17 February 2014 - Co-sponsored by Elgin Theatre Guild and Fanshawe College Alumni Association
Princess Ave Playhouse
40 Princess Avenue, St. Thomas
February 16, 2014
The 150-seat Princess Avenue Playhouse was packed to the rafters with fans of the Ottawa-born, folk/rock guitarist, singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn last night.
Since it is general seating at the playhouse, I lined up like everyone else outside. Chilly yes, but I was quickly warmed by the friendly Cockburn fans surrounding me. They came from Essex and Goderich and beyond.
Honestly, I couldn’t believe the Canadian Music Hall of Famer – ETG’s biggest get yet – would play ETG’s intimate theatre.
I so appreciate Canadian content laws that were created to define and identify Canadian content in pieces of music for the purposes of increasing exposure of Canadian music on Canadian radio! By the 80s the percentage was increased to 30% and that’s when and probably why I first discovered Mr. Cockburn.
And now that I’ve experienced Bruce Cockburn from a front row pew, how do I do justice to this gifted poet with a velvet voice that is so pure I couldn’t believe the guy’s been doing this for five decades?!
I can only compare it to being privy to a private recording session for, pre-show, we look upon a stage jam packed with equipment, wires, guitars, speakers and at the back a web or net of what seemed like leaves providing the perfect backdrop. (Later the lighting would enhance the leaves at just the right moments).
With no opening act, and on time, through this maze, Bruce Cockburn suddenly appeared – at first a shadow, soon making his way towards the light.
No fanfare Cockburn. It truly was amazing to behold his unassuming stance. At no time was he going, “Is this my best angle?” Often he’d sing with his eyes closed, intense, raw, in the moment. And his tone, diction, clarity were astounding. The notes melted in his throat like butter.
Before he began each song, we marveled at his precision – taking moments to adjust equipment, tune his guitar, something he called, “tuning a centipede”.
During those moments, I’d wonder things like, what does a man like this have as his rider for dressing room requests? Probably as simple as, “Do you have a place where I can catch up a couple of winks uninterrupted?” Just looking at his tour schedule, I was exhausted!
As he introduced a song with, “Here’s an oldie!” and then set about tuning his guitar, the lady beside me shouted, “Okay, let’s go!” Cockburn smiled and said, “I appreciate the cue.”
Of course, he sang the glorious hits Wonder Where the Lions Are, Rumours of Glory but I appreciated them all like Night Train, Bohemian Three Step, Stolen Land.
He said an early experience on a flight from Japan to Vancouver inspired his song Grim Travellers. He sat beside a high-ranking, successful Japan banker who discussed his chess-playing with people’s lives and at one point Cockburn asked him, “What about the people?” “We’ll just move them.”
The older I get, the more I appreciate pure talent and truth. And as if by osmosis, Cockburn’s words and music have taught me to think while I listen.
When Cockburn sang, “Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime” (Lovers in a Dangerous Time) all I could think of was Sochi.
As my companion said there was not one thing in this concert that was not perfection.
Cockburn sang, “Where you going to go for some illumination?”
Our elder statesman and truth teller did not disappoint. Bravo!
ETG’s concert presentations are seeded by a gift from the Dorothy Palmer estate. That gift is putting the charming playhouse on everyone’s radar.
For more info: http://www.elgintheatreguild.ca/
~from Donald's Dish, written by Donald D’Haene. Photos of Bruce Cockburn solo by Mark Girdauskas; Photo of Bruce Cockborn and Donald D’Haene by Richard Martin.