19 February 2000 -- Cortland Peterson, a BC fan from the US, recently caught a series of Cockburn gigs in the California area, and wrote the following review on Humans, the largest Internet-based Cockburn discussion forum. His review will make interesting reading for those still waiting for Cockburn to turn up in their town in the coming two months, as it is representative of other comments recieved and gives people a lot to look forward to. Reprinted with permission.
I guess seeing Bruce four times in the Bay area in the last two months will start to make up for him blowing off the West Coast for a year.
Starting with Nanci Griffith bowing down to him after playing an exquisite Creation Dream at the 1 December landmine benefit concert at Stanford, to the ethereal Use Me While You Can to end the 16 February show at the Warfield in San Francisco, I 'm one happy human.
Suzanne and I headed up to Santa Rosa on Tuesday 15 February, up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz, enjoying listening to Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu and watching the storm-driven waves at Half Moon Bay (this is where the Mavericks' surf spot is, 60 ft. faces on 35 foot waves!). When we switched to the radio, Night Train was playing, and we started laughing when the D.J. growled into his mike when the song was over, "I need a vacation".
The Luther Burbank Center (pictured left) reminds me more of a church with its pews and 75 year old ushers, but the acoustics are perfect. It was only about three quarters full which was a little disheartening to see because Bruce has come here for many years and this is always at least a 10 "we love you Bruce" audience (weird, huh, that I keep track of how many times the crowd yells that out?) but that was better than the next night in San Francisco where the Warfield was half empty.
Suzanne and I talked quite a bit later about why Bruce is so under-appreciated.
After The Charity of Night monster guitar tour, I was suprised at how the sound mix is all about emphasizing Bruce's vocals and downplaying the music, especially the drums and bass. Luckily, the crowd wanted Bruce's guitar turned up and was yelling from the first song onwards for volume. One guy about 10 rows back spent the whole night screaming at Bruce: "You Rock!!!" It was funny, Bruce never acknowledged him.
The set list was the same as Seattle though he removed Tokyo and If A Tree Falls the next night from the first and second set. Wah! Luckily he replaced Wondering Where The Lions Are the next night in the encore with Lord Of The Starfields, and All The Diamonds with Use Me While You Can. The latter was the song I wanted to hear most besides Look How Far.
I like everything that Bruce does but if something needs to go I don't mind not hearing him play other people's songs. The man has way too many great songs of his own.
You Don't Have To Play The Horses to open the show is beautifully played and Bruce is leaning on a quieter, jazzy sound this tour. He still rips on guitar and The Trouble With Normal, Down To The Delta, and If I Had A Rocket Launcher were highlights of the first set. Let The Bad Air Out was just plain bad which surprised me, since it is one of my favorites on the album. It was too short, and maybe needs a female backup on it. [Editor's note: I liked this. The definition of a "bad" Bruce Cockburn song is a short Bruce Cockburn song!]
The second set was really good with If A Tree Falls and Call it Democracy making everyone agree that Bruce does "Rock!!!" David hit the nail on the head with his comments on the new instrumental, with its Grateful Dead jam sound coming out of space - go to the show just to hear this!
It was nice to see Graham Knight and Kim at the Warfield show the next night, they were raving at how great the show was and indeed, the San Francisco set list, though leaner, was tighter and flowed better than Santa Rosa. Feast Of Fools only makes you want Bruce to break out more of these great old songs. Suzanne and I spent a lot of the show dancing on the floor in front of the stage. Come on people, get your butts out of your seats at the shows! Bruce is rocking!
Use Me While You Can was a wonderful way to end the show. I've always liked the"talking songs" and the intro takes me with Bruce to Mali as the imagery dances in my mind. Thanks Bruce.
John Peregrim from Placerville, CA, wrote in to add, "I hope you get a chance to catch this tour down your way at some point, 'cause Bruce is playing superbly, pulling out some very interesting older material and really seems to be enjoying himself immensely."
JCK, who also sent in a setlist with good info about the between-song comments that will be added to the relevant song pages, added, "The show was roughly two and a half hours in length; songs, stories, and wicked guitar work; another great one from Bruce!"
Finally, another correspondent wrote to the Project to say, "Just returned from seeing Bruce at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, Calif. It was a great show and I enjoyed it very much. I have been waiting to see him since I first heard "Dancing In The Dragons Jaws" in 1985. I must say it was worth the wait."
16 February 2000 -- On 7 and 8 February, Bruce Cockburn played his first two gigs of the new millenium, appropriately enough in his homeland, Canada. These gigs also marked the first in a second series of concert dates following the 1999 release of Cockburn's last album, Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu.
The first series of concerts, beginning around the time the album was released on 14 September 1999 until the end of the year, took Cockburn all over Europe -- including 28 appearances in Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Sweden -- in addition to the closer-to-home North American dates.
The gigs in 2000 are different from the 1999 series of solo dates in that they will be featuring bassist Steve Lucas and drummer Ben Riley, Cockburn's touring musicians from The Charity of Night tour, who many will remember appear on the sometimes underrated but very highly recommended You Pay Your Money... CD.
Cockburn's first Y2K gig took place in the Canadian province of British Columbia on 8 February, at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, the second at Macpherson Playhouse in Victoria. Adrian Chamberlain, a journalist for the Times Colonist, a newspaper based there, wrote a review of the second show that appeared in the arts section on 10 February. The full review is reprinted below with the permission of Times Colonist managing editor Dave Obee. Thanks Dave.
Many thanks also to Reg Brick for transcribing and sending the article, along with the setlist, to the Project. Photos throughout, from a May 1999 gig in the US, courtesy of Tom Brooks.
So a guy at the McPherson Playhouse audience yells, "Remember when you used to do requests?" And Bruce Cockburn shoots back: "You mean when I felt like it?"
Cockburn is always fairly respectful of his audiences - he then politely asked what the request would be (Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long) - a no-go because "We forgot to learn that one.") Yet at 54, with 25 albums under his belt, the revered Canadian singer-songwriter obviously does just as he pleases. And being a human jukebox is definitely not on the agenda.
Mr. Barrelhouse may have been disappointed (hey, I would have liked to have heard that one too) but it's unlikely many fans left the theatre unhappy Tuesday night. Cockburn and his first-rate trio played a satisfying 21/2 hour concert that revealed many facets of his musical personality, from wonder struck Christian mystic to jaded soul-searcher and beyond.
Notable amongst the material from his new album, Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu, was Last Night of the World - the world-weary musings of a man who drinks into the night and ponders the end of existence.
It continues a theme of middle-aged ennui that's powerfully explored in much of Cockburn's other recent work. Take, for instance, Night Train, also performed that night. Propelled by a relentless snare-drum shuffle, it's a meditation on human isolation and the precariousness of life in a violent world. Similarly, the delicate Pacing the Cage explores the dilemma of feeling like "you've lived too long." Such compositions are complex and wonderfully ambiguous; perfectly suited to Cockburn's dry, husky voice.
The flip side is Cockburn the enraptured Christian, joyfully viewing the world with a poet's eye. Lord of the Starfields, included in two sets of encores, is a simple yet affecting song of praise. Even more potent was the tune that preceded it, the nine-minute Dialogue With the Devil, in which the singer describes a moment of spiritual ecstasy as he stands alone on a rock in a river, watching the surface glitter like jewels. Performed as a solo outing on acoustic guitar Dialogue with the Devil was stark and mysterious, with Cockburn, a player of immense technical skill, employing a deliberately roughhewn simplicity with remarkable results.
The show commenced with the folkie - clad in a loose-fitting grey suit - reviving an oldie: You Don't Have the Play the Horses (1972). The timbre of his electric guitar was sand-stone rough as he finger-picked his way through a series of gritty blues riffs, simultaneously strumming the bass string in the trademark Cockburn style.
Some of the other songs from the new disc - such as When You Give it Away and Isn't That What Friends Are For explore his interest in talk-singing. This is likely an acquired taste, although some fans love this.
I find these songs overly self-conscious and portentous, however. The worst offender is an anti-clear-cutting anthem that's been embraced by environmental groups, When A Tree Falls. The intentions of Cockburn - who sang that one too - are unquestionably good, but the talk-sing and didactic lyrics give it a preachy, sermon-from-the-mount quality. Good politics aren't always synonymous with good art. That's almost a niggle though, given the wealth of wonderful music provided by Cockburn and his gifted sidemen - bassist Steve Lucas and drummer Ben Riley.
Cockburn played many of his greatest hits, including Tokyo, All The Diamonds, Waiting For A Miracle and the superb Rocket Launcher, which was greeted by cheers. The finale was a dreamy, narcotised cover of Fats Dominos Blueberry Hill, in which the singer-songwriter sounds rather more like an earth-orbiting spaceman than a New Orleans R&B belter.
The setlist from this gig can be accessed here
Editor's note: Some of the song interpretations in the above review could be considered a little creative. Feel free to follow links from song titles in the article to their corresponding lyric pages, where you will find Cockburn's own comments on his songs, where available.