Submitted by Galina Pembroke, who wrote the following article for her webzine, New View.
2 Encores and 3 Standing Ovations: Bruce Cockburn wows Canadian crowd
Bruce Cockburn opened his performance at Nanaimo, British Columbia's Port Theatre, appropriately, with Open. The rousing tune is from 2003's You've Never Seen Everything. The album's title is an omen for his November 6, 2006 show. As Cockburn followed with Lovers in a Dangerous Time from 1984's Stealing Fire. I knew I hadn't seen everything. There is only one Bruce Cockburn and this was my first time seeing him live. The song's line "Gotta kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight" has been quoted by U2's Bono in his 1989 song 'God part 2'. In a case of synchronicity, Cockburn's humanitarian work has led to him being called the "Bono of Canada." Lovers In A Dangerous Time is 20-some years old and raw rock. I thought it'd be a challenge for Cockburn's 61 year old vocals. I was wrong. Cockburn's 2006 live version was a strong as his original version.
Live, Bruce Cockburn and his band are spectacular. The skilful playing of Cockburn's drummer and keyboardist complemented Cockburn's raw emotion. His delivery is simple yet dramatic, the style of MTV's Unplugged concert series. Since many of Cockburn's songs are slow tempo and acoustic-feeling, they demand Cockburn stand in one place. So all the energy that rockers like Jagger channel into running around the stage is brimming in Cockburn. Like a volcano that can't erupt, Cockburn's smoulder lit seething anti-war tunes like This Is Baghdad from 2006's Life Short Call Now. Despite the serious themes of Cockburn's songs there were moments of levity. Before Beautiful Creatures, a song about extinction also from Life Short Call Now, Cockburn entertained the audience with his concept of the future "where there's nothing left but rats and starlings and cockroaches for dessert... I guess that's why they call me a visionary."
The crowd laughed
but it's no joke: Cockburn is a visionary. His foresight is clear in songs
like 1988's If A Tree Falls from Big
This song about clearcutting was a shouted-out request by an audience member.
His vision is also clear in his lyric "Fire alarms met with snores no
one gets what's gone before,' from Slow
Down Fast on Life Short
As soon as he started the song the crowd cheered and clapped. This was also true for the scathing Night Train, from 1996's The Charity Of Night. Its intro lines "Not a knife throw from here you can hear the night train passing/ That's the sound somebody makes when they're getting away." demand a reaction. They're an observation of what's wrong in the world. Many of Cockburn's songs are written from foreign lands. Cockburn will write from Nicaragua and Cambodia. It was Dr. Albert Schweitzer who said "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." Cockburn's music reflects this philosophy. It's rich in empathy and compassion. Not the type that makes you cry and hide, but the type that makes you stand and fight.
And the crowd did stand up for Cockburn. He earned 3 standing ovations. The first was when we thought the show was over. After Cockburn and band left the stage we kept clapping until they returned - twice. The night ended with To Fit In My Heart from Life Short Call Now. Its lines "God's too big to fit in a book/Nothing's too big to fit in my heart" had special meaning to me. Seeing Cockburn live is a spiritual experience. The passion and compassion that flow through his songs and the audience that appreciate it gave me hope. It's enough to make me stand up and cheer.