Gordon Lightfoot played at Brown County Memorial Arena to 4,605 listeners Saturday night. It was a top-grade concert.
The Canadian balladeer's career is getting on to 20 years now, and Lightfoot is pushing 40. Other statistics: 400 songs, 13 albums with 135 songs (130 of them original).
Much of his success comes from his ability to appeal across a wide spectrum with his own special breed of music. It combines country, folk, light rock and pop in a singing style that is often chant-like.
Lightfoot makes most everything mellow. But Saturday's concert was anything but bland.
Many a time Lightfoot had the crowd clapping along to his songs. He himself was hopping, jumping, joking, clowning. At the end, rousing cheers and a standing ovation brought him back for an encore.
Naturally, Lightfoot sang "The Wreck of the Fdmund Fitzgerald," the saga about the Great Lakes freighter which sank with 29 aboard in November 1975. It's a modern-day folklore song which grew into popularity nationally after the seed of interest was planted in this region.
Lightfoot said it is one of his favorite songs to sing, "and that's all I'm going to do, just sing it." He said he's had offers for filming the tale, "but that isn't necessary. The song is good enough."
Lightfoot said sailors at the local Seamen's Center gave him a plaque honoring him for the song, and he thanked them. That added a special touch to the concert.
The only problem was the song was not of the highest fidelity because of a distortion in the sound system.
Other songs which hit high on the applause meter: "If You Could Read My Mind," " Sundown," "In the Early Moming Rain," "The Circle Is Small."
The latter is from Lightfoot's current "Endless Wire" album, and he sang many a song from it, including the title song and the lively "Daylight Katy."
Lightfoot played six and 12-string acoustic guitars and was excellently assisted by Terry Clements on lead electric guitar, Pee Wee Charles on pedal steel guitar, Rick Haynes on electric bass and Barry Keane on drums.
While being, personable much of the time, Lightfoot was cute - or coarse, depending on your point of view - when he put the microphone to his throat to amplify swallows of a liquid from a cup, contents unknown. However, he may have given a hint at one point: "Pardon my spare tire, I've been drinking a lot lately."
That aside, Lightfoot put on an appealing, enjoyment-filled concert.
Also appealing was Liona Boyd, who opened the night with some class from classical guitar. Miss Boyd (another Canadian) informed and entertained and played demanding and delicate pieces with great skill and care.