Home World Cowboy Junkies thrill fans at Bimbo’s concert in San Francisco

Cowboy Junkies thrill fans at Bimbo’s concert in San Francisco

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You get great vocal work, terrific guitar playing, gorgeous lyrics and so much more at a Cowboy Junkies show. Oh, but there’s one thing you don’t get when you attend a concert by this Canadian rock-folk-country-blues act:

“You don’t get happy,” vocalist Margo Timmins told the sold-out crowd at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco on Sunday (June 9). “In 40 years, I think we’ve written two happy songs.”

Timmins did not elaborate and provide the name of those two titles, but one would most definitely be “Anniversary Song,” a tune that newlyweds with impeccable taste have long turned to as a first dance number. And the second would be — um — well, you’ve got me there.

Whatever it may be, the point is that the Junkies stayed true their word and certainly did not play any so-called happy tunes during their first of two nights at Bimbo’s. And I wouldn’t expect them to add any to the setlist when the group returns to the same historic venue for another sold-out gig on Wednesday (June 11).

Instead, the group — which is set to mark its 40th anniversary next year — is once again just peddling its usual striking brand of quiet desperation, love gone wrong, lost lives and painful passions during its current run through California.

And judging by the reaction from ticket buyers — with all seven shows sold out in advance and ducats going for many times face value through re-sell outlets — the fans wouldn’t have it any other way. (The group also had a date on June 6 at the lovely Guild Theatre in Menlo Park, June 8 at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz and has one on June 12 at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley.)

Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies performs June 9 at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco (Jim Harrington, Bay Area News Group).
Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies performs June 9 at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco (Jim Harrington, Bay Area News Group). 

It’s all about catharsis. There’s something that is nearly miraculous about the way Margo Timmins’ beautiful voice fits with those pained lyrics written by her brother Michael Timmins (who is also the guitarist and band leader for the Junkies). Then set that combo against what is often a wall of fuzzed-out fretboard magic, from Michael Timmins and touring band member Jeff Bird doing jaw-dropping electric mandolin work, and the result is some truly transformative music — taking listeners not only into the fire, but through it and out the other side.

The music may not be happy, per se, but fans always leave a Cowboy Junkies show feeling so much better than when they walked in.

The Cowboy Junkies — which also includes fellow Timmins sibling Peter on drums as well as Alan Anton on bass — opened the two-set show with a sterling rendition of “Knives,” one of a half-dozen numbers off the band’s excellent recent album, “Such Ferocious Beauty,” featured in the 20-song setlist. They’d group up most of those newer numbers during the relatively short first set, with “What I Lost” and “Hard to Build. Easy to Break” standing out among the crowd.



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