There has never been another voice quite like his ...
And when you strip it down to just that voice ... that incredible voice ... accompanied only by his own piano ... it resonates with every nuance and tone ... and it's nothing short of a powerful experience ... both dramatic and dynamic ... you literally FEEL every word ... every note ... in a crystal-clear clarity that just blows you away.
Such was Burton Cummings last week in two sold out shows at The City Winery ... just Burt and his piano ... Up Close and Alone ... and it was spectacular.
As you know, we had the pleasure of interviewing Burton last year just before his big show at The Arcada Theatre ...
Click here: Forgotten Hits - bc
Click here: Forgotten Hits: Burton Cummings Concert Review
And both of these were incredible experiences for this life-long fan.
But last week's shows were different ... without the band, there were limitations as to what he could and could not perform faithfully. (He joked about not being able to do justice to "American Woman" without all the guitars that drive the song ... but then did a very cool version of "No Time" by featuring only "Burton's parts" ... meaning that with all of the background vocals missing there was no "no time left for you" but only Burton's response "on my way to better things" ... the whole experience was a whole lotta fun.)
It also gave him a chance to do some things he doesn't typically do in concert with the full band ... softer, mellower stuff like "Sour Suite", a minor US Hit (#41) in 1972 that was a Top Ten Smash back home in Canada ... and several LP tracks including my all-time favorite, "Dream Of A Child", which closed the show. Some worked better than others ... "Clap For The Wolfman" was just as entertaining performed as a solo piece as it was when we saw him perform it with The Carpet Frogs (aka The Burton Cummings Band) last November ... "Hand Me Down World" not so much ... and "Glamour Boy" (another personal favorite) fell somewhere in between. As Burton explained, being up there solo he had access to much more material to choose from than he would have at a typical full rock band concert as the band didn't know all of his songs ... but he did ... and, as such, he was able to handle an obscure request here and there. (This apparently occurred more on Wednesday Night than it did on Thursday ... Thursday we were treated to several songs added to the set list the night before ... because he'd now had the chance to practice them!!! lol)
Along the way, we were also treated to a few surprises ... two songs by Bobby Darin, one of his ... and my ... all-time favorite performers ... (Burton gave us his readings of "Mack The Knife" and "Clementine") ... "Ferry 'Cross The Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers ... the Georgie Fame version of "I'm In The Mood For Love" as well as his ALWAYS hysterical reading "If Rod Stewart Were Gordon Lightfoot's Favorite Singer" routine where he performs Stewart's "Maggie May" in a letter-perfect, booming Gordon Lightfoot voice.
Burton is a very entertaining and personable performer. He stated up front that he wanted the show to feel like having a bunch of friends over to his home while he entertained them in his living room and that's exactly the way it came off ... assuming your house guests typically give you a standing ovation six or seven times during the course of an evening! (lol) The stories and banter between songs kept things moving in a most-entertaining and endearing way ... and Burton waxed somewhat melancholy / nostalgic on several occasions when he reflected back to just what the City of Chicago meant to him. (The Guess Who recorded the majority of their early hits here at RCA's studios on Wacker Drive downtown, a recurring theme that wasn't lost on his audience both nights.) After seeing him twice now in the past six months (and spending a fair amount of time with him on the phone, corresponding via email and visiting back stage), I can assure you that these feelings are most sincere. Cummings is truly humbled by the fact that, at age 66, he's still able to do this and emotionally touch an audience ... his music is still regularly featured on the radio some 40+ years later ... and he can still sell out venues wherever he goes. He feels genuinely flattered to have been fortunate enough to carve out a career doing exactly what he loves doing and being the guy who got to either write, sing, perform and / or produce all of these great songs. In fact, he told us that if crowds like this keep coming to see him play and sing, he could see himself doing this another 10-15 years. (If he is able to stay in the fine voice and health that he's in today, this shouldn't be a problem ... Burton clearly comes off 20 - 25 years younger than he is ... and still sings every song in its original key and with all of the necessary afflictions.)
Afterwards I heard a few guys talking in the men's washroom about how moved they were by the whole show ... two admitting that on more than one occasion Burton brought these "grown men to tears" with his performance. These songs touched us ... and continue to evoke this type of response all these years later ... and when performed by the guy who brought them to us ... in such a personal way ... it truly is magical how this whole experience can make you feel.
Burton Cummings returns to the Chicagoland area for an encore performance at The Arcada Theatre (with the full band) in November ... November 14th to be exact. Get your tickets now as this show will most certainly sell out. Don't miss an opportunity to see one of the all-time greats doing exactly what he does best.