Toronto, ON
Massey Hall - November 13, 1996


A Gordon Lighfoot concert is such a laidback, cozy affair that you almost expect someone to come around with homemade cookies and hot chocolate.  Which would've been lovely, given the weather that greeted the first show of Lightfoot's four-night stand at Massey Hall.  Incidentally, this year marked the 26th anniversary of the acclaimed troubadour playing his favorite venue. 

But back to the vibe in the hall last night, which he transformed into his living room. 

Folks conversed with Lightfoot from their seats, asked him to "do something for Haliburton," sang Happy Birthday ("Not yet, not yet," he said), asked him if he's been to Hawaii (his Hawaiian shirt and white sneakers elicited that question) and scribbled their requests on pieces of paper and left them on the stage. 

Lightfoot chatted with them, explained the origins of his songs (my favorite was, "This one's about exuberant youth seen through the eyes of a garden toad"), actually said, "I'm gettin' kinda tired" toward the end of the gig, and oozed sincerity - "Winter's arrived, it's hard getting around.  Thanks for coming down."  You're welcome, Gordy. 

It's not often, in this age of musical bombast, that one can luxuriate in simple songs about love, life and regular folk, delivered in a sweet, acoustic live setting. 

Especially when those songs are the poignant Sit Down Young Stranger (not only has he not performed this song in 16 years, but it carried emotional weight coming on the heels of Remembrance Day), and classics like Sundown, Carefree Highway, Canadian Railroad Trilogy and If You Could Read My Mind. 

Accompanied by a four-member band, who, thankfully, didn't showboat like the cats backing up Harry Connick Jr. last week, Lightfoot packed as many songs as he could from his 18 albums into his two-hour performance. 

He also tested five new ones on us - among them On Yonge Street, Boathouse and Painter Passing Through - which may appear on his next album, tentatively scheduled for a spring '97 release. 

And, of course, he did Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald! 

Not only has this song achieved the status of, say, Led Zepellin's Stairway To Heaven, but we learned it's led to its creator being asked questions such as, "Do you know if it (the Fitzgerald) could go through the Welland Canal locks?" 

Incidentally, among the crowd at last night's gig was a group of 60 fans from various countries who'd hooked up with each other on the discussion group on the Internet. 

Lightfoot's at Massey Hall through Saturday.  He'll make you laugh, tap your feet and make you glad you came in from the cold. 

Good tickets remain for Thursday's and Friday's shows.  Saturday's is almost sold out.  Tix are $23.50 to $32.50. 

by Errol Nazareth - Toronto Sun