It's an annual spring ritual as inevitable as pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses. For one week in March, Gordon Lightfoot methodically plods through his star-studded repertoire at Massey Hall. The audience drools over every familiar note, comfortable in the knowledge that nothing ever changes at a Lightfoot concert.
From the minute he walks on stage to the final standing ovation, time is suspended. Lightfoot, it seems, can do no wrong. Audience and performer ally against the unenlightened few who simply don't understand the magic.
And the magic? It comes from Lightfoot's simple and sensitive songwriting. It exists because the spectators know 99 percent of the songs by heart. They are like friends at a high school reunion, with Lightfoot leading them through their earthy school anthems.
Later, pouring out of the old concert hall on Shuter Street, they will compare notes. Yes, they were lucky to get tickets on opening night. Yes, Gord is smart to refuse any place but Massey Hall because it does have the best acoustics in town. Yes, he is looking rather old and grey these days. No, The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald isn't as good as the Canadian Railroad Trilogy.
The adjectives "repetitive" and "boring" simply don't exist in the vocabulary of a Lightfoot fan. But negative comments crop up in a reviewer's vocabulary as Lightfoot is very well aware. He was severely hammered by the scribes, he says, when he forgot the lyrics of his latest song, Dream Street Rose, last week in Montreal. And the media have always depicted him as "so hung up and so isolated."
"I have a hell of a good time folks. I just don't make a big deal about it," he quipped in his only joke of the evening.
Most of the time though, he stands playing his guitar and sounding like his records. Feet planted rigidly on the stage, he's a picture of solidarity.