© Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong
Burton Cummings performs at his concert last Thursday in Charlottetown at the Celebration Zone located in Confederation Landing Park, part of the P.E.I. 2014 summer-long festival series.
As we’re now officially at the halfway point of the summer, even though it seems a sin to admit it, I would venture to say that you have by now at least heard of some of the events taking place at Confederation Landing in Charlottetown as part of the P.E.I. 2014 Celebration Zone.
Or perhaps you’ve been one of the thousands who have already been enjoying the attractions all at a fairly enticing price: free.
A buzzing hub of activity all summer long, the zone features daily entertainment and interactive displays, a lounge/culinary area, children’s activities, arts/heritage exhibits and free concerts every day by artists from across the country,including performances so far by Natalie MacMaster, the Barra MacNeils, Serena Ryder and Paul Brandt.
Last Thursday night, before a capacity crowd of 5,000 people (the biggest turnout yet at the zone), Canadian rock icon Burton Cummings took the stage as a roaring audience of all-ages, from toddlers through to seniors, welcomed him to Charlottetown.
Rocking out passionately and intensely at the piano right off the bat, belting out No Sugar Tonight to the excited crowd, Cummings and his tight five-piece backing band gave the thankful-to-be-dry outdoor spectators a little taste of what was in store for them on that cloudy evening that saw the day’s rain ease off in time for the show.
“We’re old school,” Cummings announced after the band brought its second song to a soaring finish. “No lasers or light shows,” he added, saying in a tongue-in-cheek manner that all we were hearing that night was done live, with no pre-recorded music mixed in —something “unheard of” nowadays, he smirked.
Cummings continued to keep his crowd engaged at every turn, with a voice that still rings out strongly and with a musical fire that clearly still burns powerfully, playing all the hits like Hand Me Down World, These Eyes, Stand Tall, Laughing, Clap for the Wolfman and My Own Way to Rock (definitely a highlight of the set).
“My goodness what a wonderful crowd tonight, thank you so much,” Cummings remarked near the end of the night, as he was clearly impressed by the crowd’s enthusiastic and appreciative spirit.
He even pointed out the Manitoba flag standing tall in front of him, and asked if that was a planned thing (apparently not knowing that it was, indeed, Manitoba Week last week at the Celebration Zone).
All in all, it was obvious what took place last Thursday night: a time of mutual appreciation as the audience thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed the still-rocking musical skills of Cummings and Cummings showed a real appreciation both for the history we are commemorating in 2014 and for the present-day spirit of the Island itself.
And, as I was happy to hear the next day, the rocking did not cease for Cummings when he left the Celebration Zone. A restaurant full of lucky people got to savour a late night appearance by Cummings as he hopped up on stage at Fishbones with local band More Soul.
A self-described “senior citizen” and yet still performing at the top of his game — let’s hope that Cummings keeps standing tall as his career continues unfolding in his own way to rock.
Free live music, performances and events will continue to take place in the Celebration Zone through until Sept. 7. This weekend is highlighted by Rose Cousins with special guests on Sunday evening, and next week will be British Colombia Week, featuring artists like Jill Barber and Matthew Good.
Visit www.pei2014.ca/celebrationzone for all the information, daily schedules and a chance to join in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the birthplace of Confederation.
Next week: It’s time for a Brackley Beach ceilidh.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
Todd’s weekend picks
1. Rock the Boat MusicFest - Tyne Valley, tomorrow, 2-10:45 p.m., featuring a concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival and the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. On stage will be Blue Rodeo, Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, Meaghan Blanchard, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys and Jimmy Rankin.
2. Welcome Home Fort Amherst 2014 Celebration - Rocky Point, tomorrow afternoon, featuring Lennie Gallant and more.
3. P.E.I. Highland Games and Scottish Festival Ceilidh in the Tent - Lord Selkirk Provincial Park, Belfast, Sunday from 1:30-4 p.m., with Eddy Quinn, John B. Webster, Norman Stewart and many more.
4. Rose Cousins and special guests - Celebration Zone, Confederation Landing, Sunday, 6:30 p.m.