CONCERT REVIEWS

Orillia, ON
Opera House - May 18, 1996

Well, it's night #2 and what a day it's been.  I booked a tee-off time at Couchiching Golf Course for 2:28 on this afternoon and teed off under sunny skies.  By the time we were coming down the ninth fairway, the sky had turned ominously black.  Thunder rolled in the distance.  The siren sounds, telling us to get off the course.  We make it to the clubhouse and then start to walk the one block home.  Halfway across the parking lot, a deluge of rain and blowing sand and muck hit us from out of nowhere.  We had quite a struggle to make it that one block!  We found out later that tornados had touched down in the area.  Unbelievable!  Within an hour the sun was out.  The show will go on! 

There seemed to be even a greater buzz of anticipation in the hall as it filled up prior to the show.  There were even more relatives and friends in the crowd than on the previous night.  OK, the side stage door is opening and Lightfoot's wife and young son and daughter, this time, are making their way to their seats.  It's getting close. 

The lights dim and the band enters.  Now the hall erupts once more.  Lightfoot, smiling, walks to centre stage.  "Come on in this house!"  And with that, we again hear the opening notes of THE HOUSE YOU LIVE IN.  The sound again tonight seems just right.  This hall is 100 years old as Lightfoot sings, "And the house you live in will never fall down, if you pity the stranger that stands at yer door."  Now it's into SUNDOWN.  It's hard to believe, but the guys have managed to crank up the energy level a notch or two above last night.  You can feel it right away.  Lightfoot and the band appear to be very loose.  It comes through loud and clear in the music.  Then Sundown's partner, CAREFREE HIGHWAY begins.  "I wonder how the old folks are tonight?"  That line catches my attention - seems most appropriate in this, a hometown show.  Then SEA OF TRANQUILITY.  A song for "when nature calls," Lightfoot jokes.  Images of trees are illuminated at the back of the stage.  The atmosphere and delivery of this song is incredible!  Lightfoot's 12-string is ringing through the mix.  And now the band is introduced.  You can tell Lightfoot has the utmost respect for these guys - and rightly so!  COTTON JENNY is next.  I first heard this live in a concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia and thought maybe Lightfoot played it there because he was in  Anne Murray country.  But this song is a mainstay. 

The 12-string set is over and he's walking back towards his 6-string.  He strolls back to the mike and starts in with 14 KARAT GOLD.  Another very moving version - the song taking on new meaning in light of his current marriage.  Then it's followed once again by I'LL PROVE MY LOVE.  It dawned on me, as I listened to them for the second night, that I'll Prove My Love is a natural extension to 14 Karat Gold.  Now for the Dylan song, RING THEM BELLS.  I loved this one before Lightfoot started doing it a few years ago and was very pleased to discover he would be putting his indelible mark on it. WAITING FOR YOU starts, the band not coming in until the end of the first verse (except for Mike, who plays an accordion style pad during the verses).  Now he talks about the great training ground he received by singing at weddings in and around Orillia as a kid.  He of course concedes that he learned a lot about singing at them, but not much about marriage!  Everyone has a good laugh over that.  Then he adds that, he's finally doing it right these days!  The song he's leading into is of course, BEAUTIFUL, and he does it exquisitely once again.  Now he talks about his mother again, who is recovering from an illness.  She told him to be sure and play this next song.  It, along with The House You Live In, Lightfoot tells us, are her two favourites.  He starts fingerpicking the intro to THE PONY MAN.  With all the kids in the audience, it's a natural for this night.  He reminisces once again about growing up in Orillia.  This time he talks about his music teacher from his schooldays, who taught him a lot that he later applied in his career.  However, Lightfoot adds, he is quite sure that his teacher didn't expect him to use his teachings to write a song about getting "into the sauce!"  And here comes BLACKBERRY WINE.  Another rousing rendition and the audience is reveling in it! 

Now its back to the 12-string and the first half is winding down.  We're treated to the FOR LOVING ME/DID SHE MENTION MY NAME medley once again.  The latter takes on an interesting character in light of this being Lightfoot's return to his hometown, a town that seems to fit nicely with the images conjured up by Did She Mention My Name.  One, two, three, four, five, six - THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD is launched to loud applause yet again.  The song's mood is filling the hall.  Mike's keyboards wailing and soothing, Barry's drums pounding and swaying, Rick's bass rolls like the waves and Terry's solos and intricate work in the verses, keeps this ship's memory alive for these six and a half minutes.  And Lightfoot relives the lyrics.  "And all that remains are the faces and the names of the wives and the sons and the daughters!"  Beautiful!  They're walking off again to a tremendous ovation.  The house lights are up. 

Back they come - right on time.  WILD STRAWBERRIES starts us off again.  Then into the the big hit, IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND.  Lightfoot acknowledges that he didn't realize he had a special song when he recorded it.  But, he also states that he has many other songs approaching that calibre which didn't manage to sell as many copies, but are good songs nevertheless.  He alternates between sitting and standing for this song again, leaning over towards Terry for the guitar solo.  Then comes SHADOWS.  Lightfoot likes telling the story of how he stumbled on to the signature "C" chord, accentuating the 3rd, which this song is built around.  Another teriffic rendition.  Then the new one, DRIFTERS.  The audience is hanging on every word, trying to find that one phrase which will make the song memorable for them.  Lightfoot tells us that back when he used to "barbershop" around Orillia, that whenever there was a festival, the party held afterwards was called an afterglow.  And all these years later he incorporated that word into the new song.  This fondness for the past seems to give his music such great timelessness and depth.  But he moves on.  IN MY FASHION is next.  He obviously enjoys singing this one, as we enjoy listening.  Then he rocks into FADING AWAY.  This song is tailor made for his concerts - great rhythm!  Now he talks about Jenny Lind and her successful tours as an opera singer across North America in the 1800's.  The critics panned her, but the crowds loved her!  This leads us of course, into A LESSON IN LOVE.  Rick's bass lines smoothly carrying the song along.  Then it's that rejected soundtrack song, DON QUIXOTE.  Lightfoot admits that they submitted a terrible demo, so not much wonder it wasn't accepted.  Now he's back for the 12-string.  It's been waiting all night for this moment, Lightfoot tells us.  It's the CANADIAN RAILROAD TRILOGY, moved up in the set.  Incredible song!  Terry's tremelo guitar playing again shines.  When the song is over, he can be seen shaking his left hand back and forth as if to get the circulation going again after that workout.  But no time to rest.  Clements reaches for his electric guitar as Lightfoot begins the opening bars to BABY STEP BACK.  Incredibly solid version again.  At the song's end, Lightfoot advises us that his former brother-in-law, responsible for the "either step up or step back" phrase is in the crowd.  Lightfoot scans the audience looking for him, but to no avail.  Then it's back to work and the unmistakable 12-string intro to EARLY MORNING RAIN takes shape.  Mike's keyboard whines like the freight train in the song.  Brilliant arrangement, Lightfoot's 12-string cutting through it all!  It's over and they're walking off.  Within seconds the entire hall is on their feet!  Quickly they return.  Lightfoot begins strumming.  He's changed back to the six-string.  It's OLD DAN'S RECORDS.  Very appropriate.  The old Dan of Lightfoot's mind may well have been formed very early in life right here in Orillia. "It's a Saturday night and we've all got dates!"  The band again is superb on this one.  And all too soon - it's over.  They're gone again.  The crowd rises, feet are stomping.  Lightfoot re-emerges, but it's just to take one last bow.  He's gone again.  The house lights are up.  This memorable weekend stand is over much too soon. 

by Wayne Francis