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Canadian wordsmith Buck 65 returned to San Diego on a warm February evening five years after his last visit. Approximately a third of the Nova Scotia–bred artist’s set featured the lovely Marnie Herald, whose pristine pipes meshed wonderfully with the emcee’s prodigious evocations. The duo’s understated cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire” was among the night’s highlights, as was its dramatic string-and-turntable clashing climax. The live rendering of “Whispers of the Waves,” which features Gord Downie on the album version, sounded drastically different with Herald at the helm. Though still a somber tale of a man losing his wife to an unforgiving ocean, its refrain took on new meaning through Herald’s delicate manipulation.

“I was boxing with a ghost and drawing maps while bells were accidentally announcing the collapse,” Buck pronounced on “All There Is to Say About Love,” the evening’s lone selection from his Bike For Three! side project. A hopeless romantic at his core, Buck’s catalogue contains some of the most pained and beautiful prose ever penned in his genre. From “Roses And Blue Jays,” a touching tribute to his father, to “Paper Airplane,” which diagrams the minutiae of a long-distance relationship, Buck bares his soul in every bar and lets it shine on stage.

The few quiet moments of a nearly two-hour performance were filled with the unintentional percussion of Pabst tallboys popping at the bar. Buck took requests from the Casbah faithful throughout the show, resulting in a great deal of older material entering the fray. The banjo ramble of “Indestructible Sam” was a welcome inclusion to the set list along with the always-entertaining “Centaur,” featuring the classic Buckism, “I’m a man, but I’m built like a horse from the waist down.”

  • Concert: Buck 65
  • Venue: Casbah
  • Date: February 21
  • Seats: General
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