Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 22/9/2017 (975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An incredibly proud and nervous Burton Cummings took the stage Friday at the theatre that has a new sign that bears his name to the jubilation of his biggest fans.
But many times at the Burt, he took the capacity crowd to the North End, specifically the "hippie house" on Lansdowne Avenue where Cummings and company raised hell and created the soundtrack to so many Winnipeggers’ lives.
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Burton Cummings Theatre
Friday, Sept. 22
★★★★ 1/2 stars out of five
That house, for example was the place where Cummings invited the late Kurt Winter — "from the old band"; Guess Who’s band name is never uttered during the concert? — and where Winter taught him the chords to Hand Me Down World over a case of beer and a carton of Rothmans.
It was one of many stories the Winnipeg singer intertwined between hits from his 52-year recording career with "the old band" and his solo career. If you grew up in Winnipeg in the 1960s or ’70s — hell, anywhere in Canada — Cummings and company had a song for you.
Cummings took the stage and sat down behind his electric piano wearing a T-shirt from the Deverons — his first band that released his first record, way back in 1965. He played that song, Blue is the Night, Friday night. Yet another proud moment for the singer.
He can still play the barrelhouse style of keyboards, and the sweaty, 69-year-old’s voice was strong. He even had the audacity to take on Jerome Kern’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Bobby Darin’s Artificial Flowers while his five-piece band took a break. And he saved the big ballads like Stand Tall and Break it to Them Gently, for late in the show. He looked a bit ragged, but his voice was not.
It was a rock ‘n’ roll night, but it wasn’t all party time for Cummings. He showed his emotional side, recounting how his mother had the guts to pull him out of their home and an abusive father. After telling that story, he sang I’m Scared, which he said was his mother’s favourite.
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American Woman, which has one of rock’s most famous riffs, got the fans out of their comfy, renovated seats at the Burt near the end and Cummings even strapped on a Les Paul to play another classic, No Time before the encore.
He wound up with a short, breathless speech where Cummings expressed pride in his home country and "Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada," followed by the hippie anthem Share the Land, as proud a closer as you can ever imagine. Riveting stuff.
Friday’s night crowd was an eager one — the theatre was close to full before opening act JD Edwards took the stage. And the audience was rewarded with a genial and energetic set of roots rock from the Winnipegger, who included an amusing tale that involved another famous Winnipeg artist, Al Simmons.
Cummings plays the second of his two-show stand tonight, with up-and-coming Carman singer-songwriter Faouzia opening the festivities.
Alan Small Arts and Life Editor
Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.