14 February 2012 - Bruce Cockburn has toured in many ways in a career that has spanned over 40 years.
This will be second time that the Canadian music legend has toured as the father of an infant. His daughter Iona was born November 20. Her mother, Cockburn’s longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett, is on maternity leave from her job in San Francisco. So, the three will travel on a tour bus as the 11 time Juno Award winner comes to the Playhouse in Fredericton on Friday, February 17 as part of a 12-show east coast tour which began in Quebec City February 10.
How will it go?
"Better ask me later," Cockburn quipped.
However, the timing works. Cockburn was to have played a solo show last fall in support of his 31st album Small Source Of Comfort. The October tour dates that would have ended a tour that started in March needed to be cancelled due to pneumonia and a partially collapsed lung.
The show will "defined by the new album”, in Cockburn’s words. The typical Cockburn pattern is 20 or so songs, about half of which are the new album’s material.
"The other half of the songs I will play are a cross-section,” he explained. "There are some obvious ones, and there are also some of my older songs."
In recent years, the shows have had some sure bets like Lovers In A Dangerous Time early and Wondering Where The Lions Are late. They are always sprinkles of his wide canon from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and this millennium.
A self-aware legend, Cockburn admitted, "A challenge is to avoid filling a couple of hours with long, slow songs!"
With respect to gear, Cockburn will be playing his Manzer 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars and a baritone guitar. He will also be bringing his dulcimer, issuing a heads up for Arrows Of Light on the set list. When asked, Cockburn lamented that he had forgotten his charango in San Francisco.
Cockburn still owns his home in Ontario. "Now, though, I have a family based in San Francisco and I am enjoying that hugely, and we still get to travel some of the time."
That travel has been Cockburn’s hallmark for the bulk of his career.
Much of it relates to weighty matters, but he had an enjoyable trip last summer to see his 35 year old daughter Jenny Cockburn, who is doing her PhD research in Anthropology in the highlands of Bolivia.
Cockburn’s world engagement and inner quest is the glue of his most potent work through the years. He cares deeply about the world and its people, but he offered, at once, a quip and a truism when asked how one should engage with the world:
Cockburn clarified that the whole matter is much more involved than that.
"There is a balance between being part of the world and being connected to the inner self. The inner connection has to inform one’s connection to the planet and the people you meet."
He conceded, "It is east to think of the world as scarier and scarier. I also see a tension between the forces of chaos and the forces of love."
Lamenting the "very negative” side of Christianity of North America in a particular form, Cockburn clarified that he decries "tribal notions" of any religious belief that would be "a cause for which they are willing to kill other people".
At age 66, Cockburn is also very aware that things have changed over his lifetime.
"I grew up in the relative simplicity of the Cold War world. Now, it’s all about money.
"We are confronted with money versus tribal religious identification."
He is encouraged, though. Cockburn stressed, "A lot of people are trying to get at the more visceral things that connect us.
"We should look for these connections – build real community rather than ‘us’ against ‘them’ – even if some of ‘them’ scare me."
Cockburn has every intention of making music and writing music as long as he is able. His composing has had rare dry spots, such as about 10 years ago, but Cockburn has what he called "fits of creativity which might produce more than one song".
Looking back, he said, "My life so far has been marked by longer or shorter periods of apparent predictability.
"The finger of fate continues to direct my movement."
That movement sees this beloved Canadian legend come to The Playhouse one more time February 17.
~ Wilfred Langmaid for the Daily Gleaner.