Friday, November 11, 2011

Gordon Lightfoot Concert - Generating Energy

Last night I went to see Gordon Lightfoot perform in Cupertino, California. In his two-hour show, I enjoyed impeccable musical accompanyment by his tight band, most of whose members have toured and recorded with Gordon for decades (42 years for bassist Rick Haynes).

Gordon traversed his career in no particular order, playing some fairly obscure album cuts as well as some major hits, but his fans, who filled every seat of the Flint Center, surely knew them all and sometimes applauded when a special favorite began. I was gratified when he played Song for a Winter's Night--probably my favorite Lightfoot song of all.

The most interesting thing, however, was the transformation that we witnessed in Lightfoot himself over the course of the evening. When he strolled out, he moved well, but his voice, which is not the rich baritone it used to be, was soft and scratchy, and he seemed to have trouble reaching some of the higher notes. Although I sat absorbed, enjoying the arrival of each new song, there was a little sadness in sensing that this man, who turns 73 on November 17, is in his twilight.

Well, so much for that. After a fairly short break, he and the band came back and knocked out a fine Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and it was uphill from there. The gaunt-looking man on stage started to seem younger with time, smiled more, talked more, and he started hitting those notes he couldn't reach before. And that's why, I think, he still tours. He gains energy from his adoring fans and from playing with his band. You could see it happen right before you. As I watched him I could see the younger Gordon come out and suddenly his vocal limitations disappeared and all we heard were his great songs.

There's a movement in Canada to create a Gordon Lightfoot Day for this living musical legend. Yesterday was that day for me and the crowd with whom he shared an evening.

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