Toronto, Canada, November 16-19 2006 -
Gordon Lightfoot At Massey: It was finally time for the "pilgrimage", as scores of Lightfoot fans decended on Toronto for his concerts at the venerable Massey Hall. This year's schedule included four concerts, on the nights of November 16th through November 19th.
Opening night was certainly a triumphant return "home", as Lightfoot played to a full house. He performed 26 songs over two sets, mixing his big hits with lesser known gems from his vast catalog.
A bit of drama unfolded last month, when Lightfoot suffered a TIA, also called a "transient" or "minor" stroke. It reportedly occurred during sound check before his September 15th show in Harris, MI, and it affected the use of several fingers of his right (picking) hand. But, with his characteristic, resolute, "show must go on" attitude, he didn't cancel. The next night's concert, also in Harris, was cancelled, but it was because of a venue safety issue, and Lightfoot continued his Fall tour without missing a beat.
Although his playing is still affected by remaining problems with his fingers, only the most discerning fans who know the details of his picking style would have any idea. In spite of any lingering problem, the music was first rate; his lead guitar player, Terry Clements, occasionally played a bit of the rhythm part in addition to his lead. The result was a wonderful new arrangement, as striking and musical as always, and the concerts were almost a spiritual experience. All of his fans wish him a complete recovery - this for a man who came back from near-death from a stomach aneurism four years ago. (Note: By February, 2007, Lightfoot was fully recovered from the TIA, and was fingerpicking all his songs as he originally did).
Highlights for me from the first show were: If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown (preceded by Ribbon Of Darkness), Canadian Railroad Trilogy, and - my personal favorite to hear live - Sit Down Young Stranger. I know for a fact that there were at least two other people for whom this song was the highlight of the evening.
Fans from all over crowded the theater all four nights, along with Lightfoot family members, friends, and fellow musicians. Lightfoot acknowledged his two youngest children, as well as several celebrities including Ronnie (The Hawk) Hawkins, former lead guitarist Red Shea, and Steve McEown. The last is the songwriter of I Used To Be A Country Singer which Lightfoot included on A Painter Passing Through, as one of the rare covers he has recorded over the years.
The theater was full all four nights, and - unbelieveable as it may seem - the concerts got better night by night. Mind you, the first was outstanding, but somehow Lightfoot topped that performance as the days progressed.
This four night stand at Massey winds up his Fall tour, which also included his most extensive Canadian tour in many years.
*This story was written based on print and internet news reports, fan emails, and my own reporting from Toronto. As I have time, I will add additional details on the four night concert series.
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