Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

July 10, 2011

Cummings & fans had synergy

LOCKPORT — These eyes have seen a lot of Lockport concerts, but they’ve never seen the love that Burton Cummings had for Lockport. The former leader of The Guess Who and voice behind all of the band’s hits had an infectious enthusiasm that was matched by an appreciative Lockport audience.

It was quite a treat to watch, and even though I had read the reviews that said Cummings was at the top of his game, and even after he told me himself a couple of weeks ago his band was “on fire,” I wasn’t prepared for how good the 63-year-old singer’s performance would be.

When Cummings strolled onstage shortly before 9 p.m. and sang the opening notes of “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” the crowd roared its approval. He sounded great and with his reputation probably could have easily gone through the motions and the crowd would have been pleased. Nevertheless, as the night progressed it became obvious that Cummings just plain loves what he does and he just got better and better.

Throughout the show, Cummings took shots at what he called the “fake band” currently billing itself as The Guess Who. In many ways, it was refreshing to see an artist acknowledge that names, songs and legacies are important. A band touring under The Guess Who moniker indirectly puts money in his pocket, but it’s obvious that the songs Cummings wrote are more important to him than the royalty check associated with them.

It was also obvious that the songs are important to a lot of people, as there was a huge crowd that made Cummings say, “I didn’t believe it when somebody told me on Facebook that the crowd would be this big. It really means a lot to us.”

That was how it went all night, Cummings must have toasted, thanked and blessed the Lockport crowd at least a dozen times, and it was clear that Cummings loves his fans and they love him back. There was a synergy between performer and audience that was unlike anything I have seen in a long time. Maybe it was a sixties thing, but whatever it was, I really enjoyed it.

There were lots of musical highlights, but Cummings constructed the set in a way that made “American Woman” the pinnacle of the performance. He had set the stage by playing great versions of The Guess Who classics like “Clap for the Wolfman” and “These Eyes.” When he finally played the extended version of “American Woman” the energy in the venue was powerful, with fists punching the air wildly.

Even after “American Woman,” there was still a lot left in the tank, and the band delivered a blazing version of “No Time” before exiting the stage to riotous applause.

The big surprise of the night came when the band returned for the encore. It was “Louie Louie,” a song that everybody knows and loves, but not many bands play live anymore. It was brilliant and the crowd loved it and danced like they were at their cousin’s wedding reception.

The night closed with “Share the Land,” and Cummings and his backing band, The Carpet Frogs, led the crowd in a wave of hands that was fun to watch. It was a wonderful ending to a great evening of music.

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