The Canadian singer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn is one of the few politically outspoken musicians to emerge since the protest era of the early '60s as a commercially viable recording artist. Of course, whether you view Cockburn's songs as courageous and insightful or merely the ramblings of a misguided leftist will depend, to a large degree, on your own political stance. Nonetheless, there was no denying Cockburn's passion and sincerity at the Wax Museum Sunday night.
Having recently returned from Latin America, Cockburn sang frequently of the political turmoil in that area. "Nicaragua" and "Rocket Launcher," songs charged with graphic images, addressed the horrors of war and chronicled human rights violations with unmistakable conviction. While Cockburn's messages were blunt and unforgiving at times, his music often possessed an infectious Latin beat, especially when bolstered by the multifaceted percussion of Chi Sharpe.
Cockburn also demonstrated remarkable skill as a guitarist. Playing finger style on both acoustic and electric guitars, he laced his nearly 2 1/2-hour show with long, imaginative solos. His playing was melodic, yet it carried a biting tone when necessary -- a tone that often contrasted sharply with the bright, appealing rock arrangements played by his excellent quartet.