By Don Ketchum
October 25, 2008
It's a jungle out there in the world of concert tours, and only the strong survive.
To say that Gordon Lightfoot is a survivor is an understatement.
He has been pounding the pavement for nearly 50 years, and the Canadian troubadour's schedule for 2009 is filling up even as his 70th birthday approaches on Nov. 17.
Lightfoot was in Phoenix on Friday, Oct. 24, for a stop at the Dodge Theatre.
He strode out into the spotlight, wearing a dark jacket and looking a bit Lion King-ish with his long, reddish-gray mane spilling over the back of the collar.
The voice was a bit strained at first, perhaps due to the fact that this was his eighth show in 10 days, with two more due on Oct. 25 in Albuquerque and Oct. 26 in Amarillo, Texas.
But the voice warmed up and so did the audience. By show's end, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand.
Highlights of the opening set included two songs from the If You Could Read My Mind album, the one that lit the fuse for his flight to stardom.
They were Minstrel of the Dawn and a very pleasant surprise, Me and Bobby McGee, one of the rare offerings not penned by Lightfoot but by Kris Kristofferson. Lightfoot's version does not have the raw power of Janis Joplin's, but does have a charm all its own.
Concert staples wrapped up the first set – Beautiful, The Watchman's Gone, Sundown and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Lightfoot left his jacket back in the dressing room and appeared in a vest and long-sleeved white shirt for the second set.
He began with Triangle and then related a story of some of his contemporaries who ruled late nights and early mornings as their domain, including Kristofferson.
That served as a good transition to Hangdog Hotel Room:
The melancholy Restless, written in the 1993, has climbed to the upper rungs of his song list.
Around the corner was another surprise, If Children Had Wings, from the Endless Wire album in the late 1970s.
Lightfoot got his usual solid backing from keyboardist Mike Heffernan, bassist Rick Haynes, percussionist Barry Keane and his brilliant lead guitarist, Terry Clements. Strangely, Lightfoot did not acknowledge them, but they (and we) know who they are.
The group entered the home stretch and finished strong with If You Could Read My Mind, Don Quixote, Baby Step Back and Early Morning Rain. The encore was Old Dan's Records.
Lightfoot returned to take a bow and exited by moving along the front row, reaching down and slapping hands with the faithful, a la Jay Leno at the beginning of the Tonight Show.
The Lion King still has the energy necessary for survival.
Don Ketchum is a freelance writer and formerly was a sports reporter for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix. He has been a fan of Lightfoot for nearly 40 years, has interviewed him several times, and has written many concert reviews over the years. This review is exclusive to this web site.
©2008 by Don Ketchum
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