Monday, April 07, 2014

Cockburn plays the Aladdin

Heady days, here at the Sound and Fury dispatch desk. A weekend full of events. Sunday evening, I made my way down to the Aladdin Theater to see Rose City favorite Bruce Cockburn play.

For those who aren't familiar with him, Bruce is a traveling bard, a guitarist/singer/songwriter out of Ottawa. He's traveled all over the world, often to troubled places: Afghanistan, Mozambique, Nicaragua. He's a passionate advocate for the downtrodden and for environmental issues. He uses that passion as inspiration for his songs. He writes about injustice, often angrily. But there is also a spiritual thread in his lyrics. He writes movingly about those moments that world travelers know; the lonely-triumphant feeling one gets when one is all alone and far from home, the peace that descends on the soul at odd moments.

He passes through Portland every year or so. I last saw him in 1998 at the Rose Garden.

This time it was the Aladdin Theater, a scant three miles from my home. (Ah, the perks of living in the city!) Aladdin seats about 600 people and it was filled to capacity. It was an older crowd. At 52, I was on the younger side of it. Bruce is himself 68.

In the moments before the show, when the lights went down, the customary low booming calls of "BRUUUUCE!" went up from among the audience, who erupted when he came out. He slung on his guitar, stepped up to the mic, gave a wave and a low-key "Hi, there. Thanks for coming out," and launched right in.

Just Bruce, by himself. There was no band. Throughout the evening he enthralled his audience with two six-string guitars, a twelve-string, a dobro, and another instrument that I describe as a cross between a steel guitar and an autoharp. He also used foot pedals to sound two different sets of chimes and made skillful use of effects pedals.

His black shirt and trousers and high black military boots lent him a severe appearance, but he engaged the audience jovially. Portland loves Bruce and he assured us it was mutual.

He played two sets and a set of 3 encores. I was pleased with the set list. In addition to his new material, he hit a lot of the old favorites: "Stolen Land," "Wondering Where the Lions Are," "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "And They Call it Democracy," and, of course "Lovers in a Dangerous Time."

The evening felt like a reunion of old friends who thoroughly enjoy one another.

I love Bruce.

Padded with power here they come
International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor

Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament -
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
Idolatry of ideology

North South East West
Kill the best and buy the rest
It's just spend a buck to make a buck
You don't really give a flying fuck
About the people in misery

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there's one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

See the paid-off local bottom feeders
Passing themselves off as leaders
Kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
Open for business like a cheap bordello

And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy

See the loaded eyes of the children too
Trying to make the best of it the way kids do
One day you're going to rise from your habitual feast
To find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
They call the revolution

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there's one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

But, as I stated earlier, this was a fun-filled weekend. My wife and my Senegalese community had a party on Saturday night. More about that later...

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