Gordon Lightfoot is one of the last surviving troubadours.
A songwriter who can paint vivid portraits of whales and sailors and railroaders. A singer who can take a ballad and make it personal for each member of the audience.
After more than a two-year absence, Lightfoot and his four-man band returned Thursday night to the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. A welcome visit for the near-capacity crowd.
Lightfoot, like his audience, is a bit more weathered. But his baritone remains mellow and smoky, reminiscent of leaves burning in autumn.
In a fast paced concert that spanned a musical career of nearly four decades, he performed standards: Rainy Day People, Don Quixote, The Watchman's Gone, That's What You Get for Lovin' Me, Did She Mention My Name.
He also sprinkled in some more obscure, but no less entertaining, tunes: 14 Karat Gold, In My Fashion, Triangle. And a real gem which he introduced as 'a trip down shrink alley' A Lesson In Love.
Of course the loudest applause came for The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, a song with special implications for a Great Lakes audience. Indeed, he noted that some of the victims had Green Bay ties.
It's hard not to get goosebumps with the first mournful guitar notes and the solemn story of that Lake Superior shipwreck.
The 57-year-old Canadian is at work on a new album that it due out later this year. It will be his first since 1993's Waiting For You.
He performed three songs from that as yet untitled album, the most impressive being A Painter Passing Through.
With Lightfoot the songs and the voice are the show. The stage was spare and the band performed crisply.
But Lightfoot was more animated than the last time he visited Green Bay, sprinkling his sets with recollections as well as music.
He introduced Blackberry Wine as a "toe-tapper. Or as Allen Ginsberg said: 'A party was needed.' That's what he (Ginsberg) said when the Rolling Thunder Tour came to my house."
He recalled that Carefree Highway came from a highway sign outside Flagstaff, Ariz.
And just before launching into the audience-requested Fine As Fine Can Be he offered that he wouldn't mind "being a cheesehead for a week." And as Lightfoot launched into the classic If You Could Read My Mind, it was obvious that his listeners wouldn't have minded that one bit.