Leonard Cohen is renowned for choosing exemplary musicians and singers to accompany him on tour and people who are amazing in their own right so when I am given the chance to see them perform I take it!
I was very happy when The Webb Sisters announced they were going to bless us with seeing them in concert again. Leonard is on the mark when he describes them as angels and sublime.
It was a very lucky decision that we decided to queue because when we entered the venue we discovered only a couple of rows of seats! We gratefully took some right in front of where the ladies would be playing. It wasn’t long before the venue was packed with enthusiastic fans ready to witness and hear some great music.
Support on the night was supplied by Sam Semple. His songs were easy listening and while he was good I do admit I was getting impatient and wanting to hear the ladies perform. I did change my attitude and paid more attention when he revealed he co-wrote the song Better and then performed a great rendition of this song. A few years back I had seen the other writer of this song, Tom Baxter in concert and have fond memories of that having been a great night. It was a funny moment when Sam started singing this song and someone shouted from the back, “no way”, and he replied, “way!”
We had a short wait after Semple’s set before the ladies appeared and the audience were cheering and shouting and it seemed a somewhat rowdy crowd for the kind of performance that awaited us! However when the ladies did take the stage one could hear a pin drop during the actual songs!
The Webb Sisters are known for being amazing harmonious singers and they did not disappoint on Monday night. Opening with a stunning cover of Always On My Mind, it set the tone for a night of excellence which included songs such as Torches, 1000 Stars, Missing Person and It May Be Spring. Their voices are their main instrument of sound and they compliment the voices with Charley on guitar and some nifty foot work for percussion and Hattie alternating between harp and mandolin.
There was great banter between the two ladies with many fun moments on the night. It was very funny when they introduced The Anchor with Charley making some sign language gestures to explain the meaning of the song, love, love lost and betrayal. I also found it highly amusing when they were talking about having pets and I revealed my friends have a cat called Leonard. I’m sure most of the audience are fans of Leonard Cohen so this went down well and then one of my friends gave the cats full name “Leonard Cohen MacLeod” which the ladies loved!
We were treated to two Leonard Cohen covers on the night. The song they perform at every Leonard Cohen concert, If It Be Your Will and also Show Me The Place. Like every song performed on the night these sounded amazing but If It Be Your Will is a song that will always be special to me and one which I find impossible to keep me eyes from leaking. Between the sublime lyrics and the ladies harmonies it is so beautiful and moving.
Before this tour began the ladies on their Facebook page offered to hand embroider the initials of the first person to reply for each concert on a Webb Sisters t-towel. During the concert Hattie asked did we have “James Nolan” in the house as not only was he the first person to reply for this concert, but that it was also his birthday. James is a friend of mine so I was very pleased to witness this and he was very moved when Hattie gave him the t-towel and a couple of postcards and then the ladies and the entire audience sang happy birthday to him.
For the encores the ladies like to move into the audience and perform a couple of songs a cappella but due to the large crowd this was not an option on Monday night so instead the performed one song at each side of the stage. Their voices are amazing and while their instruments enhance them hearing these wonderful voices without instruments is special.
After the concert the ladies generously posed for photos and signed memorabilia. It was great seeing them in concert and chatting to them after. They had said in the concert they hope to be back next year. I told them they don’t need to wait that long!
While everytime I have met Leonard is precious to me and something I will treasure forever, meeting him in Ireland for me was the most magical of all and to meet him in his comfort zone before the sound checks for the concerts is very special for me. Here follows photos of those magical moments with Leonard and some of his band. I’d made a point of not asking those in the band I’d met in Ghent for photos as they had been more than generous to me there but I did have a few words with many of them in Dublin and will treasure those moments forever too.
“Sublime” and “angels fallen from heaven” are just two of the descriptions used by Leonard Cohen when The Webb Sisters accompanied him on tour as backing singers on his 2008-2010 world tour. Having being moved to tears by their excellent performances with him I relished the thoughts of seeing them on a solo performance here in Ireland at The Sugar Club on Thursday November 10th. I wasn’t to be disappointed and sublime is a very apt description of the concert we were lucky to witness in what can be described as a very intimate venue.
From the opening bars of Baroque Thoughts we knew we were in for a special night. With just the two ladies on stage and with Charley on acoustic guitar and Hattie alternating between a harp and a mandolin this allowed for the ladies to showcase their vocals and I was extremely impressed with their amazing harmonies throughout the entire concert and was moved to tears at times by the sheer beauty of their voices.
It is very hard to choose a highlight where every song was performed to perfection and while there were technical issues at the start they were quickly rectified and didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the night. If anything in fact it added to the friendly atmosphere the ladies created from the stage with the audience. Songs performed include In Your Father’s Eyes, Words That Mobilise and 1000 Stars.
While most of the songs performed on the night were songs they wrote themselves we were treated to some impressive covers including Tracy Chapman’s Baby Can I Hold You where they were briefly accompanied by Matt McGinn who had provided support on the night. However one specific song was especially poignant for me and that was their cover of Leonard Cohen’s If It Be Your Will. This was always a highlight for me on his tour and I knew I would love hearing it performed in an intimate venue like The Sugar Club. This song was very moving for me as it reminded me of a friend who has recently passed away and I found it very hard to hold back the tears when they sang the lyrics “If it be your will that I speak no more and my voice be still as it was before”. However emotions aside it was as always an outstanding performance of the song by the ladies.
When I normally think of beautiful music I tend to think of classical music and especially piano music like for example Fur Elise by Beethoven and I don’t normally use that word when describing concerts I attend. I’d generally use words like impressive or amazing when describing a concert I love. However in this instance I believe the use of the word beautiful is more fitting a word to use as when I was listening the harmonies of Charley and Hattie it was the word which came to mind a lot, that and of course sublime. On every song I was struck by even though they played their instruments to the highest level that their most powerful instrument were their voices. Individually they sound great but it really becomes perfection when they harmonise. Though I have thought long and hard I can honestly say I have never witnessed harmonies of this calibre before with the only possible exception being Simon & Garfunkel.
As I’ve stated above right from the start the ladies created a wonderful friendly atmosphere with the audience and even performed the final two songs amongst us. They also very kindly stayed back at the end of the concert to sign tickets and pose for photos. After meeting them in Las Vegas following Leonard Cohen’s final concert of the world tour it was great to have the opportunity to meet them again and thank them for a very memorable and moving night.
Leaving The Sugar Club I felt privileged to have being there to witness the magic of Charley and Hattie Webb and I look forward to seeing them perform again in the future. Leonard Cohen was right on target with his description calling these ladies The Sublime Webb Sisters.