Music: Live - God plays a mean guitar


BRUCE COCKBURN: singer/ songwriter; Canadian; amazing guitarist; the man who single-handedly bussed in the languages of physics and cosmology and applied them with rare articulacy to the rough-hewn poesy of rock'n'roll, illustrating the achievements of God and garnering thus a word-of-mouth audience for life from the intellectuals of the nascent Charismatic movement.

As that movement mushroomed, Cockburn stepped sideways, going around the troublespots of the world, raging against corruption, famine, deforestation, Third-World debt, the problems of Native Americans and people with rocket- launchers, while wrestling with the certainties of his early work. The songs and albums that documented those adventures swung between the occasional razor-sharp polemic of "Call It Democracy" and po-faced rants that signalled the danger of Cockburn's career imploding under the weight of portentousness.

With that as background, Cockburn's more recent work on Rykodisc - the quite exceptional The Charity Of Night in 1996 and now Breakfast In New Orleans, Dinner In Timbuktu (out next month) - has found the artist accepting that he cannot do or change everything. A more poised, observational strain has entered his work, where personal politics, with that old sense of wonder resurrected, and a stoic view on the ills of the world can all share a table. And, as evidenced tonight at a venue purpose- built for the "listening audience", he is not without a sense of fun, notably when seemingly 40 people all decide to visit the gents, stage left, at the same time. You had to be there.

Recent songs have tended to feature spoken passages, where the novelistic beauty and mystery of his words and their cyclical, sometimes fragile, sometimes pile-driving, instrumental settings, create a richly compelling mindscape. "Sometimes," offers Bruce, "things don't easily reduce to rhyming couplets." Showcasing the new album, the achingly poignant "Isn't That What Friends Are For?" and the crunching riff and joyous spirit of "When You Give It Away" were two cases in point. So when a piece of simple verse/chorus genius such as "Pacing The Cage", from the last album, gets an airing, it is all the more stunning - words and music that are crying out for coverage by an artist capable of chart success.

These things, of course, never happen and so it will always be a great adventure for the perennial trickles of individuals to "discover" the well-kept secret of Bruce Cockburn.

One senses that at 54, he is comfortable with the prospects of perpetually revered semi-obscurity. The state of his faith has been a topic of periodic conversation in recent times. Tonight, he had a surprise for the cognoscenti: "I haven't played this for 20 years," he says. "It didn't seem pertinent. It seems pertinent now. Read into that what you will." The song that followed, "Dialogue With The Devil" - almost old enough now to qualify as a Dead Sea Scroll - was a revelation. Wherever he's at, Cockburn still has something very powerful to say, and is doing so with the maturity of a truly great artist, and material that is consistently his best in years.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power