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Cummings takes stage for surprise performance

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Talk about midnight magic! Burton Cummings made a surprise appearance late last night at the Pony Corral Downtown, and rocked the house.

The former lead singer of the world-famous original Guess Who played the Burton Cummings Theatre Wednesday night, was clearly in a mood for more. Besides that, his Toronto backing band The Carpet Frogs were playing a scheduled gig at The Pony on St. Mary. Fronted by Nick Sinopoli, the Frogs were so tight, people were dancing freeform around the club when Burton arrived. The star, now in his '60s, slipped into The Pony quietly, and was quickly hustled into Peter Ginakes' office in the back,

Serious gossip started spreading late yesterday Cummings might drop by, so by the time he actually showed his face, there were hundreds of hopeful fans between 50 and 70 years old waiting, with lots of grey pony tails in evidence, and business types with pierced ears (but no more earrings). Grown women shouted "Burton, Burton!" when they spotted him in the hallway. Cummings looked like a regular North End guy in denim shirt and rumpled hair.

When he got onstage, he was grinning ear-to-ear at the crowd dancing, singing along, pumping arms. He and the band launched into a short list of classic standards from the '60s such as No Time Left For You, Sunshine of Your Love, For What's It's Worth, and Baby Come Back. They closed it out with The Rolling Stones' hit Last Time (with the crowd roaring, "I used to love her, but it's all over now!")

Backstage, Cummings was up and chatty, saying he was a little tired, but happy. He'd enjoyed a warm Winnipeg love-in the night before.

"I didn't get to sleep until about 11 in the morning; I was too wired! Then I finally slept for a few hours. When I woke up I went down in the basement parkade of the hotel and walked around for awhile just to get out. I don't like 20 below. I've been living in L.A. too long," he laughed.

Cummings did not play piano, but sang a 45-minute set with his band composed of lead singer Nick Sinopoli, Jess Jones (bass), Michael Zweig (guitar) Sean Fitzsimmons (drums) and guest guitarist Mike Hall, a rockin' Winnipeg-based soldier who played with them in Afghanistan.

When Cummings had sung himself out, and the sweat was running into his eyes, he quietly exited the back of the stage to huge applause and shouts of "More! More!" But the singer kept on going. The man was tired, and as he reminded everybody. "I'm turning 65 on New Year's Eve."

"We couldn't expect an encore after that!" smiled Ginakes.

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