By Don Ketchum
August 7, 2002
Gordon Lightfoot has been coming to the Phoenix area for more than 30 years, and the troubadour never seems to disappoint.
He strode onto the stage at the sparkling new Dodge Theatre in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday night and once again weaved his magic. Gord has played many venues here over the years: Celebrity Theatre, Phoenix Symphony Hall, Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium on the campus of Arizona State University, and the Mesa Amphitheatre. Though one is unsure of how Lightfoot rated the acoustics, from the seats, they were very Gord-friendly, nice and clear.
Tuesday was the fourth stop on the latest leg of his tour that will take him to Las Vegas and parts of California.
As is his custom, Lightfoot worked the first half of the show in a print "Hawaiian"-type shirt, and got down to business in the second half with a working-man black T-shirt.
He put some of his newest material such as "The No Hotel" aside and worked the "nostalgia" theme, as he called it, unearthing "Ribbon of Darkness", "Early Mornin' Rain", the "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" encore, and "Cotton Jenny".
The crowd's energy level increased when Lightfoot gave them his "Arizona" song, "Carefree Highway", which at its original writing was a road on the outskirts of the metro Phoenix area but now has suburbia creeping toward it.
He provided a nice mixture of more recent material, "Uncle Toad Said" and "Waiting For You", and Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells". There was the "Sundown"-ish "Baby Step Back,'' which in many ways might be better than "Sundown".
To this writer and fan, he is at is best with the love songs and ballads "Beautiful", "If You Could Read My Mind", the much underrated "Restless", and the autobiographical "A Painter Passing Through", perhaps his best song in many years that ranks with the best of his early work.
Of course, a Lightfoot show would not be complete without the work of longtime sidekick Rick Haynes, whose red bass was a beacon; lead guitarist Terry Clements, who is looking lean; keyboardist Mike Heffernan and percussionist Barry Keane.
Lightfoot enjoys the road, and the people keep coming to see and hear him. It is a wonderful relationship that we hope will continue as long as the fates allow.
Don Ketchum is a sportswriter for the Arizona Republic who has been a huge fan of Gord's for more than 30 years and has interviewed him on three previous occasions. This article is exclusive to this web site.
©2002 by Don Ketchum
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