21 May 2000 -- As Bruce Cockburn's year-long road trip continues, correspondents with the Project report from some of the recent concerts in May. For those that missed the earlier After The Rain reports, click here.
Ken Gibson reports from Bloomington, Indiana; Rich Keel and Aron Neil Solomon report from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and B. Wilson reports from New Orleans, Louisiana, advising us, "Care about Bruce's music? Don't do as I have done and wait over 20 years to see him in person. Go see him as soon as you can."
The concert was held at the Buskirk Chumley Theater in Bloomington, Indiana, scheduled to begin at 8 pm but due to a conflict with an orchestra practice, the show was pushed back until 9 pm (certainly not Bruce's fault although he did apologize during the concert for the wait).
The concert began about 10 minutes after 9 pm and Bruce went right into, You Don't Have To Play The Horses which was appropriate for Kentucky Derby Day. The crowd was very enthusiastic and supportive but none of the "request shouting" I've seen reported from other gigs. I think we all genuinely appreciated whatever Bruce gave us and couldn't bring ourselves to demand even more.
After one song Bruce humbly said, "Thank you" to which a lady in the audience shouted back, "No, thank you Bruce". That brief dialog best describes this audience.
Bruce seemed in no hurry and had several great stories to tell, most of which are a rehash of what you can read from other post-concert notes on this tour (origins of Feast Of Fools for example). He did say that he's singing Dialog with the Devil after so many years because he "finally understands it" and in introducing Call It Democracy he talked about the Reagan era and how Reagan was proud to be a "Contra."
Bruce said, "I wonder if he even knew what that meant? I doubt it," to much laughter and applause.
In introducing his new instrumental he said that he had invited submissions for titling the song but he didn't receive very many suggestions and that the ones he did receive "frankly weren't very good". Everyone laughed. He went on to say that this was his fault because he'd been lazy and then told the audience that the title was, "End Of All Rivers".
Bassist Steve Lucas and percussionist Ben Riley are confident and outstanding musicians (I am sure Bruce would have nothing less). Each of them got several solo applauses. Of course we all know what kind of guitarist Bruce is.
The three of them together peaked with Night Train. Steve's playing of the standup electric bass and Ben's rhythmic drum playing along with Bruce's penetrating guitar licks was incredible. Cockburn's voice has just gotten better and better and as the night wore on became a highlight in and of itself. Pure honey.
The show ended just after midnight (taking into account the 40 minute intermission, he played for about 2.5 hours which I think is better than the "other" Bruce!)
The stage set was minimal but pleasing, one boxed crate stamped "to New Orleans" and another "to Timbuktu" and three tall candelabras with one large lit white candle on each. Even the stage lighting transitions were so well executed that I took notice which is something that is usually not commented on unless there is a problem.
The only disappointment to the whole night was that it was not sold out which is an embarrassment to the Bloomington area. One excuse is that it was graduation week but I'm not sure that's good enough.
"Their" loss was my (and my son's) gain. We got aisle seats, on the right facing the stage, second row. We were literally 20 feet from Bruce. How great is that!
A personal highlight was a signature I got for my wife. She became ill and unable to attend. I explained the situation to one of the crew and after the show he took my wife's unused ticket to Bruce who signed it:
Sorry you couldn't make it. Hope to see you next time.
What class - what a treasure. My wife couldn't believe it. It will be a framed memento for many years to come.
"No, thank you Bruce".
I'm a longtime fan (1978) but until last Saturday night I hadn't seen Bruce Cockburn perform live.
The concert was May 13th at the House of Blues in New Orleans. This is not a dream venue, and frankly I had reservations as to whether or not it was suitable for Bruce's music. Boy was I wrong! This was a terrific performance which has had a profound effect on me.
He brought his drummer (Ben Riley) and bass player (Steve Lucas) to New Orleans with him and played for over two hours with three encores. Riley and Lucas are great and really seemed to enjoy playing Bruce's music. Of course, as we all know, Cockburn is one of the best guitarist around. In fact, I saw Richard Thompson at the House of Blues recently and really there is no comparison...Thompson is good but Cockburn is the Man!
Bruce played a cross-section of new and old tunes. He played most of the songs from New Orleans - Timbuktu. He also played plenty of old favorites and live they sounded better than ever. There is really no way for me to adequately describe how much I enjoyed hearing him perform these great old songs LIVE. I was moved throughout the performance and left the concert with a wonderful feeling.
This is a rave review...I know it. My advice to anyone who cares about Bruce's music? Don't do as I have done and wait over 20 years to see him in person. Go see him as soon as you can.
Another great show by Bruce, Ben, Steve! The venue was a nice medium size theatre with good acoustics except for the speakers not being able to handle the volume. Throughout the show they would get overloaded and emit annoying static.
Enough complaining and onto the goods. Several of the highlights for me were Feast Of Fools, Use Me While You Can, and The Trouble With Normal.
There was a great jam-type intro to The Trouble With Normal and another brilliant one near the end of Feast Of Fools.
It is always fun to watch Bruce work the guitar; in his trademark style of finger picking, and at the same tie strum the bass string with his thumb.
Steve's great bass playing was highlighted many times tonight especially on his six string. The best example of this would have been on Down To The Delta ( I saw Bruce do this solo in Breckenridge Colorado last summer and Steve certainly adds to it).
Ben was also a driving force behind the music. Watching him he seemed so relaxed for how hard he rocked. The new untitled song (End Of All Rivers) showcased his terrific playing.
These guys are not just your average "session" musicians!
Not much discussion about the music tonight by Bruce except in the transition from Call It Democracy to Feast Of Fools. First he talked about how we rarely mention "democracy" anymore... He mentioned how in the old days we would just go to war and kill , or impoverish countries for the sake of "maintaining democracy."
Then in the 80's we had the neo-conservative Reagan years, now the neo-liberal years, and it looks like we are heading into a neo-feudal time.
After this Bruce mentioned that his fascination with medieval and explained what the Feast Of Fools was, "an annual event where the Aristocracy was turned " topsy turvy " and ordinary citizens could do things like moon the aristocracy without any consequences.
At the festival a "King of Fools" would be elected who would run through the streets naked while the crowd would throw things like cabbage, fruit, faeces, or anything that would stick.
Often times the crowd seemed a little more subdued than most (or else we are all getting older?).
This was clear several times like when during The Trouble With Normal it seemed as though I was the only one to shout back, "It Always Gets Worse."
Even more disturbing was that by the second encore about one third of the audience had left . It shouldn't bother me because they are the ones who missed out on some of the best music of the night like the solo Dialogue With The Devil.
Keep rocking Bruce - I'll see all the Colorado fans in Boulder in August!
As an expatriate Canadian and a long-time fan of Bruce Cockburn, I was very pleased to learn that he would be playing in Harrisburg, PA, about a ninety-minute drive from where I live.
I primed myself for the show by playing selections from the first disc of Waiting for a Miracle, as well as the entire Dart to the Heart CD, as I assumed that those songs would not find their way into his set list. For the most part, I was right, and the music on the drive to the show certainly set the mood.
I had the great good fortune of being seated in a plush armchair, situated on a stage-level balcony about fifteen metres from the stage. It was a very intimate house, with only 545 of the 650 available tickets sold.
The crowd was a blend of balding old thirty-something farts such as myself and an eclectc mix of digerati, novice music critics, and the standard coffee bar folk-rock crowd.
Following a twenty minute delay, and much to my relief, Bruce took the stage at 7:50pm without an opening act. The set list was very similar to that of most shows over the past few weeks, with a very notable and joyous exception in his fourth encore - he played the revered All the Diamonds.
Bruce took the stage dressed in cargo pants, beat-up black sneakers, a bright orange t-shirt and a burnt orange long-sleeve cotton shirt over that. After one song , he asked the audience "Is it just me, or is it fucking freezing in here?" A voice from the crowd replied "But you're from Caanda", which then prompted a further dialogue with the audience and a series of fairly witty retorts from Bruce, including a reference to the way in which we cool our homes in Canada, "ice blocks from the igloo."
He played for about an hour, then took a leisurely intermission to do, as he joked, "what Canadians like to do: eat some porcupine on a stick, quills and all." While the first part of the set was marked by his feeling out the audience, the second was replete with a pronounced passion as he visibly began to feel more comfortable with the audience and the venue.
As for the venue, it was attractive, intimate, and horrible acoustically. The bass was overwhelming the entire evening, often to the point of detracting from Bruce's singing. At times the bass dominated the stage and seemed to battle against even Bruce's great presence. All evening I was left with the distinct feeling that this concert would have been so much more memorable were it simply Bruce Cockburn, "unplugged."
For me, there were several highlights of the evening. First, the aforementioned encore of All the Diamonds, a song which has meant so much to me in my life. I could picture the artist in Stockholm, reflecting upon his life and direction, writing this classic. I am a fan of the new recordings as well, and particularlly savoured an empassioned version of Isn't That What Friends Are For?
Without a a doubt the peak of the evening was fairly early in the set. Bruce's powerful playing on The Trouble With Normal seemed to distill all of his sense of collected angst into a vignette of pure revelry. Chills ran thorugh my back as he worked through the chorus and continued as he later performed Call it Democracy and If I Had a Rocket Launcher.
It seemed that while Bruce enjoyed the entire show, he was happiest singing When You Give It Away and Dialogue with the Devil which he proclaimed is, "the oldest song that I can still remember."
By the time the show ended, after 10:30, Bruce was clearly spent and the crowd was yelling "Thank you, Bruce" as he left the stage following his fourth encore.
It was an evening to remember, and I shall.
Aron Neil Solomon