Bruce Cockburn – Belly Up, July 2015


The stage is set, with three guitars built by Linda Manzer

The stage is set, with three guitars built by Linda Manzer

With three acoustic guitars as his only artillery Cockburn launched a powerfully emotive barrage of poetic lyrics.

His unique and powerful guitar picking talent was evident not only in the several instrumental numbers but throughout the evening.

image3His recent songwriting efforts have been sparse due to the three year sabbatical writing his acclaimed autobiography Rumours of Glory. But toward the end of the evening he did perform a new “gospel song that I didn’t seek” called “Jesus Train.”

image2One of the evening’s several highlights was a deft instrumental prelude which segued into a brilliant rendition of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which in turn was buttressed by the audience echoing the refrain. The buoyant melody belies the fear of the unknown beasts at the door, a level of consternation that Cockburn frequently assays.

He opened the evening with the sparkling “The Last Night of the World,” which will be replayed in a week when my wife and I celebrate our anniversary.

He changed up his setlist by taking a request from a knowledgeable punter, who called for “Strange Waters.” The poignant lyrics are especially autobiographical:

I’ve stood in airports guarded glass and chrome

Walked rifled roads and landmined loam

Seen a forest in flames right down to the road

Burned in love till I’ve seen my heart explode

image1Indeed, earlier in the evening he covered the 1930’s gospel blues “Soul of a Man” by Blind Willie Johnson. The lyrics certainly resonate for the peripatetic Cockburn, who has written and sung eloquently about man’s inhumanity to man in a world where God often seems absent:

Well won’t somebody tell me

Answer if you can!

I want somebody to tell me

Just what is the soul of a man?

It was another evening from one of music’s most insightful singer songwriters.

(photos by Brad Auerbach)


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.