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Gordon Lightfoot: The picture of resilence

Gordon Lightfoot in Concert

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Gordon Lightfoot, acclaimed singer/songwriter, made a highly anticipated appearance at the Fox Theatre in Tucson, AZ on Feb 7, 2014.

Gordon Lightfoot at the Fox Theatre in Tucson, AZ
©Mary F. Andrews

He has delighted audiences with his baritone voice and his folk-based twelve-string acoustic guitar for over fifty years. His eloquent songs paint pictures and tell stories that few writers can rival. He has influenced other songwriters like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Jimmy Buffett.

Mr. Lightfoot has overcome catastrophic illness in recent years. He suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 2002 that resulted in several surgeries and a six-week coma. By late 2003, he returned to his writing and performing.

On September 14, 2006, in the middle of a performance, Lightfoot suffered a minor stroke that left him without the use of his middle and ring fingers. Within a year, he regained the use of his strumming fingers and has played to sold out shows since.

Lightfoot has penned over 250 songs. There are no set lists for his shows. The band just follows his cues. Last night, he started the show with “Sweet Guinevere”, “Cotton Jenny” and “Sea of Tranquility". By the end of the third song, a loud female voice emanated from the audience, ”you are awesome and we love you!” The sold out crowd roared. Mr. Lightfoot laughed and said “That’s Dorie, spelled D-O-R-I-E. We bring her along for audience warm up”. The concert took on a warm, comfortable atmosphere for the rest of the show.

Lightfoot’s voice does not have the same baritone quality from years ago. Yet his phrasing is still classic Lightfoot. He was easily heard thanks to the impeccable acoustics at the Fox Theatre and his bands’ ability to weave their sound around the softness of his voice. His appearance is gaunt now, yet he is strong enough to stand throughout the two-hour performance.

Most importantly, Lightfoot seemed to be enjoying himself throughout the performance. He gave us little “nuggets” of information about some of his songs throughout the show. “If Children Had Wings” is a song he wrote immediately after his first divorce. His ex-wife took his two children to Europe. The song was his response to the separation. Later in the show, he introduced “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” as a piece that he was commissioned to write for a Canadian Television show about building the railroad across North America. He borrowed the format from “The Civil War Trilogy” written by Don Gibson, a fellow songwriter. Later, he prefaced, “The most important song in the whole lot” is “If You Could Read My Mind”.

Gordon Lightfoot is seventy-five years old now and he still enjoys performing. Age and health issues have taken their toll, but his songs will continue to resonate with audiences. There was huge applause after each song and an emotional standing ovation at the end. Obviously, the audience was happy that he still tours!
For a complete set list of this performance, click here.