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photos by Darren McChristie

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Last night, Bruce Cockburn brought his North American tour to a small but appreciative audience at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium. Cockburn was accompanied by Gary Craig on percussion and Jenny Scheinman on violin, mandolin and bouzouki. Scheinman, a native of northern California, opened the show with a combination of traditional folk songs and her own compositions. Her lyric “supposedly the rednecks hate the hippies, but, after 40 years, it’s hard to tell who’s who” is perhaps indicative of the rural area in which she was raised. After a few songs, Gary Craig joined her, adding an upbeat tempo to her tunes. It was a great opening act but the break between sets felt like an eternity.

Finally, Bruce Cockburn took to the stage with Scheinman and Craig – they started with “Last Night of the World” and followed-up with “Mango,” both from Cockburn’s 1999 album Breakfast in New Orelans, Dinner in Timbuktu. In a string of hits, they played “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “Tokyo” – the audience was happy. It seemed most people wanted to hear Cockburn’s archival material, which is typical for an artist that has been cranking out records for over 40 years (his recent release, Small Source of Comfort, is his 31st).

Cockburn introduced the audience to this album with a humble, almost apologetic tone, indicating that, in terms of new songs, “several will be inflicted on you during the coarse of the evening.” But the new songs were as much of a treat as the old ones and included the upbeat and witty “Called Me Back” and the more somber “Each One Lost” – a song that was inspired by Cockburn’s 2009 trip to Afganistan (Cockburn’s brother is a doctor with the Canadian Forces). Because he played “Each One Lost” immediately after “If I had a Rocket Launcher,” I wondered how Cockburn feels that songs rooted in social activism and protest are always relevant. Timeless. As Cockburn sings, “We screw the rule of law, we want the rule of love.”

During his performance, Cockburn was strictly business, rarely looking up to make eye contact with his bandmates. But, this did not detract from the performance and the audience was brought to their feet after the last song in the set, “If a Tree Falls in the Forest.”

Cockburn, Scheinman and Craig returned for a surprisingly long encore that kicked off with the Cockburn’s only electric song of the night – “Lois on the Autobahn” from the new album. He concluded with “Gifts” – a song he wrote in 1968 that also appears on Small Source of Comfort.

-Michelle McChristie