing the musicians was difficult and we had many good players and good singers to choose from and that was a little difficult, but I’ve said since – the right people just showed up, the right people came to us.

And how were the rehearsals themselves?
The rehearsals were very comfortable, we scheduled a lot of rehearsal time – two months – which is pretty much unheard of. Leonard hadn’t done this in a long time and he’s always very… I want to say concerned, but that sounds too serious. He really cares about his music and he cares about the audience that’s going to hear it. And he really wants the performance to be something very memorable. He cares about each and every performance, he really does. And he wants the band to be very good. When we were hiring, his only instructions to me where: “Rossie” – that’s what he calls me sometimes – “I only want the best band on the road this year.” No pressure, then.

Did he seem rusty..?
No, I don’t think so. He’s a very modest man, so he claims that rehearsals were mostly for him. But I don’t buy that speech from him at all. He’d been practising guitar in advance of this and boning up on his own material. He was in really good shape, musically as well as physically. He was really up for this tour. He quit smoking five years ago, and mentally he was ready for it, and musically ready for it.

How would you describe Cohen?
He’s one of the most modest people I’ve ever met. He is a very generous man, with wonderful manners – almost Old World kind of manners. One of the most interesting people you’d ever want to meet. The kind of person that if you’re in the room with him, he makes you feel like the most important person in the world. He gives you the attention. A good friend. I love them man.

Do you have an anecdote you could share?
What pops out in my mind is his incredible generosity of spirit. The crew stay in the same hotel as the band does, for instance, and if not enough rooms can be found in the hotel of choice, well then we’ll go the second choice or the third choice. He treats everyone equally; he cares about all the musician’s families. He’s offered to bring musician’s spouses or children, to fly them out sometimes to meet the band. And that’s really uncommon.

Does he hang out?
He’s definitely one of the guys. He keeps somewhat to himself, just to conserve energy. But we have dinner or hang out in the hotel lobby, or take a little walk and have a coffee in a café. We’re friends as well as co-workers.

What would a night out with Leonard involve?
A night out with Leonard is not going to be a night at the disco..! It’s probably going to be a long dinner somewhere, coffee afterwards. Nothing extraordinary. Just good conversation. What kind of stuff do we talk about? Everything, really! From love and relationships to politics – obviously the economy is in the news right now, and we’ve all got opinions about that. The most personal details, we’re close friends. He’s very open to those he knows.

How’s he dealing with the rigors and obligations of the tour?
Quite well, it seems. The one concession he’s making for himself is that there’s no meet-and-greet on this tour, with no exceptions really. There have been quite a few celebrities who’ve come to the shows – and of course everyone one wants to meet Leonard. He just decided before the tour that meet-and-greets really just take too much physically out of him. He gives it all away in the show. The shows are three hours long and he really gives everything he’s got into the show, and when the show is over he’s finished, he’s really to go back to the hotel room. So the decision was made up front there would be no meet-and-greets after the show, when the show was over Leonard’s on his way back to the hotel. I think that helps to conserve his energy. He just turned 74 the other day, on the 21st, and I think that’s allowing him to keep up with the rigorous schedule the tour demands.

Why 3 hour shows?
When we ran over the list of songs we just found that there was so much we couldn’t leave out. I think many people told him that concerts don’t run that long. I know many people told him that. His own children said, “Dad, concerts are like 90 minutes and then they’re gone!” So he kind of had that in mind during the rehearsal stage when he was making up potential set lists, but he found there was so much he couldn’t leave out. So immediately it looked like we had to do a two hour show, to do the material he wanted, then the two hours grew into two and a half hours, and then you add the encores onto that and that’s three hours. And it’s always been that way. My first tour with Leonard was in 1979 and the concerts then were at least as long. I can remember returning to the stage as many as eight times in those days. We’d finish, we’d leave the stage, we’d come back, leave and come back… He doesn’t have to do that now. We leave the stage maybe three times and come back. But we won’t come back and do one song, we’ll come back and do three songs and leave the stage. And then we might come back and do two more and leave the stage. And then just when you think it’s over, we do an a cappella cover, a verse from The Bible, called “Wither Tho Goest”. So he always wants the audience to leave feeling like they’ve really got what they came for. They want to see and hear something that they’ll never forget. Very generous in spirit.

Are there any rituals or routines?
We have routine that we all get dressed for the performance. There’s kind of a routine that there’s always a set time for the soundcheck, after the soundcheck will be dinner, after dinner we’ll be getting dressed. And then we just kind of meet in the Green Room about 15 minutes before we go on stage, we just hang out for 15 minutes and talk, and just hang out as friends before we hit the stage. That’s the way it goes, every time. Leonard’s most always relaxed, it depends probably where it is and what the circumstances are. I remember when we played Montreal he was a little nervous before that show, because it’s his hometown. So occasionally nerves might be on edge depending on how high-powered the show seems to be or something. Or what the sound is like, that’s very critical. If the soundcheck went well, we have a good show. If the soundcheck didn’t go well, then people might be a little nervous.

What do you remember of the 1st show, at Fredericton?
Actually pretty easy. We had so much rehearsal, we had two months rehearsal in LA, plus if I’m not mistaken we had 3 days in Fredericton on stage at the venue to rehearse, so there was a lot of the normal anticipation one would expect. Not only on the part of Leonard. We rehearsed so much, I couldn’t imagine anything going on.

And the first European show in Dublin?
It was a difficult show, because it was outside. Previously, we’d been playing theatres in Canada. The monitor desk had to be replaced. And there was some concern, but actually the Dublin shows stick out in our memories as some of the most incredible shows we’d played. We had some video of the shows, because they had large screens so there were some cameras feeding the large screens, and the audience were just so with us. There were three nights, and on the second night it just started pouring down, raining, and no one moved. It was the most incredible thing. Everyone stayed in their seats in the pouring rain. It rained the other night in Bucharest also, and when Leonard sees this, he says, “Well, if you need to go, please go. No one needs to sit in the rain.” But no one moves. And no one moved in Dublin. And there was something about that gesture that touched us. They just huddled there in their raincoats.

How does Leonard respond to this kind of adulation?
It’s all heartwarming, of course, you can’t help but feel that when the response is so heartfelt. The other night at Bucharest, people sang “Happy Birthday” to him about three times.

How did he take that?
With humility. He’s a very humble man. It makes him want to give even more. He just wants to make sure everyone leaves with something they’ll never forget.

And what about Glastonbury…
… We drove down in the van.

A van? With Leonard sitting upfront..?
Ha, no not like that. We got down there a few hours before we played, because there was no soundcheck, which was a concern. And it was a very large audience. So that’s not exactly an intimate sized audience. I think, if I’m not mistaken, he said, “It’s so wonderful to be with you on the other side of intimacy.” I think he sees our performance as a kind of intimate affair. Someone called us “the world’s quietest band”, and it is a very quiet band, quietest band I’ve ever played in. So he was concerned about whether music intended to be played in front of a few thousand maximum would really work in front of 200,000 people when there were other stages going on. We play so soft we could easily be drowned out by a rock band playing another stage. But once again, we all came away from the show thinking it was really wonderful.

Did Leonard stay around and watch any bands?
We left after a short pause.

Talking about the loud thing – I read a report today when you went to see Bob Dylan recently and Leonard was wearing ear plugs…
That was in St John’s [Newfoundland], and, yeah, Bob Dylan was playing the venue right next door to the hotel. We could go to the venue without even leaving the hotel, you just walk through a corridor and you were there. It was a large venue, 16,000 seats, and the sound system was kinda loud. We had a box and it was fairly near the stage. And the sound was a little loud for us, and we were all trying to protect our ears, so we had to wear earplugs. I did, I think Leonard did as well.

Did he and Leonard hang out after..?
They’ve known each other for a long time, and I know there’s a lot of respect for each other. Jennifer Warnes told me a story once that there was a BMI [Broadcast Music, Inc] dinner once, they were honouring Bob Dylan. And Leonard was there and Jennifer was there. And at one point, Bob Dylan took Elizabeth Taylor by the hand and said, “Come, let me introduce you to a real poet…”

So what happened after the first leg of the tour finished?
We took three or four weeks off, then we reconvened in Los Angeles again and SIR rehearsal studio for two weeks, just to brush up basically. That’s where we rehearsed the first time – Studio Instrument Rentals.

Any changes to this latest leg of the tour?
Not so far. The set list hasn’t really changed. We’ve only played one show so far. We had to play it without Sharon Robinson who had a health concern which has turned out not to be a problem at all, so she’s joining us in Vienna. As she was absent, we had to cut one song in the set.

And new songs forthcoming?
Well, he’s writing. He’s already got some things written. He’s played me two of the songs. And there are more new songs. I saw him writing on the plane yesterday, in his notebooks. And he’s talked to me about wanting to do a new record. But it will probably be when the touring’s done. Just because we still have dates – we’re in Europe until December 1, we’ll break for Christmas, then I think we’re going to Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and the Far East, after that will be the US and Western Canada, so there’s at least that much touring before we can start on a record. That will probably take us to at least October 2009 before we can even think about recording.

New songs.?
Well, you know, these things are always subject to change, and I do know a couple of titles but I wouldn’t want to give them away in case somebody took them…

MICHAEL BONNER
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby Fabio » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:14 pm

Like the interviews, I think all the musicians understood the love and affection that audiences have for Leonard and how lucky we were to see him again.
And we still hope it will be possible in the future
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Re: Interviews with the band and crew members (Uncut online)

Postby pironi » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:28 pm

http://uncut.co.uk/music/leonard_cohen/ ... ures/12508
In the final instalment, we present: WILFRED LANGMAID.

He's been a critic for New Brunswick's English-language newspaper The Daily Gleaner for over 25 years, and written often about Cohen during that period, including coverage of the first night of the "comeback" tour in Langmaid's hometown of Fredericton. He also happens to be an Anglican chaplain.

UNCUT: Were you aware of when Cohen arrived in town?

LANGMAID: The (Fredericton) show was a Sunday night, and he arrived on Wednesday or Thursday. It was the poorest-kept secret in the city. Maybe it was the nature of Fredericton, or maybe it was just that his grace filled people. But he was walking around, down the path by the river, and no one accosted him. One fellow yelled across the street and thanked him for coming, and he just smiled and went about his way. They were here working out the kinks, for the first show in 15 years. He chose Fredericton knowing there'd be a community where, if the show had had burps and wrinkles, it would have all been forgiven. Even the way he began with the East Coast Canadian leg of the tour, he was working out all sorts of kinks, literally amongst friends.

What can you tell us about the venue?

The Playhouse is tiny, in the 700-people range, and the tickets sold out in minutes. It was an unusual audience for the venue. There were certainly Fredericton residents who liked his music and had snapped up the tickets. But there were others who were die-hards, passionate fans, who could pick songs by the first lick. There were people from their twenties right up to their seventies. There was all this uncertainty, because none of us knew what was going to happen. I'm sure that anyone who went to Glastonbury, say, later in the tour, would have been excited as well. But they had an idea what they were going to be hearing. There was no idea with us. There was a nervous energy about the place, a buzz you don't usually get. People settled in their seats a lot earlier than usual. Fredericton is notorious for last-minute walk-ups, there was none of that. The seats were filled easily 15 minutes before the show. I walked into the lobby, and you could throw a cannon-ball and not hit a soul. Leonard was obviously nervous too. We were in the fourth row, and could see him pacing back and forth backstage. Everyone was in their seats waiting. Thankfully he didn't keep us waiting long. He came on at 5 past the hour. And three hours of magic followed.

What was the response when he arrived on stage?

Even when he appeared on the stage, there was a two-minute standing ovation. Not a note was playing. Just the fact that he was there. We just rose to our feet. He looked out with that nervous, shy smile, and kept bowing and nodding his head; a sheepish grin, but certainly loving every moment of it. He knew that we were thrilled to have him there. And we certainly knew, based on what he said, but more importantly what he did musically and artistically, that he was really thrilled to be with us. There must have been some misgivings, some second thoughts: "Oh, my heaven! I'm really doing this!" But the band were in the pocket right from the get-go. Leonard did well from the outset, but he seemed a little jittery, for the first couple of songs; he made reference to it. But by the fourth song, "Bird on the Wire" - that was in the four-spot. The nervousness was gone. He was fully engaged, and just sailing along. He was at his best. The voice was far stronger than I expected. The energy was strong. He was playful throughout the evening. He was gracious, he was thinking on his feet. It became clear in hindsight, having read accounts of other shows, that some "ad-libbed" lines were well-rehearsed - being a "60-year-old kid with a crazy dream…" But other moments were clearly off the cuff. People would say things, respectfully, between songs, and he would banter back and forth, and it was all very playful. At the start of set two, when he was getting the keyboard programmed for "Tower of Song", he pressed a wrong button, and laughed and had to put his glasses on. He was literally feeling his way. "So Long Marianne" was completely transformed - a totally different cadence, 4/4, not 3/3. He defined it in a different way, as Dylan would. For those of us who were fanatics, we'd hear those early licks and go: "Oh, yeah!" We're going to get "Who by Fire…" "Oh, it's this. It's that…" It was a feeling I have not had since Grateful Dead concerts. Just joy. Having written about music since the late '70s, this was way up there at the top. We never thought we'd see him again, let alone in our hometown.

Do you think the location of the first show was significant?

Montreal is only an 8-hour drive from Fredericton. And especially back in Leonard's heyday as a poet, there was a huge community of poetry experts in Fredericton, at the university of New Brunswick where I work, and so he made more than passing reference to that, and criticisms they gave him. He spoke of Bliss Carmen from a century ago; Desmond Pacey, a literary critic and professor, and that got a personal chuckle from the audience, where it turned out there were relatives of Pacey. Really cool…

And what about after the show finished? What was the mood like?

It wasn't a crowd that scattered immediately afterwards. We all realised that we'd been part of something really, really special. Something we knew that we'd never experience again in our lifetime. There were people who were dismissing it as it as an out-of-town try-out. It was far more than that. Had things gone off the rails, there might have been all sorts of adjustments, even to the band. But it went so well, we saw what the rest of the world went on to enjoy. We saw the template. We didn't get something that was discarded once it moved into bigger venues. We saw a well-organised exhibition of an extraordinary canon of material. There were tweaks and additions, later. But we got the basic, beautiful skeleton of what has become a triumphant comeback.

NICK HASTED

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