On a night when Louisville hosted two iconic classic rock acts, I felt pretty good about taking in Gordon Lightfoot at the Palace. It's too bad that scheduling put the two concerts opposite one another, as I expect that having the Eagles opening the much-ballyhooed KFC Yum Center poached a fair number of people from Lightfoot's likely crowd. Still, it was a good-sized and enthusiastic audience for one of the best songwriters around.
While he may have lost a little in articulation, there is still magic in the Lightfoot voice. There's more clarity in his lower register, which can still summon a little thrill, especially in songs like "Beautiful" and "Sundown." He mixed in classic older songs with relatively more recent work, including "Shadows," "A Painter Passing Through" and "Let it Ride." Ending the first set with toe-tapper, "Alberta Bound," he returned with the wonderful ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
The second set also featured "If You Could Read My Mind," which received a standing ovation from appreciative listeners. Hearing such a well-known song live gives you a fresh appreciation of the beauty and depth of the lyrics -- it's no wonder that it has stood the test of time. I also enjoyed hearing him sing "Early Morning Rain," which of course, was a big hit for one Elvis Presley.
Lightfoot's well-seasoned band featured Barry Keane on drums, Mike Heffernan on keys, plus long-time bassist Rick Haynes and lead guitarist Terry Clements. Clements remains out of the spotlight, perched on a stool in front of the drum kit, providing the familiar and gorgeous lead guitar licks that have made Lightfoot's songs come alive for many years. It was a treat to watch him play.
It's easy to understand why Lightfoot is one of Canada's national treasures. His banter is light and playful between songs, but you never lose the sense of the respect that he has for his own life's work -- and his loyal fans. The strength and consistency of such finely wrought songs is apparent, and I think everyone in the audience came away with the feeling of having heard from one of music's great craftsmen.