By Don Ketchum
Concert March 4, 2016 at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino, Chandler, AZ
March 7, 2016
"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
Gordon Lightfoot was jokingly referring to a pair of reports in regard to his "death," one on the Internet and radio in February of 2010 and the other on the Internet as recently as last week.
But make no mistake — the 77-year old Canadian folk icon is very much alive and well, and proved it with a vintage performance on Friday, March 4, at the Ovations Theater in the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Ariz.
The event was one of the most recent legs of his 50 Years on the Carefree Highway Tour. He also played in Flagstaff, Ariz., on March 5 before heading across America for some shows in Florida.
Nearly every seat in the 1,400-seat Chandler venue was filled, a tribute to quality and longevity.
It came as no surprise that when Lightfoot moved into the song "Carefree Highway" about midway through the 90-minute set (no breaks), the crowd put forth a rousing reaction. The title comes from a road along the northern edge of Phoenix that Lightfoot noticed during a trip through the desert more than three decades ago.
When you have been around as long as Lightfoot, the voice can show signs of strain, but in this case, that seldom was evident as he cruised through the evening. The voice was clear and consistent, adding to the nostalgia.
Reflecting the name of his tour, Lightfoot offered a nice cross-section in the 21 songs (plus one encore) from his vast catalog.
There were early songs such as "Early Morning Rain," "Did She Mention My Name," "Ribbon of Darkness," "If You Could Read My Mind," and "Beautiful."
The first effort of the night, "The Watchman's Gone," led to other songs from the middle years such as "Sundown," "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" "Rainy Day People" and "Shadows."
And there were some of the more recent songs, "Waiting For You," "A Painter Passing Through," "Restless."
He even dusted off a few rarely heard ones, "Christian Island (Georgian Bay)," "Never Too Close" and "I'd Rather Press On."
This writer's favorite of the night was the underrated "Now and Then."
Lightfoot might have been channeling old pal Ian Tyson as he walked onstage wearing a red velvet-looking jacket (the Tyson song "Red Velvet" appears on one of Lightfoot's albums).
Lightfoot threw out the "Reports of my death" quote very early in the show and continued the banter throughout. He told the story of going to a venue where Elvis was playing and hoped to get backstage for a visit, since Elvis had recorded "Early Morning Rain."
The meeting did not happen, Lightfoot said, because "Elvis had left the building," referring to another famous quote.
As always, the men in the band provided solid accompaniment — keyboardist Mike Heffernan, war horse bassist Rick Haynes, percussionist Barry Keane and lead guitarist Carter Lancaster.
We won't ever forget Lightfoot's late lead guitarist Terry Clements (RIP Terry), but Lancaster was a pleasant surprise. Lancaster sharpened his axes with smoothness and a bit of flair.
It was a good night all the way around.For the set list, click here.
The author is a free-lance writer from the Phoenix area who has been a fan of Lightfoot since 1970. He has interviewed Lightfoot on a handful of occasions and has done features and concert reviews for local newspapers as well as this Web site.
©2016 by Don Ketchum
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