Submitted by Brian Holden:
Bruce's anxiously long awaited return to Thunder Bay finally came to be reality last night. A great show with 2 encores by a very appreciative crowd, with the show running around 2 1/2 hours. Our community auditorium's acoustics were a perfect venue for the trio. Mr Cockburn and entourage never sounded better. It gave me goosebumps hearing every word and instrument crystal clear.
I last saw Bruce with full band (including Colin Linden) perform here in 1991 (Nothing But A Burning Light tour -- opened by fellow TrueNorth label mate Stephen Fearing). While visiting friends in Europe in 2003, I missed him by a day performing in Cologne, Germany and a week later again by a day in Ghent, Belgium. So needless to say I was one happy camper finally catching him here in my hometown.
Bruce had a few short comments in between the odd song, and mentioned he was happy to be back here and not to take so long before he comes here again. His playing was spot on and his voice has never sounded better. Julie Wolf blew us all away when she did a great organ solo during Diesel And Dust and also when she sang vocals during the first encore for Live On My Mind from The Charity Of Night recording. She kind of reminds me of kd lang in her vocal range. A few requests being directed his way during the encores, one enthusiastic fellow really wanted to hear stuff from the Humans recording of the early 80s (notably Tokyo and Fascist Architecture).
Gord Ellis also contributed the photo and the following:
It had been
9 years since I’d last seen Cockburn
live. That was The Charity Of
Night tour, a very
enjoyable night of music as I recall. Why it took BC
so long to come back to Thunder Bay is a bit puzzling.
It could be because he has trouble selling out shows
here. But I don’t think he’s ever sold out in Thunder
Bay and this was my 5th show seeing him in the
wonderful sounding Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.
He certainly didn’t sell out this show -- I’d say it
was 2/3rds full -- if that. But Bruce has some very
hardcore fans in the Lakehead and region, and they
were out in force October 25th. As has been the case in past years, I managed to get front row seats by phoning the first morning they went on sale. Front row is the best way to watch that brilliant guitar playing.
Bruce and band
walked out without introduction at about 8:10 pm. Bruce looked
good, but obviously a little older and a bit heavier
than I remembered. Of course, I was younger and
skinnier 9 years ago as well. They started with Open,
and it was clear that the voice and talent of
Cockburn is ageless. He sounded great. The band was
also a pure treat, and one of the most sympathetic backing bands I’ve heard with BC. While some Humans haven’t been nuts about the presence of Julie Wolf (particularly on the last tour), I thought her playing was wonderful. She sang beautifully with Bruce and was smiling at drummer Gary Craig and at Bruce all night. I enjoyed watching her and she made eye contact with many of us in the front row. She obviously enjoys her gig with BC.
Bruce did Lovers
In A Dangerous Time and Wondering
Where The Lions Are early, two crowd pleasers
that help to diffuse the irritating song name calling
that I’ve heard all but ruin other BC concerts. I’m
sure he can hardly bring himself to play Wondering
Where The Lions Are, but he
fakes it well. And the song did warm up the audience
for some of the heavy lifting that was to follow. The first two new tunes went over like old favourites. Life Short, Call Now sounded especially good, and Julie’s singing was perfect here. The first test for the audience was Beautiful Creatures. I loved the song the first time I heard it on the new CD, and actually got chills. But my wife laughed at Bruce’s singing and said she was not a fan of the falsetto. However, in concert, no one laughed -- including my dear wife -- when Bruce sang this bleak but beautiful song. Those dark, Loner-ish chords, washed over the crowd and Julie Wolf’s synthesizer string section sounded very good. And the falsetto was in full force. Much to my surprise, the song received a rapturous response from the crowd. As I said, the true believers were in the house. And Cheryl even leaned over and said the song was "growing on her". The power of BC in concert.
End Of All Rivers was a treat. Gary Craig was a hoot to watch, and hit the chimes and various cymbals like a mad scientist in his lab. Great sounds from stage and Bruce clearly loved playing this intricate, gorgeous instrumental. The last two songs of the set were the upbeat Different When It Comes To You and Last Night Of The World. I get the feeling that there is a woman out there (or two) who may not be happy about the lyrics Bruce wrote for Different When It Comes To You, and at least one who REALLY likes the lyrics. But the song is classic Cockburn and went over well. Last Night Of The World was performed flawlessly and glided by all too quickly. Bruce said he’d back shortly and we all went out for a quick drink.
The second set
started with yet another song from
Seen Everything, Wait No More.
not a huge fan of this song, it sounds a bit like Stolen
Land, my least favourite BC song. But it was again a
hit with the audience. Dust And Diesel was
next, and it featured the first long solo from Julie Wolf (to
hoots and applause). I remember this song well from
the many mid 1980 shows, and must say it had more
power in concert back then. I also miss the stick
lines that Fergus Marsh played on Dust
And Diesel, but
it is a lovely song. Then came more from the new
album. Bruce introduced the next song with a rap about
how Dust And Diesel came about after
his trip to Nicaragua, and that he’s had a chance to travel a lot
since then. He said “the shock value wears off, but
the richness of the experiences never does.” Or words to that effect. This Is Baghdad sounded almost exactly
like the album, as did Tell The Universe. These slower political songs have been a part of the Cockburn experience for as long as I’ve been seeing Bruce. Easy listening? Not really. But they are sold by the undeniable passion he has for the subject matter.
It In Your Heart came next and it was very powerful.
Again, this is a song that showcases the unusual
dexterity of Cockburn’s voice, something that is not fully appreciated by people who haven’t tried to sing his songs. He seems to have little trouble with his voice. He rarely dodges notes. Which is impressive at 61. Slow Down Fast was great, and featured an atonal guitar solo that really was not a guitar solo, but more a rubbing of strings up and down the neck. Julie Wolf also did a jazzy /slightly off solo that reminded me of a keyboard solo I heard back in 1982 at my very first BC show in London, Ontario. That solo was in Going Up Against Chaos (was the keyboard player Jon Goldsmith?). This dissonant stuff is another thing about Cockburn that is endearing. He can play the prettiest sounds ever, but he rarely leaves out a little noise. If A Tree Falls and Mystery ended the
second set. Mystery may be the most perfect Cockburn song: it just has everything. Gorgeous melody, sweet
guitar, touching lyrics, and an uplifting message. It is like a nursery rhyme and hymn. Bruce obviously knows how well the song works as it has been the sign off for just about every show this tour. A classic, and of course everyone was standing at the end.
There were two
encores, the most unusual thing about
them was the Live On My Mind sung by Julie Wolf. It
was quite beautiful, and a surprise. She had the words on a sheet, so I expect she hasn’t performed this a lot. At the end, Bruce pointed at her and smiled. He did not play Grim Travellers, much to the chagrin of one vocal audience member. Bruce handles these song callers with grace. He always thanks them for knowing all those songs. He also did See You Tomorrow and If I Had A Rocket Launcher. The show ended with the wholly instrumental Nude Descending A Staircase, perhaps the most unusual encore song I’ve heard any artist do ever. Even an odd choice for Cockburn. But we all ate it up. Bruce did the prayer hands, bowed, and then they were gone.
very enjoyable evening of music. Bruce promised at one
point during the Thunder Bay appearance that it
wouldn’t be as long a gap between shows next time. Let’s hope so, as BC will be 70 if he waits 9 years again.