Patti and I saw Bruce Cockburn (see also here) last night at our favorite local venue, the Tupelo Music Hall. This was, I think, the second time Bruce has played at Tupelo - the previous time being in September, 2006.
I first saw Bruce in the late 1980s, and have seen him at least a half dozen times or more. Mostly in mid-size venues, like the Capitol Theater in Concord, NH, or the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Somerville, MA. But seeing him in Tupelo is special, because it is such a small venue. Patti and I were fortunate enough to secure seats in the second row, close to the center of the stage. Because of the way the seats and stage are in Tupelo, we were literally no more than 15 feet away from Bruce. I love being close enough to see individual guitar strings vibrate!
Most typical descriptions of Bruce probably call him a Canadian singer-songwriter, but that description is wholly inadequate without adding the clause "and totally frickin amazing guitarist." I put Bruce up there with the late, great Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke when it comes to my personal short list of acoustic guitar gods; although all three have vastly different styles, mind you.
Last night was an intimate, relaxed show with an adoring crowd and occasional good humored back and forth between the audience and performer. After one particularly mind-blowing song with some gorgeous guitar playing, a voice called out "hey Bruce, when are you going to learn to play that thing?" Much laughter all around, followed by Bruce's reply, "I'm trying. Believe me, I'm trying."
There are so many Cockburn songs I'd love to hear, but I have no complaints about his chosen set:
World of Wonders
Last Night of the World
See You Tomorrow
Don't Feel Your Touch
Life Short, Call Now
Tibetan Side of Town
This is Baghdad
Put It In Your Heart
Wondering Where the Lions Are
If A Tree Falls
The End of All Rivers
Pacing the Cage
Tie Me at the Crossroads
"Wondering Where the Lions Are" was a natural highlight - for Bruce as well as for the crowd - because of the easy sing along nature of the song, and Bruce's encouragement of us to participate. He was clearly pleased with hearing us. See this YouTube video from the May 15th show at the Iron Horse Music Hall to get a really good idea of what it was like. (Although, we sang a whole lot better, and there were certainly NO talkers in the Tupelo audience - Tupelo prides itself on being a listening hall.)
The instrumental "The End of All Rivers" was particularly stunning. The same YouTube contributor also posted the May 15th version of this song. Go watch it to see just what I mean about Bruce being in rare company on guitar. (The video gets a better look at Bruce around 1 minute in. Play the whole song.)
The opener was Catherine MacLellan, a singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island. I really loved her voice, and will be on the lookout for her from now on in. Here's her setlist, although I'm not sure of some of the song titles:
Take a Break
At the Top of Those Hotel Stairs (?)
It's Been a Long Time
Church Bell Blues