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Old 09-22-2017, 10:23 PM   #1
charlene
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Default Worcester, MA. review

https://worcestermag.com/2017/09/21/...orcester/53798

Folk singer Gordon Lightfoot steps back into Worcester

Two years ago, Canadian legend and folk star Gordon Lightfoot came to Worcester’s Hanover Theatre and battled a cold that hampered an already age-weary voice. It didn’t seem to matter. The wordsmith, whose songs are like mini-stories set to music, soldiered through and brought fans to their feet.

On Wednesday night, now 78, Lightfoot returned sans cold, his spirits high, with a raspy, country-tinged voice, and took a less-than-sold-out crowd on a musical tour through four decades of songs plucked from much of his 20-album catalog.While it can sometimes be difficult to make out all his lyrics, Lightfoot does not miss a beat. The man who has overcome an aortic aneurysm and a minor stroke delivered a roughly one-and-a-half-hour, two-set show with 23 songs that showed off his seasoned, four-piece backing band as much as it did his songwriting mastery.

There is no spectacle to a Lightfoot show. He does not wander to the edge of the stage to slap hands with fans. He does not roam the stage, from one performer to the other. Save for the occasional change of guitars and drink of water, he spends the night planted on his feet in front of the mic. The attraction is his library of songs, from which he pulled liberally (sadly, for this writer, he did not play “Bittergreen,” from 1968’s “Back Here on Earth,” two years ago and he ignored it again Wednesday night).

Lightfoot also has a quirky sense of humor, and likes to occasionally crack wise, as he did when talking about going 23 years without a drink – a stretch he broke while recovering from the operations to repair his aneurysm: “I took a glass of wine, even though I was still wearing a colostomy. I figured I was too young to carry a repair kit around.” Later, he cracked: “I still don’t drink anything stronger than pop, and my pop will drink anything.”

The singer started things off with, “Waiting For You,” from his 18th studio album of the same name in 1993. The song that kicked off his concert two years ago, “Now and Then” (from “Cold on the Shoulder,” 1975) came next.

Thanking the crowd for coming out in the middle of the week (“I tell you, we couldn’t do it without you,” he joked), Lightfoot sang “Never Too Close,” from 1976’s “Summertime Dream.” The countryesque “Don Quixote,” the title song from his 1972 album came next, followed by “Make Way,” from the 1980 album, “Dream Street Rose.”

The seemingly autobiographical “A Painter Passing Through,” from the 1998 album of the same name, was among the highlights, its lyrics revealing a reflective songwriter who, at that point more than 30 years into his career, was still in top form:

“I was in stride, always at my game
Here comes mister cool along the walk of fame
I was in demand, always in control
The world was in my hands, my touch had turned to gold.”

Lightfoot paid tribute to the folk singers of the ’60s, singing a line from The Incredible String Band’s “A Very Cellular Song.”

Lightfoot’s own “I’d Rather Press On,” from 1993’s “Waiting For You,” led into an introduction to the band, whose names Lightfoot read from a piece of paper he pulled from his wallet. Keyboardist Mike Heffernan; bassist Rick Haynes, who has been with Lightfoot since 1968; drummer Barry Keane; and relative newcomer Carter Lancaster, who has been with the band about 10 years, were in sync all night, providing a tight rhythm that lifted Lightfoot’s overall performance.

Lightfoot sang “Let it Ride,” off the 1986 album East of Midnight, then slowed things down as he reached back to 1972’s “Beautiful” (from “Don Quixote).

He told the crowd of starting his career in New York, before slipping into “The Watchman’s Gone” from 1974’s “Sundown,” a song he dedicated to the late Glenn Campbell.

Lightfoot closed out the first set with one of his most haunting songs, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” another offering from “Summertime Dream.”

“Did She Mention My Name,” the title song from his 1968 album kicked off the second set, followed by “Ribbon of Darkness,” from the singer’s 1966 debut album, “Lightfoot!” Both songs were shortened, with Lightfoot stopping abruptly on the second, telling the audience, “Now that’s just another way of shortening a song.”

Giving his band a chance to stretch out – and Lancaster an opportunity to rise from his stool slightly behind and to Lightfoot’s left – the singer pulled from the “Sundown” album with the title song, one of his bigger hits.

“Spanish Moss” (“Summertime Dream”), “Shadows” (“Gordon Lightfoot,” 1982) and another popular song, “Rainy Day People” (“Cold on the Shoulder”) followed. Lightfoot next played two straight songs from 1970’s “Sit Down Young Stranger”: the rarity, “Minstrel of the Dawn,” and the more mainstream “If You Could Read My Mind,” the latter the singer’s reflection on a troubled marriage.

It was back into the ’90s after that, with “Restless” (“Waiting For You”). Lightfoot then picked the tempo up once more with “Baby Step Back,” a bluesy toe-tapper from 1982’s “Shadows.”

The second set ended with “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” from 1967’s “The Way I Feel.”

After a brief exit from the stage, the band returned for one encore, staying on the same album with “Song for a Winter’s Night.”

Age, illness and time have limited Lightfoot’s stage mobility and vocal range, but those who did not show up Wednesday nonetheless missed a legend that continues to live on.

Walter Bird Jr. is editor of Worcester Magazine. Share story tips and comments at 508-749-3166, ext. 322, or by email at wbird@worcestermag.com. Follow Walter on Twitter @walterbirdjr and “like” him on Facebook. Don’t miss Walter every week on WCCA TV 194 as a panelist on Rosen’s Roundtable.
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