Review: Bruce Cockburn Evolves from Angry Young Folk Singer into Wise ‘Sage’

Bruce Cockburn - Dan MacIntosh


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA – Bruce Cockburn’s hair may be white, and he might now walk with a cane, but this fiery social commentator (in song) is still burning strong. He performed encircled by a bevy of acoustic guitars unaccompanied, at this intimate venue where he played a wide variety of songs – both old and new. He was simply wonderful, as always. 

The best part of the show was when Cockburn sang the faith-filled “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which became a spontaneous call-and-response audience sing-along during the chorus. Early on, Cockburn also performed “Pacing the Cage,” which is a relatively newer one, but already a kind of Cockburn classic. With the audience gathered around the stage, it felt a lot like being at the foot of a master. And the way Cockburn makes complicated acoustic guitar runs look so easy, it really did feel like there was something mysteriously Zen going on while he played.

Some of his song introductions were priceless, such as how “Stolen Land” was said to be inspired by Prince music. Someone in the audience then called out for Cockburn to do a Prince song, to which Cockburn responded with a half-hearted chorus of “Little Red Corvette.” Other highlights included passionate performances of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and set closer, “If a Tree Falls.” 

Cockburn also performed a few new, not-yet-recorded songs. The first was “Orders,” and the last, “Us All,” which closed out the concert, and came off like a benediction. Cockburn has so much material to choose from that he’s never going to do every song the audience wants. However, there was no reason to complain about his setlist tonight. Cockburn’s voice was strong, and his guitar skills were as sharp as ever. He’s gone from being an angry young folksinger, to becoming a sort of wise old sage. But this new and evolved Cockburn was just as fantastic, and a true musical treasure to behold.

Bruce Cockburn in Toronto – Courtesy Bob Stevens: