On a chilly November night, Burton Cummings played to a packed room at Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center in Rockville, MD. Cummings noted that the show almost had to be cancelled due to Thursday’s snowstorm; the band’s travel plans had to change. Nonetheless, Cummings and his band took the stage and delivered a fantastic show.
The set opened on the smash hit “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature”. The song established Cummings’ dominating vocal presence and his ability to still sing as skillfully as ever. The hooks in the song were inevitable singalongs for the crowd.
Many stories were told in between songs, such as Cummings’ experiences performing on “The Midnight Special” in the 70s with The Guess Who. He spoke of his time getting to know Wolfman Jack, the legendary announcer and frequent guest on the show before playing “Clap for the Wolfman” as a tribute.
With many older artists who are no longer with their original band it can be a toss up as to how well their sound will mesh with another band lineup. Cummings’ legendary status would be enough to surpass any band backing him, but the musicians he has playing with him show their capability to exceed expectations. This makes even more sense after he mentioned the band has now been together for sixteen years.
The rendition of “Laughing” was incredibly soulful. Cummings recalled how music can move you, especially in movies; he mentioned that he saw the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and that he had tears in his eyes multiple times throughout the film. It was definitely my favorite song of the night.
Perhaps the most excitement from the crowd the entire night came when the band launched into another Guess Who hit: “Undun”. It was one of the many times Cummings joked about his former bandmate Randy Bachman. He quipped, “This was one of the only good songs Randy wrote.. well, without a co writer, anyway.”
The set also dove into some covers of songs that Cummings’ really liked, such as “Trouble in the City” (JJ Cale), “Mack the Knife”, “Baby, Come Back” (The Equals) and a heartfelt version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” which was his finest singing of the night, in my opinion. It’s clear he still has the vocal prowess and hits some impressive high notes.
The tail end of the show leaves you absolutely stunned as Cummings and his unbelievably versatile band blast through “American Woman”, “No Time” and encore on “Share the Land”. What’s so surprising at a concert of an artist who has written so many radio staples and influential songs is that some songs like “Sour Suite” don’t get played and you don’t even really notice.
This was my second show attended at Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts center and it’s an absolutely wonderful concert experience. So many people noted how easy it was to get to the venue and how intimate the show space is. The crowd was so engaged and Cummings expressed how grateful he was to have had so much support over the years.
“Jim Morrison is a drunken buffoon posing as a poet. Give me the Guess Who. They have the courage to BE drunken buffoons, which MAKES them poetic.” – Lester Bangs, “Almost Famous”