On The Side Of The Angels – But Which Side Is That?
The onstage arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s angels, aka backup singers, has been constant at the 2008-2013 concerts: Charley Webb on the audience’s far left, then Hattie Webb, and then, nearest Leonard Cohen’s center stage position, Sharon Robinson. It’s not unusual, in fact, for Cohen fans attending a concert to identify their seats as being on the “boys’ side” (the same side as the band members – on Cohen’s left) or the “girls’ side” (the same side as the backup singers – on Cohen’s right).
As Alan Mawhinney points out, however, this was not always the case.
When Anjani Thomas was in the band in 1985 she was to Leonard’s right, albeit on the keyboard. All the videos I can recall from earlier times show the lady singers to Leonard’s left.
When Perla and Julie were touring, they were on Leonard’s right, but usually with Julie closer to him. In Barcelona, Perla was closer to Leonard, in contrast to most other performances I have seen. Perla is also adjacent to LC in the San Sebastian 1988 concert. Could it be because he used her as an interpreter par excellence in the concerts in Spain? My guess is that Julie usually stood closer to Leonard due to her featuring in “Joan of Arc” and “Take This Waltz”. Also re Perla and Julie there are a number of occasions where Leonard stood between them, but I don’t recall seeing any vision of him standing adjacent to any of the others, with the occasional exception of being to Sharon’s left on the recent tour.
In the, unfortunately now ended 2008 – 2013 World Tour, Sharon, Hattie and Charlie were always on Leonard’s right.
As Alan and I exchanged email about who stood where when during Leonard Cohen shows, this bit of stage business grew more and more interesting, resulting in this post and an associated gallery of photos illustrating the onstage positions of the backup singers for the various tours at Various Positions Onstage: The Gallery – DrHGuy.com.1
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This is by no means an exhaustive listing2. Nor is it intended as the last word on the subject. Beyond the speculations contained in Alan’s email, no reasons are offered explaining why the singers are on the right or left or why one backup singer stands further from Leonard Cohen (e.g., Sharon Robinson in 1979) or closer to Leonard Cohen (e.g., Sharon Robinson in 2013). I am, in fact, hopeful that readers will contribute other variations in the placement of Cohen’s singers as well as knowledge of or ideas about such stage positioning in general or specific to Leonard Cohen.
Stage Positions Of Leonard Cohen Backup Singers By Tour
In 1970 and 1972 the backup singers were stage right. In 1974, the angels moved across the stage to Leonard Cohen’s left and remained there in 1976, 1979, and 1980. In 1985, the backing vocals shifted back to stage right, where they have remained since.
The Leonard Cohen Slip & Slide Realignment Between Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla
One specific stage maneuver pertinent to the backup singers seems worthy of spotlighting. Cohen has used this move, as far as I can determine, only with backup singers Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla. While singing, Cohen slips back from his solo position center stage, loops around behind the backup singers on stage right, and slides between them where he continues the song.
Leonard Cohen Moves Between Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla
Various Positions Onstage: The Gallery
Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post taken by -Astin-