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Old 05-19-2005, 05:47 AM   #1
Auburn Annie
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Location: Upstate New York
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May 19, 2005. 06:13 AM

Wind still fills Lightfoot's sails


A visitor to this city might have guessed that the long line forming south on Yonge from Shuter last night had something to do with the eager anticipation for the opening of the final instalment of the Star Wars saga.

Well, the "star" part of that equation was right.

Gordon Lightfoot, the 66-year-old Canadian folksinging great who has returned to performance after a prolonged illness, was back where he belonged, playing the first of four sold-out nights at Massey Hall.

"The centre of my universe as a musician really is here," Lightfoot told a rapturous house that included Adrienne Clarkson.

The Governor General, who the previous day had welcomed the Queen to Saskatchewan, must have felt that she was once again in the presence of royalty. Canadian royalty.

Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Lightfoot apologized for being late, even though his arrival 10 minutes after the show's scheduled start had to count as the most punctual concert appearance this side of Bob Dylan.

Lightfoot's Massey Hall residencies the first of which took place in 1967 are the stuff of local legend. And the sense of occasion was palpable, if slightly tinged with nervous tension. The singer, backed by four accompanists, rendered any lingering fears to rest with an unstinting two-hour performance, broken by a 20-minute intermission, that ran to nearly 30 songs.

True, the voice is not as strong as it was. Returning for the first of two encores, Lightfoot even joked about whether he had the wind to get through his poetic evocation of the national dream, "Canadian Railroad Trilogy." The audience was poised to help him along, but it wasn't necessary.

Much of the preceding set was bathed in a warm, intimate glow. From opener "Spanish Moss" on, the approach was understated and low-key, the kind of performance you might give for friends and family in the kitchen if, that is, your kitchen featured stained-glass windows and a very high ceiling.

Fans responded most enthusiastically to favourites such as "Cotton Jenny," "If You Could Read My Mind," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Beautiful" and "Sundown," but also welcomed the inclusion of selections from last year's Harmony. "Couchiching," a song from that album filled with references to Lightfoot's hometown of Orillia, was prefaced by an anecdote about his 19-month hospitalization after suffering an abdominal aneurysm in 2002.

"I got to play it just once," he said, recalling when he last performed the song live. "And the next day I wasn't going anywhere."

And now, miraculously, he has returned triumphant.

[ May 19, 2005, 05:55: Message edited by: Auburn Annie ]
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Old 05-20-2005, 02:03 AM   #2
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Thanks, Annie! Great article! I can't wait to hear Char's review! (and anyone else's too!)
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