Avalon Theater, Grand Junction, Colorado • February 19, 2023
by Judy Craddock
Cockburn approaches the stage as an artist who doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, yet he still carries the humility of one who knows how fickle the business of creating and performing is.
On this last night of the tour, at the Historic Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction, Colorado, he approaches center stage with an impressive cane, almost wizard-like in appearance. The crowd applauds and anticipates magic.
And the magic begins. We hear “After the Rain,” an engaging story about the lost art of whistling, and “Night Train,” with a confession to having written under the influence of absinthe, to kick off the evening. My 35-year-old daughter, who is unfamiliar with Cockburn but appreciates music on all levels, leans over and whispers “He’s like Mike Doughty, only a little older.”
I’d call that a compliment to both artists.
“Last Night of the World” brings an appreciative “we love this one” response and some enthusiastic whistles from the crowd. Bruce is good-natured about crowd noise but also commands the room when he gracefully implies, without saying much, that this is his show and we should probably settle down. The wizard has spoken.
Cockburn is a storyteller. His stories back up the songs that follow like evidence in a friendly hearing. He gives us every reason to love what’s been written even more. The audience for this show, and I’m sure all the others on this 50th Anniversary (2nd Attempt) Tour is treated to the depth of the song, without busting whatever previously conceived notions were held about the song’s meaning. He teases the new album, due out in May, by giving us “Orders,” a new song that is about as poignant and relevant as a song can be in these times.
It is after the break when Cockburn seems to really get his footing with this house, and this one-man band comes back punching, with the steel-bodied Dobro resonator casting some serious shine from the stage. His craft with the twelve-string is also a jaw-dropper. We get another new song, followed by “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” Cockburn’s vocal range is still stunning, as he doesn’t once shy away from the high notes on many of these classics.
For this crowd of old and new fans, the highlight is the opportunity to engage in a chorus sing-along with the very familiar “Wondering Where the Lions Are.” My daughter by this point was singing along, no longer making internal comparisons to Doughty. 😀
For the encore, Bruce brings his signature dry wit by “flying in the face of show business wisdom” and closing with another new song, one that is more subdued. The audience is perfectly fine with this. He’s earned the right to fly in the face, walk with a cane, and not worry about impressing anyone. We’re still blown away.