The Michigan Daily
Tuesday, April 2, 1985
Cockburn: The cult hero breaks loose
B Byron L. Bull
EARLY INTO his opening set of
Sunday night's show at the
Michigan Theater, Bruce Cockburn.
prefaced a song called "Maybe The
Poet" with the wry observation, "The
ones with the most to say are usually
the least heard." It's a comment that
applies to Cockburn himself, who cer-
tainly had no trouble almost filling the
hall with a responsive, attentive crowd,
but who should by all rights be packing
arenas the way Springsteen or U2 does.
But if Sunday nights' bright, com-
pelling performance was indicative of
the rest of Cockburn's American tour,
his following should begin swelling far
beyond its ardent cult-status.
Though initially a folk songwriter,
Cockburn's recent work has taken him
into considerably more adventurous
ground, with singular, often stunning
style of arrangements that mixes
elements of jazz and hard rock into im-
pressionistic swirls of melody and
rhythm that also seamlessly incor-
porates touches of traditional African,
Carribean, and Oriental music. It's
old, vitally alive music that's sur-
pr'isngly closer to the kind of work
Peter Gabriel and David Byrne have
been doing than anything remotely
One of the advantages an artist with a
cult following has is that he doesn't
have to worry about pleasing a large
number of marginals in the audience,
people familiar only with the standards
or hits, so Cockburn freely concen-
trated on his new material, without
even playing his one genuine hit,
"Wondering Where The Dragons Are"..
Instead he focused on the more
aggressive new material, the darkly
romantic "Lovers In A Dangerous
Time", or the fiercely embittered "The
Trouble With Normal," songs with a
strangely affecting sense of anxiety and
Cockburn was backed up by a quartet
consisting of Fergus March (bass and
stick), Hugh Marsh (keyboards and
electric violin), Mische Pouliot
(drums), and Chris Sharpe (per-
cussion), a well integrated ensemble of
very talented musicians who never let
their proficiency overshadow their in-
stinct for raw, passionate playing.
While many of the pieces featured ex-
tended jazz-like solos and jams, they
were executed with a sensitivity to the
needs of the song, and never to self in-
Cockburn, perhaps one of the finest,
most versatile guitarist working in
popular music on this continent, showed.
wise restraint in emphasizing delicate
shading over technical bravado.
Probably the evenings finest moment
was an improvisational duet between
Cockburn and Sharpe during a version
of "Creation Dream" wherein Sharpe
stood beside him, slapping out tribal
rhythms on a small leg-straddled drum
which Cockburn counterpointed with a
beautiful lyrical Spanish melody, to
Politics and art make lousy bed-
fellows, and political overtones are
something Cockburn has had tricky
success with, though he's been known to
mar performances with excessive
dialogue on the subject. But this time he
conscientiously skirted the subject,
save for one grim rumination on the
genesis of a song that was inspired by a
sanctuary camp in Southern Mexico
where Guatemalan attack helicopters
frequently ventured across the border
to make strafing runs on the starving
refugees, at which point he launched in-
to a furiously terse version of "If I Had
A Rocket Launcher", which must cer-
tainly be this year's most powerful and
Cockburn proved a good natured,
gracious performer, though there was a
problem in that the Michigan's caver-
nous orchestra pit distanced him from
the audience, and the band was,
strangely, placed far to the back of the
stage, leaving him quite alone on cen-
terstage. As relaxed a performer as he
is, Cockburn still lacks the dynamic
presence, the theatrical sensibility to
completely shoulder the weight of so
much focused attention. He's unpreten-
tious and unassuming to a fault, and the
rich, dark timbre of his voice was
sometimes obscured by the overam-
plification of the band, particularly on
Cockburn's more wordy verses.
The audience was respectful and
though a bit reticent in their initial
response, they quickly warmed up,
and by the final set of encores, joyful
celebratory versions of "Making Con-
tact" and "Put Our Hearts Together",
were lavishing the band with
tumultuous applause. The "hip" crowd
may have been at the Blind Pig last
Wednesday savoring yet another
Southern second-hand-store-clad band
go through the predictable "quirky"
variations on the R.E.M.-dB's sound,
but the real show was uptown, and-if
you missed it, your really blew it.
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Daily Photo by DAN HABIB
Bruce Cockburn, a guitarist extraordinaire who utilizes his instrument as
far more than just a stage prop, filled the Michigan Theatre with his stirring,
stylized brand of rock last Sunday night.
Jazz and American blase
By arwulf arwulf
HE ALTO saxophone writhes and
Tsqueals, complex configurations
afrming in the air as fast as thought.
The drummer washes the surface of the
ropment with tempestuous, thrashing
thunder. The bass, nearly over-
shadowed by this commotion, runs
rampant, the bubbles of sound curling
upside the chord changes.
;There's three men, playing and it
sound like six. This is Jazz heard live.
It's the highest form of self-expression
kinown to us. Ideas, emotions and
Whirling puffs of wonderment come at
you often faster than you can take them
in. It's a string of miracles and it's
almost always best caught live.
This music has been with us more
than eighty years, and still we call it
Jazz. The word "Jazz", in the stylized
lingo of the turn of the century, meant
screwing. Like Hey I Jazzed Yer Sister
I4st Night. Jazz, from verb to noun.
Not at all a nice thing to call such
... former Detroit jazz artist
as many Jazz musicians living here as
we do. many have left, and some will
never bother setting foot in this haven
of indifference ever again.
Johnny Griffin, the great Chicago
Tenor Saxophonist, has a farm in Fran-
ce, not far from Antibes, where they
hold Jazz Festivals without the aid of
Tobacco Corporations. The biggest gig
in the world today for jazz musicians is
the Montreux Festival. Alpine welcome
for expatriate brilliance.
Coltrane visted Japan in 1966, prayed
at the Hiroshima monument. The
Japanese still honor him like a saint.
And they've reissued almost every
record he ever made. Trane sells here,
too, but not like he used to.
Then there's Africa, a logical place
for a Black American Musician to visit.
Randy Weston went there and stayed.
He returns once in a while, but Morocco
has been good to him and America has
never recognized him sufficiently.
Yusef Lateef is currently residing in
Nigeria, and his recent LP on Lan-
dmark records, Yusef Lateef in
Nigeria, has about nine Africans
working vividly alongside Yusef, who
came up playing hard bop tenor in
Detroit. He worked with Charles
Mingus and Cannonball Adderly, and
poineered the use of unusual and ethnic
instrumentation in Jazz. I first saw him
at the 1973 Ann Artbor Blues & Jazz
Festival. You remember that, don't
you? That's the festival that was
banished by a republican majority on
City Council. We Americans love our
own music and reward it the highest
Yusef Lateef is alive and well in-
Nigeria. You can go ahead and buy
his latest album. It's on an
American label. Buy American.
And listen to those Americans, as
they find other countries to work in.
ARE A GREAT
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noble, honest proceedings. Negative
connotations swarm thickly in our
racist popular culture. The way we
treat this music is shamefully out of
step with what many of us would like to
believe is the enlightened modernity of
But it's always been kicked around,
and anyone who's been in love with this
Ousic long enough to follow th lives of
the musicians knows that there's been
American Jazz Musicians in Europe,
living thee, making good money, since
the 1920's. Japan, nowadays, has
become the Jazz marketing center of
the world, with Europe a close second
and America, the birthplace of this
music, trailing third.
Still, driving my Ford Pinto around
this suburb of the. Motor City, I see the
pnashing pride of the Americans in
their hometowns; BUY AMERICAN.
Lots of screaming about imports. It's so
great to buy American.
But this America has turned its back
on a massive music market, and
America emits some of the worst
popular music available in the world
today. If it isn't televised, why, the