Bruce Cockburn is a legend, though it’s entirely possible that you’ve never heard of him. An active recording artist for 45 years now (his first, self-titled album was released in 1970); he has had copious hits and sold millions of records in his native Canada. Yet despite sharing largest border with them, he, like many other Canadian artists, has found little more than cult status here in the US. His only song to break the top 40 in the US, “Wondering Where the Lions Are” off of his album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, went to number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, but he has seen only limited mainstream attention here otherwise.
Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped him from touring here with some regularity, and the last show of his recent run of US dates was in front of a packed house at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis. Performing solo, Cockburn took the stage armed with only a few acoustic guitars and several large sets of chimes rigged to kick-drum pedals to add texture to a few songs. Cockburn is one of those guitarists skilled enough to make it sound like he’s playing several separate guitar lines at once (without effects!), and he made full use of these skills, kicking off the evening with the instrumental “Bohemian 3-Step” from his most recent album, 2011’s Small Source of Comfort.
In a show that stretched over two full sets and an encore, he played many fan favorites. Highlights included several of his more politically charged songs – “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” from his 1984 album Stealing Fire and “Call It Democracy” from his 1985 album World of Wonders, songs which both still feel relevant today – along with other songs including “Strange Waters” from 1997’s The Charity of Night and “Hills of Morning” from Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws. He closed the show with a rousing version of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” with the entire audience singing along on the choruses.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen