Saturday, October 22, 2005
Bruce Cockburn at the Birchmere, Oct 18, 2005
BEFORE THE CONCERT
Standing in line can makes folks feel helpless and dehumanized. But at the Birchmere lines have been the party before the party. Doors open at 5 to pick up tickets and get line numbers for seats. But when I arrive at 3:30 I am not the first in line. The Birchmere has the wall in front of the door thoughtfully lined with benches. We are in the shade and quite comfortable on this sunny, moderately warm October day.
I enjoy talking to the other fans in line. The woman is front has already seen the Ramshead set list from the Humans-list on Yahoo groups. I remark that I heard Brian McLaren (author of Generous Orthodoxy and many other books) is coming. (I am not surprised he plans to come since he has written about being a huge Bruce Cockburn fan). The man who is first in line says: Did you say Brian McLaren is coming? He is a friend of a friend of mine. Who is your friend I ask. He replies, Jim Wallis (of Sojourners, another famous author and speaker, who we all saw often on TV last year, commenting on religion and politics surrounding the election and how neither party "gets it right"). I don't know about Jim Wallis but some years ago I heard from a friend who was a Sojourners intern that the Sojourners staff she knew loved Bruce Cockburn.
A folk concert buddy Mike arrives who tell us he was at the Ramshead last night. Another woman comes and the usual conversation – how many Bruce Cockburn concerts have you gone to, do you have a favorite concert, favorite CD? Have you seen the set list from last night? Everyone I talk to loves the encores from last night, Pacing the Cage and Wondering Where the Lions are. Will he do them tonight? We find out soon.
Set List with Comments... (* instrumentals)
*Rouler Sa Bosse – " To Knock About the World" - Bruce asks the audience, "Did I get the clarinet part or did I".
Going to the Country -
Me: I am melting from the sunshine in his voice. He sounds so much better live.
Bruce says: "You can't get much earlier than this"
Introducing the next set of songs Bruce states: They are the first of what I discovered were many road songs. I did a concert for the Canadian auto workers. Anticipating a drinking and partying group not concerned with the subtleties of what I did, I tried to think of songs involving automobiles.
Reading "On the Road" in high school I was captivated by the notion of perpetual motion. It is an apt metaphor for the spiritual road we are all on… (and a reference to the downsides of the heady approach of the beat generation) – After a while the road changed (my personal road changed) ….that didn't change my perception of it. I'll do a couple of songs that are road related…This is from a few years later.
Mighty Trucks of Midnight
Guy in the audience yells out: Bruce did you enjoy our beautiful day in DC today? Did you get out on a bike ride? Bruce replies that he did get out on a bike ride, but says he is tired of so many beautiful days. "I like it (when it is) dark angry pissing rain when I get to wear my other clothes."
Bruce tells us he has another album out called "Speechless". A good title for instrumental pieces. Fans have been asking for it over the years. There are 3 new pieces. "I'm not big on nostalgia. It (nostalgia) goes with those sunny days and shit".
*King Kong Goes to Tallahassee
Wondering Where the Lions Are – Bruce encourages us to ramp up audience echo of the refrain "wondering where the lions are" saying "don't lose it now" and at the end saying "nicely done".
Let the Bad Air Out – "I had a fantasy. Sometimes I'll try it..When I am singing those silly high notes all the women could go: Open Up the Windows and all the men could go: Let the Bad Air Out." Immediately the audience urges him to try it out now but Bruce presses on.
If a Tree Falls -
Me - When Bruce said Flood Plains for an instant my bones froze. I agree with the reviewer of last night's Ramshead concert – so passionate and timely.
The Sierra Club woman sitting across from me whispers "I could die now".
My neighbor whispers to me, this is like being at a Springsteen concert with the audience yelling BRUUUUCE. Yeah I had noticed this at least 2 songs earlier but it has been getting louder after each song. This crowd is really rocking.
Bruce - Picking up a shiny black guitar Bruce says "we are suckers for those shiny things…I confess I was". An audience member yells out (about the guitar) "it is like All the Diamonds in the World".
Wait No More –
Bruce - "Thanks for not leaving"
*Water into Wine
All the Ways I Want You
Put It in Your Heart - Bruce emphasizes this is about Osama bin Laden, not about a relationship
Baghdad – Intro: "Last year I had the occasion to go to Baghdad for a while to see if anything we heard here was even remotely true. I've been in a war zone before but never been in a city that is occupied…basically people live the best they can as anyone lives the best they can…I got a ride in on a UN plane to Baghdad airport. (The original airport must have been destroyed). There is a sign that says Baghdad International Airport) but only 6 airplanes and they are all military planes except ours. Coming in the plane is nose-down to avoid gunfire – but you got a great view of the city that way.
A Kurd was sitting beside me. He was telling me about the Kurdish political party (he is in). He was going back after finishing breaking up with his wife in Belgium. He asked me: Have you ever been divorced? and When does the pain stop? I said it takes time.
He is going into the fray much more than I and he's thinking about his divorce. Life is the same. But there is more to worry about if you have to worry about kids getting blown up or kidnapped. This is a song that came out of that trip.
Tell this Universe Intro: This is a collective effort that came out of a band sound check (on the last tour). Fellow band members are co-writers - Julie Wolf, Ben Riley and Steve Lucas.
Afterwards someone yells: Are these songs going to be on a best ever of our current administration's album? Bruce says "You've got to ask them…we haven't been approached about it yet."
Another person changes the subject and yells: Love that guitar strap. No comment from Bruce. The strap reminds me of the 60's or 70's – it is very thick – The background is bright blue and it is covered with a few very large 8 pointed. very irregular stars- that have a black outline. Inside the black outline is a yellow border and then green fill. Bruce dresses very similarly at his next concert, and wears the same guitar strap. See the photo section of the Humans-list: file name: "bruce-so.." for the "bruce-Somerville 102005" pictures.
More Bruuuuce from the audience…
Last Night of the World - Intro: Last night someone in Annapolis was asking for this song. I didn't do it (then), so if you are here tonight (here it is), and if not maybe next time..
*End of All Rivers – Intro. This is another song from the new album. It was an encore on the Band tour. Some of you may have heard it. It sounds a little different now that it is just me.
Me: I feel like I am sitting in church and wonder how the song evokes this feeling.
Messenger Wind –
Me: Now is forever echoes - Ground. Trust and hope. The courage to be born.
If I Had A Rocket Launcher
Me - I am watching a young man sitting nearby.(I ask his age afterwards and find he is a high school junior). I've been wondering if he will connect with Bruce's music. Now I see to my dismay that his eyes are wide and fixed, his head motionless intensely listening. Suddenly I am so sad he is hearing this song…I don't know this boy. Well he is a young man, not a boy… But I think he is too young to hear this…to young to be at risk of being involved in an ugly war… He is not my child, and not a child at all, yet something in me cries out children should not hear this song… I am so so sad this song is so timely today. I wish Bruce had played Call it Democracy instead.
All The Diamonds – Intro: I heard this title called out a few times, and I haven't played this in a while.. bear with me.
Me - In a time warp I hear my friend Diane whispering to me. She is a newbie I brought to this concert. She whispers in surprise, he is talking about Christ. We are sitting Senator in Baltimore on March 9, 2000. And this song is the last song in the encore. We walk out into a the crisp night so blessed…
Anything Anytime Anywhere
Bruce: "God bless you all…Thanks again"
AFTER THE CONCERT REFLECTIONS
After the concert my line mates, folks I sat with, and others give glowing reviews. "This show was great. It was so much better than last night. Last night was the first night of the tour and he was just warming up." And "I'd give this a 9.7 out of 10". My comment: 10 out of 10. I am thrilled!
We heard a song from 1969 and six from the 70's, and some from each decade since. I am in awe at the dance between the songs about justice and the violent and inhumane world we live in (If a Tree Falls, Put it in Your Heart, Bagdad, Tell the Universe, Rocket Launcher) and the songs of just the pure joy of living and loving (Going to the Country, All the Ways I Want You, After the Rain, All the Diamonds, Anything Anytime Anywhere). The dance includes the themes of the urgency of finding the joy, the ecstasy in life (Wait no More) and of finding the human spirit and hope in the midst of a scary and changing world (Mighty Trucks of Midnight and Wondering Where the Lions Are). At the break, a woman at my table says said something like this, but much more eloquently. I can't recall all her words, but I can't forget her thoughts about finding the balance, how Bruce holds the tension between these themes so beautifully.