16 June 2008 - Bruce was recently on the road doing several shows on the East coast which were recorded for a new Live CD and a new Bio DVD. This report comes from CockburnProject contributor, Doug, who happened to have been at 5 of these shows.
Check out the 2008 Archives for more show reviews, setlists and photos. ~ bobbi wisby
How I Spent My (Spring) Vacation
I have been a lover of music for as long as I can remember. My father, who worked at a radio station during my early childhood, had a deep appreciation for "Big Band" music, and the sounds of Sinatra and Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller filled my home. In addition to these more classic sounds, my family was also the beneficiary of the radio’s station excess "promo" records of "modern"(i.e., late 60's/early 70's) songs, and I quickly developed an appreciation for a broad range of eclectic music. This interest in music translated into a much beloved record collection of my own, as well as an early taste of the beauty of live music, which I would seek out whenever possible.
Skip ahead to 1991, when I visited a local record/CD store with a listening station, anxious to sample the new releases of the day. Turning the dial to a CD entitled Nothing But a Burning Light, I heard, for the first time, the music of Bruce Cockburn. I was immediately struck by the depth of the lyrics; the wisdom and character of Cockburn’s vocals; the superb and diverse melodies and arrangements; and, last, but not least, the spiritual longing that seemed to touch every song on that record. I went to the checkout counter to make my purchase, and was immediately hooked.
In short order, I purchased the entire back catalogue of Bruce’s music. I discovered the outstanding (although now defunct) Cockburn news letter "Gavin’s Woodpile", and my appreciation for Bruce’s music and artistry increased exponentially. I finally was able to see Bruce in concert during the Dart to the Heart tour, and have since seen him in concert dozens of times, in places as diverse as Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania; New Hampshire; Washington (State); and California. I have never been disappointed by a Bruce Cockburn concert, and always walk away better for the experience.
I try to see Bruce in concert whenever I can, and track both the web version of Gavin’s Woodpile and the outstanding "Cockburn Project" on a regular basis to learn about Cockburn’s tour plans. I was delighted to discover a few months ago that Bruce would be touring the in the northeast area of the U.S., as close as Sellersville, Pennsylvania (2 hours driving) and nearby New England (a mere 1 hour plane ride). Checking my schedule, I realized that by combining work and travel, I could take in five (5) Bruce concerts over a nine (9) day period, and that is exactly what I did! This is my report.
May 14, 2008: The Iron Horse - Northampton, Mass.
First up was the opening night of Bruce’s northeast tour, at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts. I arrived relatively early, but was greeted by a long line of fans who had arrived even earlier to get the best possible seats for this general admission show. (No harm in a later arrival, though, because the Iron Horse is a very intimate venue, and there is scarcely a bad seat in the house.)
There was a camera crew outside the event talking to fans about their interest in Bruce as part of a forth-coming documentary on Bruce to be aired in his native Canada. Everyone was eager to talk, and it was apparent that this was a crowd that was very familiar with Bruce and his music.
Although I am often disappointed by opening acts (they only delay my seeing the artist that I really came to see/hear), this opening set by Catherine Maclellan was a very pleasant exception to the rule. Catherine had a beautiful and captivating voice, and her sparse arrangements and seemingly simple songs revealed a gift for writing songs that seem almost timeless. I found myself looking forward to Catherine’s opening sets on each of the following evenings.
Finally, the moment arrived for the "main act", with Bruce looking pleased to be on stage, albeit with a slight (but nevertheless apparent) awkward awareness of the multiple video cameras pointed in his direction. He was dressed in black, and surrounded by his stunningly beautiful Manzers – three, including his gorgeous sunburst 12-string -- and his bright and shiny Dobro.
Bruce was chattier than usual, which was nice, as he is such a quick wit that I often enjoy his banter almost as much as his music. Here is the set list for the first night:
Going to the Country, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Last Night of the World, See You Tomorrow, Night Train, Life Short Call Now, Beautiful Creatures (spellbinding/beautiful -- full of humanity), Wait No More (on the Dobro -- the highlight of the night. Smoking, smoking guitar work), Tell the Universe, Put it in Your Heart, Wondering Where the Lions Are, If a Tree Falls, Mystery,
King Kong Goes to Tallahassee, How I Spent My Fall Vacation (with Bruce visibly delighted with the audience’s impromptu, robust singing of the chorus’ "de-de-de-de-de-de-da-da-da-da"). If I had a Rocket Launcher, Child of the Wind (hauntingly beautiful)
This was a very appreciative crowd, although marred by a few that were so loud that they were drowning out Bruce’s performance. But for this unfortunate distraction, it was a great musical night. ("Bonus" of the night was meeting the very talented and exceptionally gracious Colin Linden, who was off to the side acting as producer for the upcoming live CD. I have been an admirer of Colin for years, and was very glad to have met him.)
May 15, 2008: The Iron Horse - Northampton, Mass.
Same venue as the previous night, with an equally large (but more respectful) crowd. The set list:
World of Wonders (I was almost relieved to hear this song. Bruce’s acoustic rework of the title track from a much older album is a masterpiece, and stands first in line as an absolute "must" for the upcoming CD.)
Last Night of the World, See You Tomorrow (Bruce prefaced this song by commenting that "some of you were here last night, so you will have to hear this story again. I know that you were here last night because I am psychic.")
Night Train (A brilliant performance. I'll bet money that this night's version will make the live CD. Perfection; the crowd knew it and Bruce knew it. He said maybe he should stop right there and quit while he was ahead!).
Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Life Short Call Now, Beautiful Creatures (Bruce talked about writing this song while living in Montreal. He said that he came to realize that although there was no life in the concrete that he saw everywhere, there was still life beneath all of the concrete.) Wait No More (The most dazzling of all of Bruce’s performances.) Let the Bad Air Out (Played in response to a "call out" from the crowd, and appears to have been impromptu . . . ). Put it in Your Heart (Bruce struggled with the lyrics on this one.) Trouble with Normal (Great! Fun to watch producer Colin Linden get into this song, playing air guitar along with Bruce.) Wondering Where the Lions Are, If a Tree Falls, Mystery (I love the guitar work on this).
End of All Rivers, Pacing the Cage, How I Spent My Fall Vacation (This song was sung with Bernie "Bernie in his dream" Finkelstein standing 10 feet away -- how cool is that?!?
Last night I had the privilege of meeting Colin Linden. Tonight it was the privilege of meeting the legendary (and gracious) Bernie Finkelstein. It was a great night.
May 16, 2008 - Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass
The next morning, I made the beautiful drive from western Massachusetts to the Boston area. The venue was a beautiful old movie theater, and the crowd was large (but not sold out). Another great night of Bruce music (with the video cameras still rolling)! Here is the set list:
Going to the Country ("Let’s start from the beginning"), Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Last Night of the World, See You Tomorrow, Night Train, Life Short, Call Now, Beautiful Creatures (Bruce prefaced with an elaborate telling of the "last time" he took LSD. I can’t do the story justice – perhaps he’ll include it on his live CD.) Wait No More (stupendous, as always), This is Baghdad, Put it in Your Heart, Wondering Where the Lions Are, If a Tree Falls, Mystery.
Stolen Land (Smoking!), Pacing the Cage, All the Diamonds (my favorite Bruce song - downright holy).
My impressions following the show: "Bruce's guitar playing and arrangements are absolutely symphonic. Every song -- literally ~every~ song -- is a stand-alone musical masterpiece." I returned to Maryland completely edified by three (3) magical nights of outstanding artistry.
May 20, 2008 - Sellersville Theatre, Sellersville, PA
Five (5) days later, I took the relatively easy car ride to Sellersville Theatre, with Bruce performing without the video cameras rolling. He was quite relaxed, and offered another night of musical magic. The set list:
Rouler Sa Bosse, Going to the Country, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, World of Wonders (Bruce’s acoustic arrangement has transformed this from a good song to a masterpiece.) See You Tomorrow, Jerusalem Poker, Life Short, Call Now, Wait No More, Kit Carson, Put it in Your Heart, Wondering Where the Lions Are, If a Tree Falls, Mystery.
End of All Rivers, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Child of the Wind.
The guitar playing this night was exceptional, perhaps the best of all of the shows that I saw. Another great night!
May 23, 2008 - Tumbledown Farm, Wolfeboro, NH
Last, but not least, was Bruce’s final leg of this brief northeast tour, held in the pastoral setting of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in the beautiful Tumbledown Farm. It was a sold out show, with an appreciative crowd. The set list:
Going to the Country, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, World of Wonders, Last Night of the World, See You Tomorrow, Night Train, Life Short, Call Now, Beautiful Creatures, Wait No More, Kit Carson, Put it in Your Heart, Wondering Where the Lions Are, If a Tree Falls, Celestial Horses (This was, for me, perhaps the most spellbinding moment of the tour. The audience was absolutely riveted to Bruce’s account of the "Celestial Horses" – you could hear a pin drop between each stroke of the guitar and between each verse of a song that I now recognize to be a masterpiece. Here’s hoping that this performance makes it to the live CD – it was magical.)
Pacing the Cage, This is Baghdad(in response to a request), How I Spent My Fall Vacation (with Bernie in the background looking on with approval . . .).
Admittedly, five concerts in less than two (2) weeks may seem more than a bit self-indulgent. Indeed, my schedule is such that it is often difficult for me to find the time to see even one concert during an entire season. Fortunately for me, the stars were in the correct alignment, and I was able to make these two (2) magical weeks happen. In the final analysis, great art serves an important function for the human condition. It awakens our sense of humanity; rekindles our longing for the divine; and lifts our spirits in ways that little else can. Every night I was treated to what I believe to be musical masterpieces. Songs of such excellence and insight. Guitar playing that is beyond mesmerizing. Vocal performances that carry the songs to new heights. Whatever it is that art is supposed to do for the human soul was poured out in abundance each night, and I found myself full of appreciation for the gift of being alive. Thanks, Bruce. See you next time! ~Submitted by Doug.
Check out the 2008 Archives for more show reviews, setlists and photos.Credits:
~ bobbi wisby