Bruce Cockburn In Phoenix

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Bruce Cockburn - May 12, 2022 - MIM Music Theater, Phoenix AZ

Much beloved singer, songwriter and guitar player Bruce Cockburn made a return visit to the music theater at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on May 12, having last performed in the intimate venue in late 2019 before he pandemic fully took hold. Just shy of his 77th birthday (May 27) Cockburn now has a very full white beard and he used a cane to get on and off stage. Fans needn't worry that age is affecting Cockburn's performance though and he thrilled the MIM audience with two generous sets totaling 20 songs.

For his 2019 show at MIM Cockburn was aided by his nephew, a multi-instrumentalist. This show however was a true solo performance where Cockburn sang as he played acoustic guitar (including 12-string at times). Guitar was the sole instrumentation except for the use of chimes on one song and the playing of dulcimer on another. Bruce began the show wordlessly as he played "Sweetness and Light," an instrumental from his all-instrumental and most recent studio record Crowing Ignites. The cut, able to project a feeling of joy to match the song title with just ringing guitar, demonstrated Cockburn's considerable composing skills.

Cockburn is on his 50th anniversary tour, something that he noted had been delayed a couple of times due to the pandemic, and in conjunction with the milestone his record company has released a greatest hits compilation that covers his output from 1970-2020. Bruce played half a dozen songs that are also on the compilation, including in the first set "Pacing the Cage" and "States I'm In," adding chimes to the latter. Also played in the first half of the show was a song not yet on a record but available to hear on YouTube, "Orders." Simply put the song is about treating everyone with respect, even the dishonest and dislikable; it carries the memorable line "Our orders said to love them all."

Bruce was quite chatty this evening and among the anecdotes and stories was the relating of his experience in Central America, specifically in Mexico and Nicaragua, when he visited refugee camps filled with those fleeing various conflicts. This is the era where he wrote "If I Had a Rocket Launcher;" the angry cut was not played this evening but the sublime "Dust and Diesel" was. The first set ended with "Last Night of the World" which Cockburn explained was not inspired by former president Donald Trump or the current nuke threat emanating from Moscow but by the long-ago Y2K scare.

Cockburn began his second set with "Stolen Land;" the cut would have been a perfect time to comment about what's going on in Ukraine, but Cockburn spent the evening avoiding controversial commentary, other than of course what is heard in his song lyrics. "In the Falling Dark" and "Let Us Go Laughing" were two of the oldest cuts played; between them sat fan favorite "Lovers in a Dangerous Time." A couple of real treats were played back to back, new song "Into the Now" which Bruce hopes to record for a new album this fall, and "Arrows of Light" on which Cockburn showed his talent on dulcimer. As the show neared its end Cockburn played the always popular "Wondering Where the Lions Are" and encouraged the crowd to sing along, to which they happily obliged. "If a Tree Falls" finished the set and a three-song encore concluded with another cut from the YouTube session, "Us All." Over the course of the show Cockburn graciously answered a few (unsolicited) questions from the audience and fans couldn't help but leave with a sense that their musical hero is also a grateful and humble man.

Find upcoming Bruce Cockburn dates here.

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