In one of his most enduring hits, Gordon Lightfoot sang of a time "when the gales of November came early." The tune, of course, was The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the 1976 hit that closed the first half of last night's sold-out concert at the Kentucky Theatre. And, true to form, it -- and scores of other folkish delights the veteran Canadian songwriter served up -- unquestionably accented the autumnal cool that was already in the late October air.
But the seasonal breezes that surrounded the two one-hour sets were hardly gale-force. Quieter, calmer winds pushed Lightfoot's program along at a decidedly gentle and unhurried pace.
Given the understated tone that has dominated his recordings for more than 35 years, that should come as no surprise. But what wasn't as expected was how fresh these seemingly simple and well-worn tunes sounded last night and how easy and earnest Lightfoot's vocal command of those songs remained throughout the show.
concert-opening 14 Karat Gold, an unassuming gem from his 1982 Shadows
album, Lightfoot and his band adopted the modest, autumnal
that worked so efficiently for the entire performance. Mike Heffernan's
airy keyboard colors and Terry Clements' lyrical guitar leads
remained comfortable backdrops for Lightfoot's whisper-thin singing.
The combination also enforced a clever balance that has always existed in Lightfoot's work, whether it was in sea chanteys such as 1983's Ghosts of Cape Horn, storybook parables that included the title track to 1972's Don Quixote album or the unabashed romanticism of Beautiful.
Ditto for a trio of tunes in the show's second set from 1993's Waiting For You album: the clever and worldly title tune, the deliciously wistful Restless and the melancholy I'll Prove My Love.
In more fickle folk hands, these sort of extremes would have taken a tumble into the worst sort of sentimentalism. But the quiet credence that Lightfoot and the band awarded these songs gave this often fanciful material a refreshingly human charm.
CONTRIBUTING MUSIC CRITIC