Spooky, but you can hear every click of a camera down front, every cough from the balcony and every utterance from the ushers.
Onstage, there is a bearded man with a halo of golden hair. There's something of a shimmery look about him, but this is no golden boy. This is a man who is not so young anymore - there's a paunch beneath the faded denims, and the lines on his face, the look in his eyes, give testimony to the man's 39 physical years ... and then some.
But all that is mere appearance. The man nods to his lead guitarist, tirns, bends - eyes shut tight - towards the microphone, and this strong, somewhat nasal voice emerges, oozing into a ballad called The Last Time I Saw Her. The audience recognizes it immediately and the applause is given up in a loud quick burst - a note of recognition from the crowd, but not so sustained that it interferes with the lyrics.
For Gordon Lightfoot, that song is only one stop along the way - neither a show-opener nor closing number, just an old friend many of us remember. Here in the first of two Sunday shows, the Canadian folk singer offers us one after another of his homemade, handmade songs - songs to take your breath away, songs to make most other pop performers blush with envy. Beautiful, touches us all, The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald is as powerful live as in the famed recorded version, Sundown is haunting and memorable.
There are new tunes - Endless Wire, Sweet Guinevere, If There's A Reason, Hangdog Hotel Room - all dovetailing perfectly with the older, more familiar material. It all fits, it's all of a piece.
Everything on this night seems to fit - the opening act (a beautiful classical guitarist named Liona Boyd, who produced a fine, lush set), the quiet skill of Lightfoot's four-piece backup group, the easy around-the-kitchen-table air of Gordon himself.
It all works together to create something very, very gentle. Very loving. Something that we simply don't get enough of anymore in this hustle and bustle age (assuming that human beings ever got enough of feelings like these). In the end, this overall emotion Gordon Lightfoot brings us is indescribable ... yet unforgettable.
Mostly though, it's still concentrated in the songs - our main reason for being there, perhaps his main reason for simply being. When he goes off stage, he's forgotten two of them (sly dog!), but the audience hasn't and demands - quite roughly - that he return.
He does so and adds the capper - If You Could Read My Mind and Early Morning Rain. They are two of his finest songs, but, at a moment like this, one is hit with a strange realization - simply, that these aren't just Lightfoot's songs anymore. They belong to all of us.