Burton Cummings wanted the audience to feel like they were sitting in a living room listening to a friend play some tunes on the piano.
The only difference was this friend was belting out his wall-full of golden hits and Canadian classics to a sold-out audience at The Bailey Monday night in Trail.
The 69-year-old Winnipeg native was playing the final show of his Up Close and Alone tour that took him through the prairies to Vancouver Island and winding its way through the Interior with the finale in Trail.
Opening with his touching rendition of “You Saved my Soul,” Cummings went on to peruse his incredible catalogue of hits mixed in with a blend of humour and humility that conjured up images of a young Winnipeg boy who loved music, his mother and his country.
He also paused before almost every song to offer a glimpse behind the creative energy involved and how they resonated with friends, family and fans.
He turned to the Guess Who hit “Sour Suite,” which was “number-one on the radio in Winnipeg,” Cummings recounted proudly. He reminisced about being a teenager at his mother’s house when he and Guess Who band-mate Randy Bachman sowed the seeds for the co-joined hit “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” which was a melding of two songs written individually by Cummings and Bachman.
Recalling an emotional break-up and sitting alone “boo-hooing over the piano” in his big, new Winnipeg house, set the scene for another golden hit “Stand Tall.”
Cummings also sprinkled plenty of humour with his performance doing a near bang-on Gordon Lightfoot impersonation while playing Rod Stewart’s classic “Maggie May.”
All alone on stage for his two-hour show, he belted out hit after hit showing little signs of fatigue or erosion of the keyboard skills that took him to the pinnacle of his profession over a five-decade journey.
And getting there was part of the process. He explained the pressure to follow-up on the Guess Who’s first gold album and the fear the band would be a one-hit wonder. That was put to rest when the band collected its second gold record for “Laughing” which was presented to them by music icon Dick Clark on the American Bandstand show.
He paid tribute to some of his big influences with Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” and the Platters’ hit “Smoke gets in your Eyes.” Cummings also gave a nod to iconic deejay Wolfman Jack who hosted the popular television show “Midnight Special,” which featured the Guess Who several times. And as if on cue he segued into “Clap for the Wolfman,” on the eve of Halloween.
But this night belonged to Burton and even though he joked that every song he performed was “special,” that wasn’t far from the truth as the audience was taken on a very special trip down memory lane.
He opened the night claiming he was “just an Irish old age pensioner at a Japanese piano.”
But his encore song of “Share the Land” and his sincere belief of how special Canada is to him, only further cemented his status as a truly Canadian-made superstar.
Notes: Victoria’s Jesse Roper opened for Cummings and his energetic and soulful guitar playing set the stage for yet another great musical night at the Charles Bailey Theatre. Next up in an incredible year of music in Trail are the Barenaked Ladies who will hit The Bailey on Nov. 7.