Singers and songwriters seem to come and go in the popular music business, but Gordon Lightfoot endures.
The reason is craftsmanship, and the finely crafted tales that he told Thrusday night at the Des Moines Civic Center sparkled like the best silver and turquoise jewelry.
The themes of Lightfoot's music haven't changed much since he penned "Early Morning Rain" in 1964. He sings of love gained and love gone bad. There are many lonely highways and lots of empty bottles in "hang-dog hotel rooms."
At age 44, Lightfoot told the 2,300 fans who paid $13.50 each to hear his first concert in this area in about a year and a half, "I'm still getting my thing together."
He showcased five or six of the songs on his soon-to-be-released album, "Salute," his seventeenth. The same feel of the previous 16 records in these. "Let's enjoy this life while we can," Lightfoot seems to say. "Let's savour the good and the bad."
In the title cut from the new album, Lightfoot grabbed an electric guitar and sang about meeting a new friend over drinks, commiserating about love affairs that just don't seem to work out.
"It really works," he said of the song after it was done. The Lightfoot legions seemed to agree.
In an interview backstage after the show, the Toronto-based singer said he's enthusiastic about "Salute" and its commercial possibilities.
"The record company is really behind me on this one. There are two or three songs on the record that could get a lot of radio play," he said.
"Salute" will have a more rock-oriented sound, Lightfoot said, "but it still has lots of principle. I'm not selling out. I can't disappoint my fans."
There were plenty of older hits played Thursday, including "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," "If You Could Read My Mind," "Minstrel Of The Dawn," and the classic "Canadian Railroad Trilogy."
Backing Lightfoot throughout the pair of hour-long sets were Terry Clements on guitar, Rick Haynes on bass, Pee Wee Charles on pedal steel, Barry Keane on drums and Mike Hefferman on keyboards.
How much loger will Lightfoot keep going? "As long as I keep writing, I'll keep on going. I don't know what else I could do," he said, without a trace of remorse.