041088 Burton Cummings and McLean & McLean, Moncton, NB

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There’s a chance that April 10th, 1988 was the strangest night of live entertainment I’ve seen.  Well, there was this one Look People concert at Zaphod’s that included a tray of jumbo shrimp and a couple of ice cream cones, and a very weird Yoko Ono set in Oslo that probably have this show beat but as far as odd pairings that really shouldn’t have happened (and ones that most don’t believe actually did happen, no matter how earnestly I tell them), Burton Cummings teaming up with potty-mouthed comedy duo McLean & McLean at a Moncton dance bar called Club Cosmopolitan probably takes the cake.

The show started with the peak of weirdness, when vocalist/keyboardist/Canrock superstar Burton Cummings emerged from backstage (AKA the hallway to the bathrooms) aside both the McLeans and the three of them performed a short set of cuss-filled stand-up comedy together.  It was like watching a bad episode of SCTV or something, this bucktoothed music geek trying to be funny while the two fast-paced comedians did their best to wedge him into their act.

And to add to the odd, the small crowd that had shelled out ten bucks for the experience stood in a semi-circle just a few feet away from the unlikely trio, staring point-blank and emitting only the most occasional shy guffaws from behind their pricey cocktails (and stubbies of Alpine beer).

Eventually Burton Cummings returned to his dressing-latrine backstage and left McLean & McLean alone to commit their set for forty-five minutes or so.  Back in the day almost every household in Moncton contained one or two of their comedy albums so the material was familiar and appreciated, though like all good jokes I can’t remember any they told off the top of my head all these years later.

When they hit their biggest laugh the brothers left the stage and Cummings replaced them, filling his required forty-five minutes accompanying himself with his cutting-edge Yamaha DX7 keyboard.  At the time I was quite astounded just to be in the same room with such an astoundingly modern piece of musical equipment.  

Really.  

I stood just a few feet away from Burton as he performed a string of unforgettable hits and I couldn’t take my eyes off of his DX7 with it’s fancy pitch wheel and all of those mysterious buttons and flashing lights.  Break It To Them Gently, These Eyes, American Woman; you’ve got to admit the dude has some seriously legendary songs (and there I was making eyes – virtually flirting – with his keyboard).

Which makes it all the more surreal that he had to stoop to signing on for such a backwoods, mismatched tour as this (and split a ten dollar cover charge three ways besides).  But amazingly he did, and the show closed where it started, with all three men onstage together trying to amuse a crowd of deer-in-the-headlights Monctonians that couldn’t hardly believe what they are seeing.   It was differnt, I tells ya. 

I swear, all of this is true. 

(I guess I should add that I have no idea why the names are crossed out with a marker, but that’s what the ticket looked like when I bought it at the door.  Maybe Burton Cummings was so embarrassed by the tour that he spent an hour in every town meticulously crossing the billing off of the tickets before the show.  I suppose it’s possible that it was the McLeans that were doing it.  Certainly there were reasons for everyone involved to feel embarrassed.)

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