We at the Cockburn Project are receiving many reports from the road, as Bruce and band make their way from Chicago through the mid-west and onto the west coast. This report starts at the Mystic Theater, where I was one of the fortunate ones to be present for easily one of the best Bruce shows I have ever been at, and works its way back to Chicago. The pictures throughout this report were taken by me [Bobbi Wisby] at the Mystic Theater.
1 August 2003 - Bruce at the Mystic Theater, 29 July 2003.
First off this is a small venue, an old movie theater in downtown Petaluma, California. My husband Russel and I arrived at McNears, which is a resturant bar attached to the Mystic Theater at 4pm, quite early for the 7 pm doors. We strolled around the area for a bit, and around back, looking for the band bus. It was getting close to sound check and I had really hoped we could get in for that, but no. We did happen to meet up with Steve Lucas, bass player, and chatted for a bit. He told me of his new cd, Gamma Jazz
A little bit later, Bruce comes walking by, right next to us and I just say "Hi Bruce". He comes to our table and we chat a bit, my husband says I work for the Cockburn Project, and Bruce responds that he 'now has a face to go with that.' We talk about what the Project does, and he mentioned that Julie Wolf, keyboard player, downloaded the song lyrics she needed to learn for the tour from the Project. I asked a favor, for him to sign an autograph on a picture that was taken of us in the late '80s. It was sort of odd, us both looking at a 15 year old picture of ourselves, we commented on how we had changed, and Bruce was trying to recall when he was wearing 'that coat'. Then he needed to go get ready for sound check. He is always so gracious and kind. There never seems to be the words to express how much he and his work mean to me, perhaps that is why I work so hard on the Project, it is my way of saying thanks.
During the line up outside waiting for the doors, I met many fans. It was fun to compare notes on other shows, and find out who reads the Project or receives the Cockburn Project newsletter, and many do. We really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful folks, and sharing the concert experience with you.
The moment Bruce walked on stage was the first of many standing ovations. This crowd was mostly older, 40s-60s, and they loved this man and showed it through out the performance. I have been to many shows over the years, and this one easily rises to the top 5 of the list of great rocking emotional intimate blazing shows.
Fortunately they provided seats right up to the stage. I was second row to the left of stage and had a perfect view of Bruce and everyone but Ben who was hidden by his massive drum set up. Any closer and I would of had stage lights in my eyes all night.
Most of the song arrangements have been discussed in other reports.[see below] I did get the
[setlist] and Steve gave us his playlist
off the stage at the end of the show.
Tried And Tested started everyone rocking right away. It was great to hear Mighty Trucks Of Midnight, and I was glad the frogs came along for the ride on All Our Dark Tomorrows, and everyone was able to vent with Let The Bad Air Out.
He once again talked about Jerry Falwell and the after math of 911, and what brought him to writing Put It In Your Heart. I really love this version of this song, and the crowd went wild.
Hearing Burn was a highpoint, the new lyrics make it more timely and some of his comments about Bush and Hopeless [Homeland] Security had the crowd laughing .. it was one of those things that you just had to be there to appreciate.
Then he went into Wait No More, which brought estactic sighs all around, and these lyrics being jotted down frantically:
Lightning's a kiss that lands hot on the loins of the sky
Something uncoils at the base of my spine and I cry
He pulled out his electric charango for Bone In My Ear. Then he went into Trickle Down, which I heard solo last year at the Kate Wolf Music Festival, and then the studio version on You've Never Seen Everything, but live with the rest of the band added something to this song which made it far more musically likeable to me than those other versions, perhaps it was just the high of the show.
The energy between Bruce and his audience was awesome. The energy between all the band members was fun to watch, laughing and smiling and really having a great time on stage, like Christine says in her report below, what you give to them they give back to you 10 fold. It was time for intermission, and lots of mingling.
Open soared us into the second set, with Night Train raising the roof.
Bruce was happy, smiling often, except when he played You've Never Seen Everything, which he referred to it as a dark song and someone in the audience said "we like dark". The pain showing on his face and the fact that he looked near tears said as much as the lyrics. It seemed that he needed to regroup him self after that and shake it off.. then he went into the instrumental, End Of All Rivers.
Rocket Launcher lit up the room after the darkness and the blazing guitar with wah-wah effects on To Raise The Morning Star kept the energy flowing high. There were many inpromtu sing alongs, including a great one with Last Night Of The World, I love the look in his eyes (when he opens them!) on this one.
For the first encore Bruce played a very special request from Michael and Pamela, he did a solo of Closer To The Light. I met Michael earlier in the evening and could tell by their faces just how special this was for them.
Then the rest of the band joined him for Wondering Where The Lions Are and Lovers In A Dangerous Time, a crowd sing along. They all came to the front of the stage, put their arms around each other, bowed, smiled and left the stage to massive applause and thundering emotions.
What a show. What a treat.
There was no song played that didn't recieve tremedous response. He didn't play Call It Democracy or World Of Wonders, which are two of my favorites and had hoped for.
The Mystic show certaintly didn't feel like a 'dark' show to me at all, there was plenty of light. I am still so high I find it hard to put words to paper to let everyone know that if you have the opportunity to go to a show on this tour, don't miss it...and let Bruce, Julie, Steve, and Ben know how much you appreciate their work. I have read many reports since the beginning of this tour, and have to say that I didn't feel that Bruce's guitar was over-shadowed by Julie's keyboards, I felt they blended well and her back up vocals were perfect. Ben and Steve are old pros at playing with Bruce and they were having a good time, it was a smile fest going on up on that stage.
Perhaps a lot has to do with the venue on this tour, I have read numerous reports of people being searched, having no seats, (hey we aren't kids anymore!), of bar-type atomosphere where there were people talking through out the show, and even sound problems. None of that was present at the Mystic. It was truly one of the most fun shows I have been too.
I did manage to go backstage after the show for a brief thank you to Bruce. ~Bobbi Wisby
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A great report on the 19 July, Madison, WI. show comes to the Project from long time supporter, Doug Stacey. This was the second show of this tour he was able to attend.
Ok, after a 'not-so-great' experience at Friday's show in Chicago I saw Bruce in Madison last night and was much more impressed. I'm still trying to figure out just what the difference was..I think the sound was a lot better last night, the crowd wasn't caught talking in mid-sentence when a song ended like in Chicago, we had chairs to sit on! I don't know. He did mix up the setlist quite a bit and played several different songs. All in all it seemed like a more upbeat experience but, again, I can't name the reasons why.
Saturday he walked out on to the stage and received a standing ovation
without playing a note. To say the crowd was in the palm of his hands
was an understatement. No talking at all during these songs. He ended a
few of them slowly and quietly and the crowd would hang on the last note
before erupting in applause. He didn't open with a new song but rather
Let The Bad Air Out.
This song benefited greatly from the harmonies of
Julie Wolf. He didn't seem as "naked" out there with the high vocals
with her along for the ride. Sounded great.
Many will be happy to know that the frogs were brought along for the ride during All Our Dark Tomorrows (and some will no doubt not be happy). It was evident at this point already, as I noted the night before, you just couldn't hear his guitar well unless he was soloing. Bass/drums/keyboards overpowered him for the most part; especially when he had the acoustic out. Maybe I'm just spoiled from the last couple of years of him being solo but the guitar is so much more a presence (obviously) when he's by himself. I could SEE him striking the bass and playing the rhythm at the same time, just could appreciate the marvel of it all.
He then did Lovers In A Dangerous Time and then into Mighty Trucks Of Midnight. The last third or so of the song was Julie Wolf's first big solo on keyboards (and some thing with a tube she blows into or sucks air through or something). She seems to go into an 'improv' mode and quite frankly hits notes that just don't sound like they fit. Maybe it's avant-garde playing and I'm not hip enough. I thought that Friday, and then Saturday during the break the person sitting next to me made some comment about it was not sounding quite right so I don't think it was just me. I don't remember Bruce rocking out on the guitar. He sang the verses and did breaks in-between, then stepped off to the side of the stage while she did an extended solo that brought the song to a conclusion. The crowd responded really well to her both nights however.
Next he dipped into the new material again with Tried And Tested but
then came right back with Wondering Where The Lions Are. Again, major
mood shifter as compared to the night before when he didn't play that at all.
Next up was Postcards From Cambodia. Probably a good point to say that I think I've come to like all the new songs more after seeing them live. It may be that I've just listened to the disc several more times now.
He dusted off Burn from Joy Will Find A Way. The lyrics to that couldn't not have been more timely and were a big hit with the leftover hippie crowd in Madison. If you haven't read them lately it's worth checking them out to see how applicable it is to talk about Yankee gunboats coming this way and Uncle Sam here to save the day. He did update the song slightly by changing the one verse to:
Vietnam was yesterday
Kabul and Baghdad today
Like I said, I big hit all around!
He finished the first set with Wait No More. This was the first song Julie broke out the accordion.
The second set opened with Trickle Down. Again, a real crowd pleaser
from the political aspect. Another big plus was it having one of the
biggest guitar solos of the night (but not the biggest!). It also
included the second big piano solo. Same thoughts as before there. In
another departure from the night before he then played Bone In My Ear,
which sounded great. Then did Open which has been streaming as the
background music in my head just about ever since. I'm really liking
that song more with the band than when he started doing it live during
last years solo performances.
A really rockin' Night Train was next. After that was You've Never Seen Everything. He mentioned something to the effect that when he was being interviewed at a radio station the interviewer asked him about "you've never seen anything, apparently not realizing the subtle difference"! He then went on to mimic someone asking him about "you've never seen anything", he seemed to be getting a big kick out of it. The song is dark, no doubt about it. But I love the refrain musically, when he shifts from the talking to the singing, and as you listen to that part you see how he is actually pointing out that even in all that negativity (the dogs are dying and blood is splatter on the baby!) you never "feel the light falling all around". The right thought is in there. Just a rough ride getting to it! Once again, the spoken phrases about a leader with a ring in his nose being told which way to go by big business drew a big reaction from the highly partisan audience.
Rocket Launcher was next followed by To Raise The Morning Star (three songs off of Stealing Fire..). Morning Star was where Bruce really let loose on the guitar. First time I've seen him break out the waa-waa pedal! He crouched over more as the solo went on to the point where he was almost bent over at the waist. Definitely a highlight! He closed out the set with Last Night Of The World.
First encore was Call It Democracy which sounded absolutely great with the band as compared to the last few tours (not that it sounds bad solo, but.). Then Put It In Your Heart. He left the stage again and then came back out for Messenger Wind, which I still think of as my favorite on the new CD. All four band members then joined arm in arm at center stage for a bow and that was that.
All in all I left very impressed, warming much more to the new material, not sold on the keyboard playing but definitely liking her harmonies throughout. I should also mention that Steve Lucas and Ben Reilly sounded great as well. Steve played an upright electric bass with a bow several times on the new songs and that was a nice touch. ~Doug Stacey
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Many of our readers commented on the lack of seating and the general bar-room type atmosphere at The House of Blues in Chicago on 18 July [setlist]. Some felt that the show was too 'dark', and not really good for a first time introduction to Bruce with band.
Others, like Christine, had this to say, " It was a real good crowd, very little chatter from Bruce tho, but he was in a good mood. He didn't come out afterwards. It's too bad, there weren't really that many people waiting! It was a wonderful show & it helped that I'd been listening to the CD for a couple of weeks since he's doing so much new stuff. And it's a good thing he really did some rocking stuff since a couple of those new tunes are so heavy --- it's OK to make us think, but you don't want to make us suicidal, Bruce!!! One likes to think that the crowd feeds Bruce's spirit as much as Bruce's performance feeds our desire to hear him. So all you humans going to the upcoming shows, be sure to scream & yell & whistle & sing along & maybe you'll get this kind of smoking performance too!!!!! " ~Christine
~Bobbi Wisby - Cockburn Project webmaster