Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Bruce Cockburn at the Birchmere, Alexandria VA 7-15-03
Tried and Tested
Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Mighty Trucks of Midnight
New lyrics - "Vietnam was yesterday, Kabul and Bagdad was today" and Commies
Are now bad guys
Bruce invited the audience to sing along on this one, but I don't notice enthusiastic audience participation. However there is applause.
Afterward someone yells out what about weapons of mass destruction. Bruce says you can abbreviate that WMD. It sort of puts it on the same plane as WD40, or just W…you just never know what will come out of this town, do you.
Wait No More
Postcards from Cambodia
Bone in my Ear - - Asked what he is playing (it looks like a small green ukulele) Bruce says he plays an South American Charango, and xplains that traditionally they are made of armadillo shell. Someone reminds him he has one like that and he says yes he does, but this one is a solid body electric one made in Toronto.
All Our Dark Tomorrows - electronic birds add an eerie sound that continue for a minute after the vocals and instruments stop.
Pacing the Cage
You've Never Seen Everything
If I Had A Rocket Launcher
To Raise the Morning Star
some in the crowd gave this a standing ovation. The guy next to me says "that was fantastic"
Last Night of the World
Whole Night Sky
Call It Democracy
Let the Bad Air Out
I had no ticket, the Birchmere show in Alexandria Va is sold out, but I drive 1 ½ hours hoping to get in. My brother's advice on getting a ticket outside a large rock concert doesn't apply here. The Birchmere has general admission. It also has a line ticket ritual - even with a ticket in hand you wait in line to get a line number to be first (or 2nd or 3rd etc) in to choose a seat. The line for a line number started at 2:30 pm for a 7:30 pm show. When I arrive at 4pm the line is the length of the warehouse sized building.
I find someone else who needs a ticket and his advice is to ask the box office if they have any (even though Ticketmaster has zero). We get in line, go in at 5 pm and the box office has a few tickets. He and I get in! (And an hour later another man who happens to sit beside me also tries the box office and they still have a ticket.)
While waiting for the box office (and line number distribution) to begin at 5 pm, we discuss our fall back strategies if we don't get a Birchmere ticket. We are both considering going to Philadelphia to the Keswick in October. He tells me once he saw Bruce here, and went to New York the next day to see him. I sit with people who also saw Bruce Cockburn in New York. I have gone as far as Harrisburg, Pa. !
In the lobby, I greet Pat Klink, a member of a singer-songweriter trio, We're About Nine. When I am seated, I tell people I sit with about my blog on concerts (http://folkfan.blogspot.com). We chat about other acts we like and I learn the man across from me likes the Kennedys. I tell him We're About Nine opened for the Kennedys, that I recently wrote about We're about Nine in my blog, and I point out Pat in his seat across the room.
The people I couple I sit across from have also seen Bruce in NY and other places. She is from the city of Quebec, and her slight but lovely accent is because French is her first language. She very much hopes Bruce will sing Stolen Lands. She heard him sing it here last year and wants to hear it again. He doesn't sing it. Luckily she just bought a CD that has it.
Bruce talks very little about the songs. The songs speak for themselves in this show.
I wonder about this crowd. Who would come to hear songs like these? Are they all very dedicated fans like the ones I have met? Who comes to a concert where so many songs are about our times using themes like greed and "dark finance", idiotic or corrupt leaders, and violence - a la Tried and Tested, Mighty Trucks of Midnight, Burn (updated by minor minor changes to the lyrics), Postcards from Cambodia, All Our Dark Tomorrows, Trickle Down, Call It Democracy, Night Train (with its absence of vision), You've Never Seen Everything, If I Had A Rocket Launcher, and Let the Bad Air Out. These are more than half the songs this evening.
There are songs about dealing with dark situations created by these leaders like Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Pacing the Cage (sometimes the best map will not guide you), The Whole Night Sky.
Consolation songs are of birth (Messanger Wind - but am I ready to be born?) death (Celestial Horses well for me has death imagery but also transformation and the ecstasy of being here now), Wait no More "One day we'll wake to remember how lovely we are" , and Open. These songs hint at how the inner "opening' is related to the outer world, and this is explicit in Last Night of the World "I've seen the flame of hope among the hopeless, And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all".
At the break I ask friends for comment about this show. All they can say is "the old lyrics are still relevant" and "these lyrics are the Bible".
I have wondered recently where our prophets are. In Old Testament days the Jewish people had prophets who told rulers and peoples what was wrong in society with honesty and perhaps divinely inspired exposes. I don't see any politicians being prophetic. I do hear that kind of honesty in this music.
There is the raw beauty of the music too. I find a perfect seat. There is a slight raised level on the back half of the audience floor. Separating the back upper half which is maybe 12 to 18 inches higher, from the front seating section is a wooden backing topped with a railing about waist height. On the lower level in front are bench type seats. But I sat at a table in the middle on the upper level, right next to the wooden half wall and railing. I find when I lean into it with my knees and hands and arms - I can feel the vibrations of the drums. If I were deaf, touching this wood, I would feel the entire rhythm of the concert. I am even more in the moment and with the beat.
The music is exquisite. The man beside me wants to meet whoever did the arrangements.
I am awed by the number of instruments the four musicians play. It's Steve Lucas on bass, Ben Riley on drums and the incredible Julie Wolf on keyboard and backup vocals and accordion. I love to see her take up the accordion, and her vocals add so much.
Julie's keyboarding is highlighted during Mighty Truck of Midnight and the crowd roars with appreciation.
The electronic music - the birds in All Our Dark Tomorrows, and other electronic additions to a few other songs add to the rich rich musical texture.
I was afraid with the band I would not hear the songs as well as I did when Bruce was here solo last year. Actually I "heard" much better and in a new way. The new CD came alive for me, and I will appreciate it much more now that I have heard the songs live. I was going to say I would enjoy it more - but when I listen to the words of some of these songs - enjoy is not the right word.