Bruce Cockburn flies solo in Burlington
Acoustic concert Aug. 29 at BPAC
Dennis Smith - Special to Burlington Post

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May 3, 2013 - Bruce Cockburn's Burlington show. Bruce Cockburn will perform an acoustic concert at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on Thursday, Aug. 29 at a 8 p.m.

Bruce Cockburn definitely enjoys working with a band, but he’ll fly solo in Burlington this summer. “If I’m the only one on stage, the songs become more front and centre,” he said. “That’s as opposed to playing with a band, where you could be distracted by some real cool thing the drummer does. This is sort of a more direct relationship with the audience.”

The renowned folk singer/guitarist, creator of songs like Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Wondering Where The Lions Are and Waiting For A Miracle performs here on Aug. 29.

His concert will take place at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust St. It starts at 8 p.m.

The show will feature all acoustic material, said Cockburn in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he now lives.

“In general, there’s always an emphasis on the newer stuff,” he said. “That’s always more interesting to me.”

Older material occasionally gets mixed back in, added Cockburn.

“Of the 300 songs I’ve recorded, I can only perform 50 or so at a time,” said the Ottawa native. “Which 50, depends on the timing.”

Cockburn previously played here in a benefit concert at a north Burlington farm. He enjoyed it, although he recalled “a train wreck moment.” Cockburn was singing one of Sarah Harmer’s tunes with the Burlington performer. “The lyrics were on a big piece of cardboard at my feet,” he said. “But I was wearing bifocals and couldn’t read them. I felt bad for Sarah that I messed up one of her songs.”

The show, which also featured Feist, was a fundraiser for Protecting Escarpment Rural Lands (PERL). The citizen group opposed allowing a new quarry proposal on Mount Nemo. Nelson Aggregate’s application was later denied by a Joint Board.

“That was good news,” said Cockburn.

He and Harmer are shown rehearsing and performing together in the Pacing the Cage DVD, to be released on June 18.

The documentary examines the life, spirituality and songs of Cockburn, whose musical career started in 1966. It includes concert clips, plus appearances by his manager Bernie Finkelstein, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson, Colin Linden and others.

“Director Joel Goldberg and the camera man were terrific company to have on the road,” said Cockburn. “But you have to make sure you’re not doing something you shouldn’t.”

The DVD opens with U2 singer Bono quoting from Cockburn’s hit, If I Had a Rocket Launcher.

He wrote it in a hotel room after visiting a refugee camp whose inhabitants were threatened with violence from Guatemala.

“I remember drinking whiskey and writing the song and crying,” Cockburn recalled on the DVD.

He’s also shown with Lieut.-Gen. (Ret’d) Romeo Dallaire, now a senator. They have raised the issue of child soldiers.

The singer/activist is an Officer of the Order of Canada and is even featured on a Canadian postage stamp.

He follows the issues of North Korea, Syria, the United States and other places.

“There’s a lot of nasty stuff going on all over the planet,” said Cockburn. “It seems at least at the top levels, that there’s an absence of leadership for solving problems.”

His passionate vocals and nimble guitar playing have won him 13 Juno awards.

Cockburn’s latest was for Small Source of Comfort, a blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock.

Two of the songs came from a trip to Afghanistan.

Each One Lost was written after Cockburn witnessed a ceremony for two Canadian soldiers who’d been killed.

“It was very poignant on all levels,” he said. “Nobody was thinking about being somewhere else. Everyone right there knew it could’ve been them.”

He wrote Comets of Kandahar after watching jets taking off with their tailpipes burning flames in the pitch darkness.

Call Me Rose is about disgraced former U.S. president Richard Nixon being reincarnated as a single mom in a housing project.

“I woke up one day and that song was in my head, it was almost complete,” he said.

Lyric writing is especially important to Cockburn, while arrangements for his songs are a team effort.

He encourages other musicians’ ideas, but holds the veto.

“I don’t necessarily have a definite idea, but I know it when I hear it,” he said. “And I know what I don’t want.”

There are more than 400 cover versions of his songs, by everyone from Barenaked Ladies to Jimmy Buffett to Anne Murray.

Cockburn said he likes the idea of other artists performing his music, although he doesn’t always like what they do.

“It’s important that people notice the songs and perform them,” he said. “In general, it’s a nice thing that people want to do it.”

Instead of songs nowadays, he’s writing a memoir after signing with a publisher.

Cockburn moved to San Francisco recently after his wife M.J. Hannett got a job there. They have a baby daughter, Iona. (Cockburn also has a grownup daughter, Jenny).

He has made 31 albums for True North Records, now located in Burlington.

Cockburn said he’s not sure about recording for that label again, since his manager Finkelstein no longer owns it.

After his Burlington concert, Cockburn will do a solo show at Niagara-On-The-Lake (Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre) on Aug. 30.

For more information about his local appearance, call 905-681-6000 or visit

~from Bruce Cockburn flies solo in Burlington - - by Dennis Smith.

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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.