Salt Lake City, UT
Kingsbury Hall - July 14, 1998


His nasal voice seems slightly higher and rougher around the edges.  His gaunt look shows the wear and tear of over 40 years on the road, playing bars, arenas and festivals.  And his demeanor is that of a man you would not want to cross. 

Yet, Gordon Lightfoot still posesses a magic that makes one of his concerts an event folk music fans savor.  He is always capable of surprises, both in the songs he chooses to perform and his occasional banter. 

The old troubadour sauntered into the floodlights right on time at Kingsbury Hall Tuesday night.  That surprised a good portion of the near capacity audience. People were still being seated 45 minutes into the show, an aggravating sideshow for those who were in the hall on time. 

Lightfoot looks much older than the young man pictured on classic 1970s folk albums when he was at the height of his popularity.  Even he remembered the cold night in Park City almost 25 years ago when he and warm-up act Leo Kottke tried to stay warm enough to play. 

His veteran four-man backup band has also aged.  Pick up a 1975 Gord's Gold album and you will see the names of bass player Rick Haynes, lead guitar player Terry Clements and drummer Barry Keane.  They were all there Tuesday night, running through a list of well-known hits, newer compositions and 
little-heard gems from the past. 

When Lightfoot sings "We've been friends for such a long, long time," in the song "Beautiful," it makes for a poignant concert moment.  It does seem as though the Canadian folk singer is an old friend who makes his appointed rounds to a Salt Lake City concert venue every year or two. 

As with most folk singers, Lightfoot is at his best when he uses his song to tell a story.  Thus, fairly obscure songs like his ode to the whale Big Blue or a new ditty on spending time battling mosquitoes in his boathouse ring true. So do his ultimate story songs, "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," both of which received long applause from an enthusiastic audience. 

There were Utah references in the friendly between-song banter.  A reference to Michael Jordan drew loud boos and a chuckle from Lightfoot, who hinted he should have remembered where he was.  The singer asked if there was really salt in the Great Salt Lake and enjoyed the audience members who tried to educate him on that fact.  He even talked about appearing on "The Donny and Marie Show" years ago, probably unaware of Donny Osmond's recent appearance on this same Kingsbury stage. 

All in all, the combination of story songs, love ballads and old favorites left Lightfoot's fans happy they came to spend the night with one of folk music's legends. 

by Tom Wharton - Salt Lake Tribune