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
The Garde Arts Center outdid themselves with this concert. Although they have hosted many great shows, this show was spectacular.
Growing up as a child of the sixties one the voices in the soundtrack of my youth would have to be David Crosby. He and his counterparts were a representation of the era and the outspoken cry for justice and political change in America. To see him now as an adult completes a cycle of decades of changes. Changes in age, political climate, people. Crosby has accepted those changes and evolved into a still relevant voice in American music. Though the Vietnam war is long over we are still embroiled in ever present political strife as much now as ever.
Crosby, never one to shy away from his political stance still speaks for peace and love. He has an opinion on what is right and what is wrong in America and what we as American’s allow to happen in our society.
This was such a memorable concert on many levels. To hear Crosby play his older tunes was one but also to hear his musical evolution brought it to another level. He has for almost the last two decades enjoyed playing with one of his sons. James Raymond, Crosby’s son, is the keyboard player in the band and also co-author of many of Crosby’s newer works. They have worked together since forming the band CPR (Crosby, Pevar & Raymond) with Jeff Pevar on lead guitar in 1996.
Crosby gathered together some friends to tour with him, Truly talented friends they are. As Crosby stated during the concert each band player is an accomplished musician on their own and have had their own bands. The friends are James Raymond (keyboards/vocals), Jeff Pevar (guitar/vocals), Michelle Willis (keyboards/vocals), Mai Agan (bass) and Steve DiStanislao (drums/vocals).
Starting off his career with The Byrds, then on to Crosby, Stills, Nash. Continuing with the addition of Neil Young for a time. Crosby was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and inducted twice for his works with the Byrds and CSN, and he was a founding member of both bands.
Crosby released his first solo album, If Only I Could Remember My Name, in 1971 and his solo career is still going strong to this day. This past October he released Lighthouse. His newest release “Sky Trails” was available for the concert patrons to purchase only at the venues on concert nights.
There were the obligatory Crosby, Stills and Nash songs. Along with each song though there was a short explanation of where that song belonged in his life. The reasons for writing them and where his mind was at the time and who among the greats of 60’s rock he was associating with during the writing and performing of those songs.
Crosby said that all his life when he had an emotion he squashed but felt he needed to air he would air it by writing a song about it. “In My Dreams,” was the opening song of the evening. Followed by a song he wrote about Jim Morrison. The Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Long Time Coming” finished up the first set and the band took a short intermission.
After the intermission they returned to the stage and went right into a CPR song “Map To Buried Treasure” They played a Crosby & Nash song “Homeward Through The Haze” and then “Angel Dream.”
Jeff Benedict, prize winning author and native of New London, CT, who wrote the book “Little Pink House.” “Little Pink House” is a story of one woman’s fight to keep her house which was being taken by the law of eminent domain. It tells of how large corporations or governments can remove a person’s right to live in a home they purchased and call home simply because it is in the way of development. The Garde Arts Center concert was important because the fight the book and film were based upon is the case that took place in New London.
The book was made into a movie and while searching for inspired music for the movie Benedict thought of asking long time friend Crosby. Crosby an opponent of taking of homes for eminent domain of course agreed and wrote the song “Home Free” Jeff Benedict invited Crosby to play at the Garde Arts Center and the song was performed live for the first time ever at this concert.
They finished up with a rousing version of the CSNY hit “Déjà vu.” The encore to follow was full of patriotism and a great rendition of “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”
At 75 years young David Crosby sounded fantastic as did his friends. Their voices filled the theater with such wonderful harmonies. Crosby’s vocals were so strong all we can hope for is that he continues to play for many years to come. Hopefully he will also do a encore performance at The Garde Arts Center in the near future. If he does I am sure the house will be full of eager patrons waiting to hear his beautiful music.
In My Dreams
She’s Got To Be
At The Edge
Long Time Gone
Map To Buried Treasure
What Are Their Names
Low Down Payment
The Garde Arts Center audience was taken on a blues train on May 26th with a great performance by Grammy award winner, blues guitarist and singer Robert Cray. Cray is 63 but his energetic performance and crisp clear voice leave no indication of his years. He still sounds as good as he did in the 80’s. Better actually as his voice has a deeper tone and resonance while he can still hit the high notes with strength and ease.
Cray’s guitar playing and solos are a delight to hear. He and the band knew each note so well. They mesh and change tempos with ease leading up to and following Cray’s solos. Band members bassist Richard Cousins, keyboardist Dover Weinberg and drummer Terence Clark all performed flawlessly.
The set started with “The Same Love” followed by “I’ll Always Remember You.” Cray’s soulful voice echoed in the Garde. Cray then sang on to “Poor Johnny.” He makes the most difficult of riffs look easy.
They played “It Doesn’t Show” and you could hear a pin drop with the exception of a shout or two from the audience as they got softer and softer on the notes.
Cray was appreciative of the audience and he acknowledged how good the music sounded in the Garde Arts Center and that it was an excellent venue to play. He also localized the song “Phone Booth” to the audience’s delight by saying “I’m back in New London baby” to cheers from the crowd.
Cray got his start in music in the 1960’s in Newport News Virginia. That’s where he played in his first band, The One-Way Street. He then moved west and in while living in Oregon in the late 70’s formed the Robert Cray Band. Many decades later he is a world renowned blues and soul wonder. Cray has five Grammy Awards and 15 nominations. In 2011 Cray was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
They introduced two of his new songs “I Don’t Care” and “Aspen” off the Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm newly released EP. This was recorded in Memphis and produced in collaboration with Steve Jordan.
The Opening Act was John Fries and Corina Malburn. The duo played songs off their newly released EP “Unreleased.” I really liked their music. It was upbeat and entertaining. John Fries on guitar and Corina Malburn on Upright Bass gave a great performance with a rich sound. Do go see them if you get the chance.
March 7, 2015
For some George Thorogood at the Garde Arts Center was their first concert, for some it was one of many of seeing the band. After 40 years of “Bad to the Bone” George Thorogood and his band of Destroyers still rocked the house with a good solid show of pure raw energy last night in New London, Connecticut. The Danielle Nicole Band warmed up the crowd with her bass guitar and some cuts from her new upcoming EP, including “Starvin’ for Love.” The audience was eager to be bad as well. There was an eclectic mix of long hair 20 somethings and gray hair sixty somethings, some still sporting their long hair. The outcome of that mix was a pumped up crowd full of energy. Everyone ready to rock, stomp, clap and shout out the words to the well known tunes set in stone for the ages from the 80’s radio play. Most of his songs are still played daily on stations across the country so his following has done nothing but grow over the years. His ageless sound still as relevant now as it was back in the day. After all this time Thorogood still retains the bad boy vibe he has carried all these years and didn’t come up short in this performance. The band had a good time and fed off the energy of the crowd. The Garde Theater is a relatively small house and intimate enough for a lot of interaction with the audience. Thorogood played to them all from the front row to the back of balcony.
Thorogood played all of his tried and true hits in the set to satisfy an audience primed up for “badness”and some good down home boogie-blues. They made sure to play Rock Party, Who Do You Love and The Fixer. The crowd helped make sure he was not drinking alone and all by himself as cups were raised to spur him on to belt out tune after tune. I Drink Alone, Move It on Over , One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, followed by Get a Haircut and of course Bad to the Bone.
The Destroyers were excellent and Jeff Simon (drums, percussion), Bill Blough (bass guitar), Jim Suhler (rhythm guitar) and Buddy Leach (saxophone) and the ever great performer George Thorogood proved that they are indeed Badder Than Ever. George Thorogood and the Destroyers and the Garde Arts Center were a perfect fit. I will go back anytime I get the chance too when he brings the bbbbbaaad band back to town.