Burton Cummings thanked his audience Tuesday for making him feel young again. His adoring fans who packed Kelowna Community Theatre no doubt expressed the same sentiment.
"You really melted the years away tonight," the nearly-70-year-old celebrated artist said as his two-hour Up Close and Alone performance wound down. "Time moves much quicker when you get older. I've done 10 shows now. And I've been on the radio for 50 years, which is absolutely remarkable."
His latest solo tour could have been subtitled His Greatest Hits or A Walk Down Memory Lane since it was jam-packed with numerous hits by the Guess Who and from his solo career, interspersed with stories behind his best-known songs.
When he released his first live solo album, Massey Hall, recorded at the famous Toronto venue, Burton commented: “I still try my best to recreate the records just the way they sounded. I have no trouble with singing these songs the rest of my life.”
That approach was obvious on Tuesday. His voice cracked on a few of the more challenging runs but there was no denying his vocal prowess that has been rated among the finest in North American rock music.
Not only did he share personal moments from his career, but fans got to meet his family, especially his beloved mother, Rhoda, who escaped an abusive relationship from an alcoholic husband when Cummings was a year old.
He paid tribute to her with her favourite song, I'm Scared, from his first solo album, Burton Cummings, in 1976. From that landmark album, he also performed the hits, Stand Tall, his greatest American solo hit, peaking at no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary Chart; and I Will Play a Rhapsody, which peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart.
He joked about lugging piano books home to practice classical music while his youthful friends were playing hockey, baseball and kick the can in the street. "They are still in the street and I'm up here." To prove he did indeed have piano lessons, Cummings played a mash-up of classical numbers to sustained applause.
He also brought out a copy of his book of poetry published earlier this year. The Writings of B. L. Cummings almost immediately sold out with a second edition in the works. Cummings presented a copy to a woman seated in the front row, warning there is no table of contents or page numbers so it is "a bit different," but it is his attempt to revive old-style poetry, he said.
At the onset of his concert, he warned songs would be "bare-bones — more like they sounded at home before they became records."
Unlike the recent concert by Bob Dylan where photos and video recording were banned, Cummings welcomed them.
But he cautioned fans to take them early since he would — and he did — start sweating profusely.
Later, after he repeatedly wiped his face with a towel, he joked: "I hope you got your photos and videos. No beauty contest winner here. I'm probably the oldest person at my shows."
He also poked fun at Gordon Lightfoot (who will perform in Kelowna on Oct. 26) with "one of the silliest and stupidest things you will ever hear in your life."
Cummings asked his listeners to imagine if Lightfoot was inspired by his favourite singer, Rod Stewart. Cummings then used Lightfoot's characteristic singing style to sing the hit Maggie May. The result: sustained laughter and applause.
In another series of comedic moments, Cummings interrupted himself, pretending to be a high-pitched female fan at his earlier shows who complained Cummings introduced every song as "special, special, special."
He also claimed he almost moved to the Okanagan to escape frigid Winnipeg winters, but ultimately decided on California for his winter home.
Bottom line: Cummings proved once again that he is Canadian rock ‘n’ roll royalty, a national treasure and a living legend.
Long live the King.
Postscript: Canadian blues musician Jesse Roper from Victoria was roped into opening for Cummings at the last minute. His explosive musical performance showed why he has received rave reviews during three West Coast/Prairie tours, a dozen music festivals, three industry festivals, and dozens of headlining and support dates since 2015.