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 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.
Garde Arts Center, New London, CT
January 20, 2017
The Garde Arts Center was the perfect setting for Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt’s intimate acoustic duet performance.
The Garde is a historic theater in downtown New London celebrating it’s 90th anniversary. The theater still has the feel of the majestic performing houses of the early 20th century with cloth seats, ornate decorations on the walls and balcony seats. It holds a little over 1400 patrons which was a perfect size for this show.
The show consisted of two excellent singer, songwriters, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt and a couple of acoustic guitars for each artist. That’s it. No fancy sets, lighting shows, neon or strobe lights. Both men came out dressed in their Sunday best, suit and tie. It was just about as pure as it gets. Lovett and Hiatt made this work perfectly and the audience didn’t need it any other way. The show was a combination of songs from each performers vast library of tunes intermingled with witty banter about being on the road and life with other performers over their decades of touring.
Lyle Lovett would sing one of his songs with back up harmony and accompaniment on guitar by Hiatt. Then the roles would reverse and John Hiatt would sing with harmonies by Lovett. The format was entertaining and spanned country, blues, Texas swing and some of their mainstream alternative country classics. They sang both the award winning songs and lesser known obscure ones.
They both have so many songs to choose from that, as Lyle Lovett mentioned, they go into each show with no real setlist and float from one song to another picking lead in from the previous song. They played off each other like a straight man and his sidekick. Both have a dry wit and an easy style of country humor that brought the audience along with laughter. It was such an easy night akin to sitting around country store in Texas or a barstool in Memphis picking and storytelling. If it is scripted beforehand you wouldn’t know.
Lovett is a songwriter and actor is addition to his longstanding career as a country, blues and Texas swing singer. He hails from Texas and has 20 albums in his storied career. His other lesser known talent is comedy. He had the audience going from chuckles to full out laughter at his insights in the preambles to the songs. He performed “She’s No Lady” and “Her First Mistake” as well as the very Texan “Don’t Touch My Hat”. He also included some of his lesser heard tunes to round out his half of the songs. His deadpan humor made each song more enjoyable.
John Hiatt has done 22 albums has been singing and playing for 40 years. He played with many of the greats. His voice is more grizzled than Lovett but that only serves to compliment the harmonies of Lovett’s tenor better. The best of his playlist were brought out “Seven Little Indians” and “Drive South. He crooned his blues toned “Cadillac with Tennessee Plates” to the audience delight. There was a new song “Over the Hill”, a great song I hope to hear more of in the future. Hiatt played his harmonica with gusto and his playing has only gotten better over the years. But, Hiatt has another talent that surprised the audience, he can whistle. I don’t mean just whistle. He belted out a whistle that was pitch perfect and resonated throughout the theater like a fine tuned instrument. It was one of those wow moments where you can hear a pin drop in the audience. I think he took most everyone by surprise judging by the applause as the song ended.
Many went into the theater for this sold out show expecting a great concert. I don’t think the audience expected to be as blown away as we were by such an exceptional concert done with the most minimal of equipment out there, a couple of guitars and a harmonica. This is a pairing of talents that was meant to be. New London may be in the middle of New England, but it was all Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas in the The Garde this January night. The Garde outdid themselves booking these men and I sincerely hope we see them back there in the future. If you get the chance do not miss this duo. Grab your tickets and see them while you can.
Review by Donna Erichsen
Photos by George Bekris
Interior Garde photos courtesy of Rita Rivera
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.