Gig review: Bruce Cockburn, Glasgow

Bruce Cockburn saved us his 'ain't life crap' back catalogue. Picture: Scott Gries/ImageDirect
Bruce Cockburn saved us his 'ain't life crap' back catalogue. Picture: Scott Gries/ImageDirect
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  • Bruce Cockburn - St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow
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Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn is a veteran voice at the barricades and an esteemed choice to kick off this year’s Glasgow Americana Festival.

If anything, the solo, acoustic format of this show threw his dexterous guitar playing into even more impressive relief than usual, his hypnotic mix of picking and strumming providing the backbone for his songs, with his own vocal rhythms woven into the fabric, creating mood music as much as protest song.

The two strands came together via the cascading chords of his environmental warning If A Tree Falls. Like the solidly scathing Call It Democracy, it was written almost 30 years ago but could have been composed yesterday.

Cockburn raised consciousness in other ways too, transporting the listener with ringing New Age chimes over strident strumming, using an ambient field recording of waves to enhance the mesmeric reverie of his playing and utilising the heavenly harp-like timbre of 12-string tenor guitar to tug at the soul as much as his beseeching voice.

The quaint but complex folk instrumental Sunrise on the Mississippi conjured up a sense of place, though he packed more of an emotional hit with The Whole Night Sky and generated a spontaneous call-and-response from the audience on Wondering Where the Lions Are.

Overall, this was a sober affair but, ever mindful of the mood, he decided not to end on one of his “ain’t life crap” songs, choosing to bow out with the more spiritually nourishing Mystery instead.

Seen on 6 October, 2015

The Glasgow Americana Festival runs until tomorrow (11 October).