Bruce Cockburn: Salem, Oregon Gig Review

by Bob Gersztyn for

On Monday January 30, 2023, Bruce Cockburn performed at the historic Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon. Bruce came out using a walking stick and sat on a fleece covered stool that was flanked by guitars on the right and some percussion instruments on the left next to a cooler used for a foot stool. He began the show with an acoustic six string and began playing “After the Rain” from his 1979 release Dancing In The Dragons Jaws. “Night Train” from 1996’s The Charity of Night followed with its droning guitar providing the melodic beat that carried the chugging lyrics.

“Not a knife-throw from here you can hear the night-train passing.”

In 1999 Breakfast in New Orleans Dinner in Timbuktu produced “The Last Night of the World” which Cockburn performed impeccably on his six-string singing about
“The radio playing Superchunk and the friends of Dean Martinez.” After the opening trio of songs Bruce began telling the audience about the popularity of Fidel Castro in Canada in the early days of his government. He explained that he and his brother would play Castro and Batista and Bruce would be Castro. This led to his interest in the Nicaraguan revolution of the 1970s which got him interested in Central America. His brother invited him to visit him to Guatemala while he was working for Oxfam, a Canadian relief organization. When Bruce visited his brother, the trip inspired him to write a number of songs for 1984’s Stealing Fire album including “Dust and Diesel.”

Bruce Cockburn 30Jan23 Elsinore Salem OR photo Bob Gersztyn

2017’s Bone on Bone included the comedic song, “3 Al Purdy’s” which Bruce explained was a documentary film project that he was asked to contribute a song to. Al Purdy was a Canadian poet and the song is about a street vendor selling three Al Purdy Chapbooks for twenty dollars. The song included Cockburn playing his mouth trumpet and was followed by him telling the crowd that this was part of the evening when you meditate as he re-tuned his guitar. He informed the guitar players in the audience that his tuning was DAD GAD which led to “Café Society” from the same album.

This is a new song from an album that will be coming out in May called “Orders” he announced. The lyrics are spiritually charged which is one of the qualities of all Bruce’s music that draws people to it.

“A challenge great—but as I recall
Our orders said to love them all.”

“Strange Waters” is a killer song from The Charity of Night that is a reworking of the 23rd Psalm. Instead of “the Lord leading me besides still waters” the path leads to “Strange Waters.” Bruce told the crowd that he would be back after he took a short break. The second set began when Bruce returned twenty minutes later and picked up his resonator guitar for an instrumental titled “The End of All Rivers,” from 2005’s Speechless album.

He introduced another song from the new album titled “When the Spirit Walks into the Room” performed with the resonator guitar.

“You’re a thread upon the loom
When the Spirit walks in the room.”

After changing guitars back to acoustic six string he dove into “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” from Stealing Fire as the crowd roared with approval. Bruce did a couple of extended guitar solos demonstrating his mastery of the instrument. Bruce told the crowd that this was the second attempt at the 50th anniversary tour that didn’t happen in 2020; (his eponymous first solo album was released in 1970.) “I’m going way back to an older song” Cockburn announced as he changed guitars to a twelve string and began “In the Falling Dark,” the title song from his 1976 album. The album was the first after he experienced a spiritual epiphany and became a “born again” Christian which led him to explore his faith through his compositions.

Keeping the twelve string Bruce began “Stolen Land” and played an amazing solo that the audience went nuts over clapping enthusiastically. After changing back to the six-string guitar he said “here’s another really old song that pre-dates the fifty years. It came from the 1960’s which he called mystical times and then stated that “the 1950’s sucked but had good music with Little Richard and Elvis.” “Let Us Go Laughing” appeared on “High Winds, White Sky” his second album released in 1971. It’s a gentle mellow song with an intricate guitar solo followed by an up-tempo conclusion.

“Wondering Where the Lions Are” from Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws drew enthusiastic cheers and clapping as Bruce began one of his most popular songs. The crowd sang along in a call and response on the chorus singing the second verse to his lead. Cockburn told the crowd “you sound beautiful when you sing.” The last song of the set was “If a Tree Falls” from his 1988 album, Big Circumstance. The song is an up-tempo guitar driven excursion into an ecological view of the earth that ended to thunderous applause and screaming as Bruce left the stage.

The crowd’s enthusiasm brought Cockburn back out with two other people. After picking up his twelve-string guitar he introduced Inger Nova Jorgensen on vocals and Jeff Pevar on resonator guitar and vocals. “Five Fifty-One” from 2011’s Small Source of Comfort had Cockburn and Pevar exchanging licks and all three singing in harmony.

“Middle of the night cops come knocking on my door
Still don’t know what my neighbor went and called them for.”

The night concluded with another song from the upcoming album called “Into the Now.” When the trio concluded and took a final bow, they ended the two-hour performance that met the audience’s expectations.

Review with more photos

If you’re looking for more gig reports, setlists & photos be sure to check out the


JUNE 6, 2022
Players: Bruce Cockburn – vocals, guitar, dulcimer, percussion

Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist and distinguished humanitarian Bruce Cockburn did not disappoint at the San Luis Obispo stop of his COVID-postponed 50th Anniversary tour. Arriving on stage to a standing ovation of passionate fans, the 77-year-old delivered an impeccable two-hour show that included favorites from his more than 25 studio albums, as well as songs from his forthcoming record, some of which were released online during the lockdown.

Bruce Cockburn 8May2022 San Luis Obispo photo Jackson Beenham

The evening included ethereal guitar work, traditional folk sounds, and elements of rock and blues, opening with 2019’s “Sweetness and Light,” a gentle, captivating instrumental that highlighted Cockburn’s gracious, unassuming persona. Shifting to his trademark poetic stories of deep unconditional love and humanitarianism, he followed up with “When You Give It Away” –with poetic lyrics including “time goes fast, but learning goes slow”—and “Tropic Moon,” inspired by the Salvadorian guerilla movement of the 1980s, highlighted by the phrase “should be a cry of love, but it’s a cry of fright.”

The lilting, bluesy roots jam “Café Society” poked fun at the ritual gossipy morning cup of joe, while “Pacing The Cage” delivered a gentle lullaby feel with amazing loving energy. A true showman, Cockburn added in wind chimes (kicking them as he strummed the guitar and sang) on “States I’m In,” and delivered gorgeous vocals on “Last Night of the World” with the hook “If this were the last night of the world, what would I do? What would I do that was different? –unless it was champagne with you.”

Says Cockburn, “The songs don’t really come alive until you play them for people, so the recording studio is a sort of compromise in that regard. I like being in the studio. It’s fun. It’s like putting a puzzle together or something, but it’s a very different kind of experience than performing a song in front of a bunch of people. That’s when the songs really assume their proper life.”

After over an hour, Cockburn took a short intermission, continuing on with eastern-influenced, “Stolen Land,” his lament for the theft of land and racism experienced by the First Nations, dramatized by falsetto vocals in unison with the chorus guitar lines. He remained unflappable as someone shouted out that the crowd in the room was on stolen land, pausing only to briefly highlight, wryly, that it was a fact across the country, except for the City of Manhattan, which was “purchased.” “In The Falling Dark” brought heavy-strummed tones that resolved with gentle, melodic lines like “smoke on the breeze, eyes that sting.” Cockburn, like fellow Canadian musician-songwriter peers Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen—and Bob Dylan, born just across the border—is a poet.

In his second set, Cockburn introduced new song, “Into The Now” (written during his stay in Maui in July 2001), that includes the lyrics, “love trickles down like honey from God,” and played the dulcimer for “Arrows of Light,” before engaging the crowd in a rousing call-and-response rendition of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” sparking a beautiful communal moment. Cockburn’s incredible falsetto and breath control reminded the audience of the strength and power of love in any circumstance with “Lovers In A Dangerous Time,” and his closing song, “If A Tree Falls,” an anthem about human destruction of the natural environment, delivered with breathtaking guitar work and vocals, was absolutely stunning.

Clearly in his element on the stage, Cockburn returned for a three-song encore, donning his dobro, and adding more wind chimes and fabulous echoplex pedal work with eloquent delays on “The End of All Rivers.” He followed the moving instrumental soundscape with his straight-up old school blues tune, “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long.”

Focusing on writing and recording during lockdown brought forth ten new songs, four of them released on YouTube last year as a means of sharing them with fans. Cockburn performed two pieces from the “Four New Songs” collection, including “Orders”—with its haunting guitar refrain and magnetic, soothing storytelling that held the crowd captive—and “Us All,” the latter closing the evening’s encore with patient, masterly delivery. “I didn’t want to wait,” said Cockburn, “because a couple of those songs seem pertinent to the current situation, so I wanted to get them out there in the world before we were able to go in and do a whole album.”

Throughout the evening, Cockburn (pronounced co-burn) engaged the audience with dry comedic wit between pure, beautiful guitar playing, layered with his indelible observations and experience of the world. Cockburn is committed to the idea of creating some sort of common space through the magic of music, rather than perpetuating narratives of divisive conviction. The truth of his words is poignant and meaningful, while his grounded, easy presence and the performance itself create a safe, healing space. Being back on the road is what it is all about for him. “Doing something that we weren’t able to do for so long, that sense of joyous relief, is characteristic of all the shows,” he says.

Bruce Cockburn 8May2022 San Luis Obispo photo Jackson Beenham

While many musicians have paid homage to his brilliant writing—including The Barenaked Ladies, Judy Collins, Jimmy Buffett, The Jerry Garcia Band, and Steve Bell—Cockburn says that a couple of interpretations of his music stand out. The first is that of Jimmy Buffet. “[He] really went out of his way to do them in the way they were intended to be,” says Cockburn. The second is that of Michael Occhipinti, a jazz guitarist from Toronto, who took the time to deconstruct Cockburn’s writing and rework it as a jazz album. “It’s a beautiful record,” Cockburn says.

When asked about his thoughts on the current state of music, Cockburn shared that he feels we are in for some new sounds. “Every now and then, when you reach that point where the basic sound of pop music becomes the basic sound of commercials, It’s ripe for some new thing to come along and the window is down for about five minutes. Some really great stuff will show up, and then the windows start to close again because it’ll get refined and they’ll figure out how to package it.”

Cockburn’s new album is anticipated in early 2023.


2nd Attempt 50th Anniversary tour in photos

It’s a second attempt at the 50th anniversary tour for Bruce, who recently released a 34th album, Greatest Hits (1970-2020), because his first tour attempt in late 2020 was derailed by the pandemic.

At age 76, he just completed 27 concerts in 13 states on his 50th Anniversary Concert Tour 2nd Attempt and is scheduled to resume the tour with 19 concerts in the next two months in various western states and Canada.

Here are just a few photo highlights from the first part of the tour.

  • Bruce Cockburn 8dec2021 Santa Cruz - photo Tom Skeele
    Stage Santa Cruz 8dec21- photo Tom Skeele
Bruce Cockburn 17dec21 Portland - photo Lisa Morrison
Bruce Cockburn 17dec21 Portland – photo Lisa Morrison
  • Bruce Cockburn 12dec21 Eugene - photo Daniel Keebler
    Bruce Cockburn 12dec21 Eugene - photo Daniel Keebler

The shows have been fantastic with a wide spread of songs through the years.
Get your tickets now for the spring-summer shows – Tour Dates.

Tour Dates re-booked

Hello everyone,
So as most of you would have figured out by now all of the late April through May shows have been cancelled. [Due to COVID-19] — That’s the bad news but the good news is that most those same shows have been re-booked for late October and November. Take a look and you’ll see the new schedule.

Those of you that have tickets for any of the shows listed here will be able to use those tickets for the upcoming shows however if you can’t come to the new date or have any other questions, just get in touch with your local contact where you bought your ticket and you’ll get a refund or answers to your questions.

We’re sorry that we weren’t able to re-book all of the shows but will be trying very hard to get back to those places we’ll be missing as soon as possible. Often the reason that we couldn’t get back to each place was due to venue availability or routing problems. The important thing is that we all stay healthy and well and with luck we’ll see you in the fall. ~Bernie Finkelstein

Bruce Cockburn Announces North American Tour

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone - tour dates

Bruce Cockburn Is embarking on a tour of North America.

All of the dates from September 15, 2017 to February 17, 2018 will be “band” shows and all the dates before September will be “solo” shows.

Bruce’s band shows will consist of a quartette with drummer Gary Craig, bassist John Dymond and accordionist John Aaron Cockburn.

All 3 or them are featured on Bruce’s new True North album ‘Bone On Bone” slated for release September 15, 2017.

And for the record, John Aaron is Bruce’s nephew.

There are likely to be other dates added after February 2018.

Access the Tour Dates.

New Tour Dates and New Album Info

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone tour dates
New tour with band starting in November 2017

Bruce will start touring in the eastern U.S. in November 2017, in support of his yet to be released new album Bone On Bone. Released date is set for 15 September 2017. He will tour in Canada in September 2017 and in the U.S. and Canada in January/February 2018. This tour will be a band tour and details of that will be coming along shortly.

Bruce will be part of Song For All Beings

Song For All Beings 2017

Song for All Beings 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
7:30 PM
Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
San Rafael, CA
$95, $76, $49

a new show has been added:

Song for All Beings 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
1:30 PM
Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
San Rafael, CA
$95, $76, $49

A Dazzling, Huge-Hearted Cirque d’Spirit
Join 100 performers and 2,000 friends in a ceremonial concert.

A communal celebration of gratitude and one-world activism, Song For All Beings is a seamless collaboration woven by scores of musicians, dancers, and storytellers. The high-level performances spring from many spiritual and cultural traditions, creating a ceremonial concert that unfolds on stage and in the audience over the course of the evening—and long afterwards.

With Jennifer Berezan, Jack Kornfield, Patti Cathcart(from Tuck and Patti), Joanna Macy, Rhiannon, Anam Thubten Rinpoche, Raz Kennedy, Melanie Demore, Gina Breedlove, Chris Webster, Vicki Noble, Kiva Simova, Sovoso, Rita Sahai, Dance Brigade, Damond Moodie, Bouchaib Abdelhadi, Naomi Newman, Nina Wise, Luisah Teish, Sarah Dugas, Christian Dugas, Rocio Mendoza, Jami Sieber, Barbara Higbie, Julie Wolf, Barbara Borden, Carolyn Brandy, Afia Walking Tree, Michaelle Goerlitz, Children’s Chorus and many more.
With special guest Bruce Cockburn.

“MAGNIFICENT in every imaginable way. It was the most moving, heartfelt, and extraordinary concert we’ve experienced in a decade! ”
Ken Dychtwald,
Author of Bodymind

For more information and to view video:

Produced and directed by Jennifer Berezan

Receive premium seats by becoming a patron. Information at:

This will be filmed.