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Bruce Cockburn at The Birchmere

Fresh from being honored at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the release of Bone on Bone, singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Bruce Cockburn has hit the road. On November 14, he stopped at Alexandria’s Birchmere and turned in a stunning two-hour performance.

Cockburn’s career spans five decades and, as he mentioned during the show, 332 songs. The 19-song set list featured the compelling new material, some deep-cut gems like “Free to Be, Tokyo,” and his standard rockers like “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” “Rocket Launcher” and “Strange Waters.”

I’ve seen Cockburn perform dozens of times, both solo and with a band. This particular ensemble featured longtime bandmates (percussionist Gary Craig and John Dymond on bass) with relative newcomer John Aaron Cockburn (Cockburn’s nephew) accompanying on accordion, violin and electric guitar.

The band experience affords Cockburn the opportunity to stretch out on the electric pieces while still being able to perform the quieter acoustic and instrumental songs. The highlight of the evening for me was “If a Tree Falls,” with the expert and flawless interplay of the younger Cockburn’s violin and Bruce’s lead guitar providing the evening’s emotional and musical high point.

Cockburn is already acknowledged, many times over, as one of Canada’s musical national treasures (joining the ranks of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young). Thankfully, we have two of those three still with us, so go catch Bruce on tour if you can. Find his remaining tour dates and Bone on Bone here. Photos and review: Mark Caicedo