By RICHARD S. GINELL, June 28, 1999
Gordon Lightfoot, taken from variety.com
Presented inhouse. Reviewed June 24, 1999.
Band: Gordon Lightfoot, Terry Clements, Mike Heffernan, Rick Haynes,
"Work through the repertoire here," said Gordon Lightfoot
as he began his performance at the Greek Theater Thursday. As always,
nothing else would be necessary. No opening act. No effusive showbiz
patter. No special effects. Just a Canadian troubadour who has stayed
with the same band over the years while compiling one of the deepest
song catalogs in the business.
Lightfoot’s place in the scheme of 20th century pop and folk music
received a big boost with the release this month of the handsome
"Gordon Lightfoot Songbook," a four-CD box set from
Rhino/Warner Archives. Those who have overlooked Lightfoot, now 60,
should sample any portion of this box, for they will be jolted by the
emotional range and quality of his songs over more than 35 years. His
output has decreased since the mid-1980s, yet the quality remains
What proved most astonishing was that some of the best, most moving
songs of the night were ones from last year’s "A Painter
Passing Through" album (Reprise). The disarmingly
autobiographical title song is a gorgeous thing, the equal of
virtually anything he’s done in the past, and Lightfoot’s
insistent, folk-based, signature grooves and drones were as potent as
ever in "Boathouse" and "Uncle Toad Said."
There’s no getting around the fact that Lightfoot’s voice has
changed continuously over the decades; the delivery is more clipped,
the tone more constricted (no doubt affected by some recent gigs in
Nevada desert resorts). But it doesn’t matter much, for he still
puts the songs over with low-key savvy and obvious affection, with no
hint of going into autopilot even when performing tunes he plays every
time out ("The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Don
Quixote," "If You Could Read My Mind," etc.). The band
remains a fine-tuned engine, with Rick Haynes’ inventive bass lines
on "Edmund Fitzgerald" registering unusually well in this
With his new anthology very much in mind, Lightfoot was in a
reminiscing mood in the second half, telling droll stories, including
one about how Elvis changed the words in "Early Morning Rain."
There are 16 unissued songs in the new box, some of astonishing
quality — and an off-the-cuff fragment from the hard-rocking "Canary
Yellow Canoe" did turn up Thursday.