Gordon Lightfoot August 26, 2006
Great Songs Shine forth from Gordon Lightfoot
By Glen Creason
The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts was the platform for songwriting great Gordon Lightfoot on Saturday and a full house of fervent fans greeted him with gratitude and deep adulation. Twice, the Canadian folk hero has stood at the precipice between life and death this century and come back to stand at the microphone and entertain his faithful. Considering he has survived an aneurysm, deep coma, then serious intestinal cancer and treatments to sing once again this show was sort of miraculous. His physical appearance is somewhat daunting. Once a ruggedly handsome and rather commanding presence Lightfoot is now a survivor holding on with a powerful and still creative spirit. The now gaunt and somewhat fragile man is trying to keep his music flowing and his life continuing toward more triumphs. Over the years Gordon Lightfoot has achieved true musical immortality by writing dozens of beautiful and lasting songs, on this night that repertoire was at center stage. It was a testimony to the artist that the hall was full, despite the dire struggles of Lightfoot in the recent past but it was particularly gratifying to see the large number of Gen Xers in the house.
Indeed, an insightful young fan summed up the evening when he said as we filed out for intermission that Lightfoot was like a pitcher in baseball who had been a dominant force, a Cy Young winner but now was hanging on, trying to make some good pitches and keep it in the strike zone. It was a thrill to see this great artist on that stage but his voice is not half of what it was when he made one marvelous album after another in the Lightfoot heyday. The concert was rather tame and the pace somewhat staid, allowing that the lead man not get too worn down and fail to complete his innings.
However, there were those moments when the fastball had the old zip, when the tunes had a bite and once or twice there were perfect pitches that brought a tear or epiphany inherent in the great stuff. The first half of the show was straightforward folk, flavored by tunes that touched old tender spots in the heart like “Rainy Day People,” “14 Carat Gold,” “The Way I Feel,” and the steadfast “Ribbon of Darkness. The bull’s-eyes in the set were a strong ‘Watchman’s Gone” and the terrific “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” that was actually enhanced by the somewhat raspy vocal. The second half was much better overall, due to the crowd stirring with recognition of wonderful work including “Sit Down Young Stranger,” If You Could Read My Mind,” “Restless,” “Old Dan’s Records” and “Baby Step Back.” In the closing burst also came the best moments of the night, especially in the excellent songwriting of “Canadian Railway Trilogy,” the deeply moving “Don Quixote” and the familiar gleam of “Beautiful” and the gorgeous “Minstrel of the Dawn.” The crowd roared and roared, not so much for what they had heard but for what the man has meant to us all. He bravely finished with an encore of the truly classic “In the Early Morning Rain” that has survived over forty years in glory, sort of like the songwriter who penned it back in “62.”