Garde Arts Center – New London, CT
September 23, 2017
The Canadian music legend Gordon Lightfoot took the stage at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut to entertain a full house of fans.
After decades of touring the 78 year old Gordon Lightfoot has honed his skills on which direction to take the audience. He begins the concert with the self depreciating humor acknowledging the rumor years ago that he had died. No, he is alive and ready to entertain. Gaunt and lanky he seems frail to be on the stage. But, once he begins to sing and get his musical footing he goes full on and does not stop until the end of set one and an intermission.
Backed by a veteran four-piece band, Mike Hefferman on Keyboards, Barry Keane on Drums and Percussion, Carter Lancaster on Lead Guitar and Rick Haynes on Bass. All but Lancaster having played with Lightfoot for decades as he acknowledged during the introductions. The youngster being Carter Lancaster has been with the band since 2011. The group all play well together and accompany Lightfoot’s lighter voice without overpowering his voice with their musical notes.
Lightfoot plays a medley of shorter versions of some of his sizeable catalog of songs during part of the first set. Enough of each song to get the feel of the song while being a shorter length. No one minded. A songwriter from a young age his collection of songs is so numerous he sticks mostly to the better known hits for most of the night.
The second set he performed many of his most recognizable hits. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Sundown “, “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Carefree Highway.”
Lightfoot shared the story of being a young artist in the early 60’s and getting the chance to almost meet Elvis during a concert he attended in Buffalo. Elvis had recorded Lightfoot’s song “Early Morning Rain” and after talking with people at Elvis’s record company he was told that Elvis wanted to meet him. He went to the concert in Buffalo and was told by staff to go to the stage left door after the concert and Elvis would meet him there at the door. They told Lightfoot to get there as soon as the concert ended because the band left really fast when they get off stage and that they run right out of the building. But, that for him Elvis was going to wait for 5 minutes. So, the concert ended and he was halfway back in the theater and he trying to make his way to the stage left door. There were 14,000 people going out and he was pushing his way down to the stage against the flow. He finally got to the stage door and looked at his watch and it had be 4 minutes and 45 seconds. He was greeted by someone at the door who told him “I’m sorry Mr. Lightfoot, Elvis just left the building”.
In the lead up to “Baby Step Back” Lightfoot said with a smile “Meet Me By the Rockpile Honey, I’ll Get a Little Boulder There.” This got a laugh from the audience as did a few other witty comments while introducing or ending a song. He has a wry and dry sense of humor.
Years and decades of touring has Lightfoot’s skills honed on which direction to take the audience. One of the last songs of the night was “Early Morning Rain” a song that was covered by both Elvis and Bob Dylan.
There is something to be said for taking life’s hard knocks, facing it down and getting back out there. It takes heart and stamina to face a major illness and keep on touring. Though his schedule is not at intense as it was back in his earlier days he is still touring. Many would have given it up and retired. Lightfoot’s voice is lighter and more breathy at times and he’s not able to hold the notes as long as he once could. That said he still pleases the crowd and the band sounded very good.
I think everyone who has followed Gordon Lightfoot over the years now knows of his limits, but that doesn’t matter. This fact is not unnoticed by Lightfoot and he is genuinely appreciative of his audience who come out time and again. Every other song or so someone in the crowd shouted out their appreciation for him and he smiled and answered them back. Early on in the concert someone in the crowd yelled out “We love you Gordie!” He smiled and said if it weren’t for the fans he would not be out there. I guess the feeling is mutual. As long as he has the will to be out there and tour they will come.
Now and Then
Waiting for You
The Watchmans Out
14 Karat Gold
Minstrel of the Dawn
Never Too Close
Rainy Day People
Did She Mention My Name
Ribbon of Darkness
Drink Yer Glasses Empty
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
I’d Rather Press On
A Painter Passing Through
If You Could Read My Mind
Early Morning Rain
Baby Step Back