Video: Leonard Cohen Performs First We Take Manhattan (“Pythagorean Version”) – Dublin 2009


The Cohen Concert Comments Case

This is not only a superb performance but also offers a couple of extras. First, as the video begins, Charley Webb (the back-up singer on the viewer’s far left) is shrugging into her jacket and then, that task accomplished, gets into the rhythm of the choreography with her sister, Hattie, and Sharon Robinson. As a result of Charley’s shimmy employed to don her coat, her subsequent hair adjustments, and her synchronized gyrations in anticipation of the initial chords of “First We Take Manhattan,” I am now officially hot for Charley Webb.1 Oh, and that Cohen fellow also sings after Charley finishes her reverse ecdysis.

The second bonus is described by Esther Park:

If you can tear your eyes away from Charley for a moment (lol – I know it’s hard. I have a crush on her too – and I’m a girl) what, pray tell, is Leonard saying to Sharon at around 2:53, before he walks over and stands next to her? It sounds to me like “Pythagoreas”2 but that can’t be right…or could it?? :) Maybe he’s still looking that rhyme for Oranges.3 Or he’s just doing some Euclidean geometry4 while singing. It wouldn’t surprise me. He’s THAT good.

In regard to that comment, I suggest that Leonard Cohen’s comment directed to Sharon Robinson is explained by the secret revealed in the Belfast Telegraph review of the Belfast concert:

With a perfect band a special mention must go to the backing trio of Cohen collaborator and lover Sharon Robinson and sisters Patti and Charley Webb. [emphasis mine]

“Patti” Webb must be, of course, Hattie’s hitherto unknown Irish identical cousin (a la Patty and Cathy Lane on the Patty Duke Show), who stood in for her for the Belfast Show. I confess that I have no biological proof that Hattie Webb has an identical cousin in Ireland5 (unless one does the parallel universe invocation thing), but the only other explanation for the article naming the performer “Patti Webb” (and describing Sharon Robinson as Leonard Cohen’s “lover”) is that the Belfast Telegraph is in error – and what are the chances of that?

Leonard Cohen – First We Take Manhattan
Dublin O2,: July 23, 2009
Video by albertnoonan

Credit Due Department: A special thanks is due Albert Noonan, who has made this video available to viewers again.

Note: Originally posted July 26, 2009 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. This may be the first occasion when I’ve been turned on by watching a woman put on rather than removing clothing. []
  2. Pythagoreas (or, more commonly, Pythagoras), according to Wikipedia,

    … was born between 580 and 572 BC, died between 500 and 490 BC) was an Ionian Greek mathematician and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. He is often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist.

    Could “Pythagoreas” be the phrase uttered by Cohen? While it may seem unlikely on the surface, consider this scenario. To relax prior to the concert, Cohen and Robinson are watching a re-run of the game show, Jeopardy. Just before the TV contestant responds to the clue, “He was an Ionian Greek mathematician born between 580 and 572 BC,” the singers, neither of whom can at that moment recall the correct name, are summoned to the stage. After pondering the description throughout the concert, Cohen finally realizes the correct answer is, indeed, “Pythagoreas” and, naturally, feels compelled to immediately convey that information to Robinson. Robinson, unfortunately, does not grasp the significance of the message because Cohen did not use the proper, in the form of a question format.

    Or Cohen might have said something other than “Pythagoreas.” []

  3. The singer-songwriter’s search for the rhyme with orange is is, among the Cohen cognoscenti at least, what passes for a well known Leonard Cohen anecdote, found in several articles. I’ve excerpted the pertinent paragraphs from Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe? By Adrian Deevoy (The Q Magazine, 1991):

    [Interviewer] Have you always found it easier to write about women? [Cohen] “I’ve never found it easy to write. Period. I mean, I don’t want to whine about it or anything but . . . it’s a bitch! It’s terrible work. I’m very disciplined in that I can settle down into the work situation but coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad. Before you know it, you’re crawling across the carpet in your underwear trying to find a rhyme for ‘orange’. It’s a terrible, cruel job. But I’m not complaining.” [emphasis mine] []

  4. Some readers may be disappointed to find that “Euclidean geometry” is not slang for the latest and greatest illicit designer drug. Instead, as Wikipedia notes,

    Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria. Euclid’s Elements is the earliest known systematic discussion of geometry. It has been one of the most influential books in history, as much for its method as for its mathematical content. The method consists of assuming a small set of intuitively appealing axioms, and then proving many other propositions (theorems) from those axioms. []

  5. Unfortunately, the Cohencentric Laboratory’s CSI Instant YouTube Video Wave DNA Detection And Comparative Analysis Extrapolater is in the shop this week. []

One Reply to “Video: Leonard Cohen Performs First We Take Manhattan (“Pythagorean Version”) – Dublin 2009”

  1. sturgess66

    “Thank you.” That is what he is saying. A simple “thank you.” Haha! Go back and look – I’m sure that is what he is saying.

    Why? Well – “everybody knows” that Leonard was recovering from a cold – and a cold can be hard on the vocal chords. The first couple of times Leonard does sing the line “Then we take Berlin.” The singers – Sharon especially – sing the line quite loudly – with great gusto – and probably with the intent of giving Leonard extra support – and which does in fact gives Leonard the opportunity to give his voice a little bit of a rest. I believe his comment comes just after the third “Then we take Berlin” and I think Leonard lays back and lets his singers “take it.” It may not seem like much – but a little relief and support like that can be a big help.

    And that’s what I think.

    Thank you. LOL