CONCERT REVIEWS

Toronto, ON
Massey Hall - November 16, 1996

Saturday night at Massey Hall, the final show of this stand and it's Gord's birthday-eve.  There is unquestionably a strong energy going around the hall.  Part of that may well be due to our distinguished group of amler's who were present, just fresh from our gathering at Senator's tavern, right around the corner from Massey. 

The hall was jammed for this final show and when Lightfoot and the band took the stage, it was clearly evident from the outset that they weren't about to disappoint.  I could tell right away that they were very much into the proceedings, starting first and foremost with Gord himself, who was animated right from the opening lines of 14 KARAT GOLD.  He's opening the shows with 6-string tunes this time out and it gives the entire set a different dynamic, which I found to be very positive and refreshing.  Then into I'LL PROVE MY LOVE.  He's putting great emphasis on the lyrics and phrasing tonight, most notably as he sings the "anyway I stub my toe" line.  Then the tempo picks up as the unmistakable opening chords to IN MY FASHION take shape.  Barry plays some great tom fills on this tune, as always.  And Lightfoot is still being playful in his phrasing, as he does a great job on the "Take a look at me" talking bridge.  There's no going through the motions here folks!  Now FADING AWAY.  Boy, I can't get over how pumped Lightfoot seems.  He's really snapping off the lines on this tune and the band is on fire.  You can notice Terry exchanging nods and looks with the other guys in the band as if to acknowledge that they know they're "on" and in super form.  Now the 12-string is strapped on.  "Here's a new song about ON YONGE STREET."  We're sitting a half block from "the longest street in the world" as the song tells us, so we can relate.  Excellent new song!  And now he's telling us that he's got a new cover tune.  He covered Dylan on the last album, who might it be this time?  Leonard Cohen, Neil Young?  Not even close.  It's from a band called Even Steven, from north of Toronto.  They play places like Barrie and Collingwood and Lightfoot gets a kick out of telling us that they even got down as far as North York one time.  It's a nice story song called, I USED TO BE A COUNTRY SINGER.  Word is that it may just turn up on the new album and that Lightfoot's nephew is in the band that wrote it.  It's got a rhythm and the melody is just overflowing with hooks, especially the chorus.  I can still hear it in my head now as write this.  Now back to famliar territory as they start into THE HOUSE YOU LIVE IN.  I'm continually impressed as the night goes on, that he is still singing each song with complete conviction.  Now let's get "ethereal" for a moment and SEA OF TRANQUILITY begins.  Another awesome rendition!  This is the real thing tonight folks!  Now he's back for the 6-string again.  Another new song coming.  He rents a cottage up in Muskoka and down by the slip there's a boathouse where he likes to go to do some work, because the family takes over the cottage.  You guessed it.  The new song is called BOATHOUSE and it comes complete with a killer groove and some lyrics like, "mosquito tally" and other entomological references.  Outstanding tune! Now he's alone at the mike, the spotlight solely on him as the band waits in the dark.  They've got half a song to rest as Lightfoot launches solo into SIT DOWN YOUNG STRANGER!  It's been 12 years since he's been doing this one, he tells us tonight.  (I told you Lisa!)  Spellbinding version!  "John loves Mary, does anyone love me?"  And the crowd explodes!  Back to the 12-string and we get a rock solid CAREFREE HIGHWAY.  Then Lightfoot reveals, "And then I wrote..." and then the 12-string strum of SUNDOWN is greeted with instant and enthusiastic recognition from the crowd.  I never tire of hearing that song and Terry blows me away with his outstanding work on this one!  Now Lightfoot tells us that he thought the recent documentary by Dr. Joe MacInnis was very well done and he felt that the families of the lost seamen would be pleased with it and then the familiar  "1,2,3,4,5,6" count in launches THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD.  Mike's keyboard parts on this arrangement are so a part of this song now, and he delivers them beautifully on this night.  But they're walking off now.  The first set vanished in what seemed like no time at all. 
 

A photographer appeared on stage during the first set and was snapping quite a few pictures of Lightfoot and the band.  Don't be surprised if they turn up in the new album.  He was out taking shots again the second half, so he was obviously authorized to be there, so there is some purpose in mind for these. 
 

They're back out to begin the second set now, and they go straight into DRIFTERS.  I'm liking this song more each time I hear it.  It's got a tempo similar to I'd Rather Press On, but the melody is much more varied.  Then comes RESTLESS.  Barry's percussion work on this song is incredible!  Now it's 
CHRISTIAN ISLAND with Terry's great tremolo solo!  Now he moves over to sit down on the bench and I see him forming the Cmaj7 chord to start A Lesson In Love, which is where this song was played on the previous night, but wait.  A request is yelled out from the blackened hall. "We could do that one," and they do.  MINSTREL OF THE DAWN!  Now they can do A LESSON IN LOVE and a rock 
solid rendition it is.  Lightfoot introed it with his now familiar "shrink alley" comment, but this time added, "Let me have the Prozac!"  Next comes a stunning DON QUIXOTE.  That song is quintessential Lightfoot!  And then it is followed by a song that has followed it so many times in the past, going back to the early 70's, IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND.  The crowd gives him an extra loud applause at the end of this one.  Here comes another new one that he tells us only takes one finger to play, and by golly he's right.  But what a song it is.  A PAINTER PASSING THROUGH!  A possible title cut for the new album, and how appropriate.  It seems to be a summing up of Lightfoot's career and where it all fits into the grand scheme of things.  "I am just a painter passing through in history."  Brilliant!  Now we get a new song written perhaps for his kids?  It's called UNCLE TOAD SAID and it's great!  Lightfoot mentions that when they were recording it, he told the engineer that he wanted Barry's snare drum to sound, "Fat, like a toad!"  Great song and arrangement, with Mike being featured prominently.  But time is sadly winding down as he reaches back and straps on the 12-string and soon EARLY MORNING RAIN is ringing through the hall.  Then an on fire, down and dirty, BLACKBERRY WINE follows.  The guy's are still burning the place up!  Then he recounts how this next song was written in three days and Pierre Berton told him in an elevator one time, that the song says as much in 7 minutes as his entire book said in many hundreds of pages.  It's CANADIAN RAILROAD TRILOGY.  He's still doing it with the "building the bridges" and "drinking bad whisky" lines reversed, so this seems as close to a permanant change as we can expect.  They finish it and are walking off.  The entire audience are soon on their feet and back they come.  Another request is shouted, and they play it.  RING THEM BELLS.  I wonder if they were planning to do it anyway?  They leave again, but another standing ovation soon has them back and we get COLD ON THE SHOULDER.  After never hearing that song live until last May in Orillia, I'm happy get that one again. They're gone one more time and it seems uncertain as to whether they'll be back.  But don't you fear, hear they come again and the crowd is as boisterous as I've ever seen a Lightfoot crowd.  When OLD DAN'S RECORDS begins, people are up dancing in the aisles!  The crowd is roaring and clapping all the way through and Lightfoot is still snapping off the lines with authority and conviction.  But this time it's over for real.  The house lights go up and there's plenty of satisfied customers sitting there when they do. 

by Wayne Francis