On Tuesday evening Evan and I headed down to Toronto Harbourfront to see THE ONE AND ONLY, Canadian legend, Bruce Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn).
I think it’s the first time I’ve been to an event there, and it is such a nice laid-back venue. It’s definitely on the smaller side so I could see it getting a bit crazy if anyone super popular was playing there, but for Bruce it was perfect because he was just alone on stage with his guitar and it felt really intimate.
Somehow no one seems to know who Bruce Cockburn is. Even my friends who are incredibly music savvy haven’t heard of him. This makes me sad because he is wonderful, a true artist, a legend, and I think everyone should know about him. So I am going to give you a quick lesson. This is Bruce Cockburn:
Pretty cool guy. I appreciate his earrings. Kind of looks like a Ghostbuster (Egon specifically). He was popular in Canada (and had a few songs in the US Top 100) in the 70’s and 80’s, and my dad even saw him in concert back in the day. I really only know who he is because of my sort of hippy parents, and I definitely owe my Bruce love to them. Actually, I can credit a lot of my musical influences to them. I grew up listening to him and Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac and Valdy (who I met once with my mom when I was really young and I said to her “But he’s not bald!” because I thought his name was “Baldy”), and like…Bonnie Wright (that was all my mom). Also Fred Penner and Raffi who are also the best.
Anyway, Bruce Cockburn is an incredibly talented guitarist. Some people actually consider him to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, known for his finger-picking style of strumming. Solo singer-songwriters who are just so purely talented tend to be my favourite, and Bruce is up there with Jack Johnson and Neil Young for me.
If you don’t know who Bruce is, I’ll bet you’ve heard his most popular song Wondering Where The Lions Are.
And he is also the original artist of Lovers In A Dangerous Time (the Barenaked Ladies covered it).
Man, I love 80s videos. Here is a live accoustic version also.
Most of his songs are about social issues and human rights, for example If I Had A Rocket Launcher (which is quite badass) is an explicitly political song about him being sick of waiting for a political solution to a crisis and wanting to take the matter into his own hands (ie: what he would do if he had a rocket launcher). It was inspired by a trip he took to a Guatamalan refugee camp in Mexico.
If A Tree Falls is about environmental issues, specifically cutting down the earth’s trees (pretty obvious from the name). Even Lovers In A Dangerous Time, the dangerous time referred to the Cold War world, where young love was JUST SO GOOD! but the future carried a sense of foreboding. Also AIDS (it was right around the emerging AIDS crisis).
I very much appreciate it when people use their natural talent to bring awareness to world issues. I wish I could do that.
I feel you Bruce.
Bruce was also made a Member of the Order of Canada, is in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. So he really is kind of a big deal and it surprises me that he is not more well known. I was really looking forward to seeing him. Evan actually does know who he is so he was the perfect person to bring. He almost couldn’t make it though and I was totally prepared to channel my inner Beyonce and just go by myself.
Anyway, that is your lesson in Canadian music today. I hope you enjoyed. Onto the concert!
He played so well, and man, he is 70 and he didn’t even have a stool to sit on! I was so impressed. Evan and I scored a sweet seat at the Harbourfront restaurant beside the stage and this was basically our view.
Zoomed in a bit, but you get the idea. It was awesome to just sit and eat a cheeseburger and drink a beer and watch him do his thing. I am so glad I was able to see him.
He played all of my favourites, except for Rocket Launcher. But you know Lovers In A Dangerous Time made the cut!
It was a free concert, so people were just strolling by all evening. It’s on the boardwalk, so many families out for walks would stop and listen, and people on bikes.
My favourite concert attendee was the EXTREMELY drunk guy who was around my dad’s age, who was totally wearing sunglasses at night and was just going to town on the air guitar. He was making us laugh really hard.
That Bruce knows his stuff. He was scheduled to play from 8:30 until 10pm and he was off that stage, encore included, at exactly 10pm. On the nose. I think he sensed his bedtime.
What really stepped it up also is that it was on the water. Excellent views all around!
Sorry, iPhone photos.
Someone different is playing there almost every night until mid-August as part of the Pan Am Games. The schedule is here if you wanna check it out! I’m hoping to make it back for a couple, but if not I’m glad I was able to experience Bruce. It was a fun night with my lover…in a dangerous time!