By DAVE VEITCH
The Jubilee, Calgary
November 2, 1999
CALGARY -- Leaving the Jubilee last night, it hit me: This could be the last time Calgarians will see Gordon Lightfoot in concert.
The Canadian musical icon is two weeks away from his 61st birthday and, judging from the nostalgia that coloured his between-song banter and a repertoire that contained a few mortality songs and several semi-obscure personal favourites, I left the show feeling this was a farewell of sorts. Goodness knows he doesn't tour much anymore. Anyhow, I hope I'm wrong.
"I'm actually quite surprised we're still doing this," he told the near-capacity crowd of 2,500, whom screamed out requests and declarations of their devotion throughout the evening.
They were treated to a show that was gilded with Gord's Gold, but a show where the truly priceless moments were the bittersweet songs that you knew meant a lot to Lightfoot.
One such moment occurred halfway through his second set.
Sandwiched between two of his most popular songs, If You Could Read My Mind (one of the poetic breakup songs ever written) and the aptly titled Beautiful, was the recently penned A Painter Passing Through, a wistful look back at his prime and an assessment of his life's work:
"If you want to know an answer/I can't turn your life around/For I'm just a painter passing through the underground."
The fact he showed signs of old age -- his body wiry, his face gaunt, his reedy voice shaky and diminished in its power -- only lent resonance to the lyric.
The crowd saved their most fervent applause for favourites such as Alberta Bound (much clapping), Sundown, Rainy Day People and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, though they politely greeted lesser-known gems like 14 Karat Gold and Ode to Big Blue. All of which demonstrated that while great songwriters still grow old, their music never does.