Concert Review - Gordon Lightfoot
Troy Music Hall, Troy, NY, 10/8/10 
By Glenn Weiser
Metroland, November 12
, 2009

Here’s to Better Days
Gordon Lightfoot
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Oct. 8

Discovered in 1964 by the folk duo Ian and Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot’s music so impressed Bob Dylan that he famously said that when he heard one of the Canadian balladeer’s songs, he wished it would last forever. At a full Troy Savings Bank Music Hall last Friday, Lightfoot proved to a true-blue crowd that his superbly crafted hits have lost none of their luster. But due to an impressive history over the years of health problems both unsought and self-inflicted, the once rich, resonant baritone voice that delivered those songs so memorably is, sadly, almost completely gone.

Lightfoot, 71, has survived Bell’s palsy, a stroke, some years lost to the bottle, and a six-week coma in 2002 following a ruptured aortic aneurism during which he underwent a tracheotomy. None of that, especially having a hole punched in your throat to open an airway, does your pipes any favors. Although he can still sing on key and without much strain, his vocals have badly weakened. That, unfortunately, made listening to him not much fun.

Wearing an indigo velvet jacket, grey slacks, and white dress shirt, Lightfoot stepped onstage accompanied by his lead guitarist Terry Clements, drummer Barry Keane, bassist Rick Haynes, and keyboardist Michael Heffernan. The slender, craggy-countenanced songster began the first of his two sets with the title track of his 1968 album, Did She Mention My Name. From the first line, the erosion of his once robust vocals was evident—he simply had no power left. Worse, I couldn’t make out most of his lyrics owing to his practice of breaking up his syllables, and he also had a disconcerting habit of often grimacing as if in pain when he came to either the end of a line or a high note.

Lightfoot’s sidemen were all highly competent musicians, but neither Clemens or Hefernan did enough soloing to offset the singing deficit. If the show had a saving grace, it was that not even Lightfoot’s star-crossed voice, garbled delivery and occasional dropped or scrambled verses could kill the beauty of his songs. “Sundown” was still a sexy, menacing look backwards at his former dissipated lifestyle, the melody of “If You Could Read My Mind” sparkled as ever, and “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald” stood as a tense tale of tragedy spun out in finest ballad tradition.

It was heartening to see the loyalty of the many fans who turned out for the show. Maybe that’s what keeps Lightfoot going. Tattered though his singing was, they kept applauding anyway. My hat’s off to them.

—Glenn Weiser

See the article on the Metroland website 
Index of Metroland Articles by Glenn Weiser    ©2010 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.  


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