The historic Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara celebrated its 150th anniversary with an exceptional performance on November 18th. Master songwriter Bruce Cockburn captivated the audience with a wide array of his hit songs, marking yet another remarkable event at this venue. The concert began with an exquisite opening act by Steve Postell, who showcased his multifaceted talents in singing, guitar playing, and songwriting. As a seasoned session musician familiar with the Lobero stage, Postell has performed there recently as part of the core band in a tribute concert to David Crosby, and with his long-standing band of fellow veteran session musicians, The Immediate Family. They are set to return to the Lobero after the New Year on February 14th. In his intimate solo set, Postell presented his songs with heartfelt introductions, offering a deeply personal touch to each piece. This set the stage perfectly for songwriting icon Bruce Cockburn. Postell, describing his relationship with Cockburn as both a friend and principal mentor, paved the way for the master to captivate the audience next.
As Bruce Cockburn's encore faded in the Lobero Theater, a profound sense of awe and respect permeated the air. The 78-year-old Canadian folk icon had just concluded a mesmerizing performance, defying both age and physical constraints, and demonstrating that true artistry transcends both time and circumstance.
Cockburn, taking center stage, presented a figure of quiet resilience; his lean frame bent over his guitar, with a leg thoughtfully propped on a suitcase for support. His experienced hands moved with precision across the guitar strings, eliciting both delicate and powerful melodies. Despite any physical challenges, Cockburn's spirit shone brilliantly. His voice, rich and full-bodied, carried the wisdom and depth that comes with years of life and musical experience.
His setlist was a masterful blend of beloved classics and fresh compositions, showcasing a career that spans over five decades. He opened with several tracks from his latest album, "O Sun O Moon," each song standing as a testament to his undiminished songwriting skill. These compositions, rich in poetic imagery and captivating melodies, highlighted Cockburn's enduring talent as a musician and storyteller.
As the evening unfolded, Bruce Cockburn journeyed through his extensive back catalog, breathing new life into some of his most cherished songs. Classics like "Wondering Where the Lions Are," "Going to the Country," and "Stolen Land" resonated through the theater. The audience, visibly moved, sang along with gusto, their voices blending with Cockburn's in a harmonious tapestry of shared nostalgia and emotion.
Cockburn's interactions with the audience were as enriching as his musical performances. His stage banter revealed the depth of his intellect and commitment to social causes. He spoke with eloquence about his activism, skillfully weaving the themes of his music with his dedication to social justice. Additionally, Cockburn's personal stories added a layer of intimacy to the evening, offering the audience a window into his life experiences and the creative forces driving his artistry.
In a moment of profound poignancy, Bruce Cockburn performed "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," a song that has deeply resonated with audiences for decades. His movements, slow and deliberate, especially while playing the hammer dulcimer, reflected his physical constraints. Despite this, Cockburn's voice soared magnificently, imbued with the enduring passion and conviction that have always been hallmarks of his performances. The contrast between his careful instrumentals and the powerful surge of his vocals created a deeply moving experience, illustrating the timeless impact of his music.
For the encore, Bruce Cockburn welcomed Steve Postell, his opening act, back to the stage. Together, they performed a selection of songs, their voices merging in a harmonious and inviting blend. This collaboration created a warm, engaging atmosphere, captivating the audience. The response was overwhelming, as the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, deeply moved by the performance.
As the final notes dissipated, a wave of gratitude swept through the audience. They had just experienced the artistry of a true musical legend – a man whose spirit and talent have remained untouched by the passage of time. Bruce Cockburn's concert served as a poignant reminder that true artistry is eternal, able to overcome physical barriers and resonate deeply with the human spirit.