Gordon Lightfoot sings hits and more in Englewood

Gordon Lightfoot performed at BergenPAC in Englewood, Aug. 8.

“I’m Gordon Lightfoot, and reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” said Gordon Lightfoot, introducing himself to the crowd at BergenPAC in Englewood, Aug. 8. The veteran singer-songwriter had been the subject of a rather widespread Internet death hoax in 2010.

It was another kind of rumor that I was more concerned with, though. After writing a post about how much I was looking forward to this show, several people had warned me that Lightfoot’s voice was not in great shape, and that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much.

They were right — to an extent. Lightfoot’s voice, once so rich and resonant, has indeed grown thin and weak. He is now 78, and has had some serious health issues over the last 15 years.

And yet, I’m glad I went. On many songs, there were flashes of his former vocal charm. And on certain songs — “Cold on the Shoulder” in the first half of the show, for instance, and “A Painter Passing Through,” in the second half — he was able to sustain it more or less all the way through. His band, featuring longtime collaborators such as bassist Rick Haynes and keyboardist Mike Heffernan, was absolutely first-rate.

Furthermore … he’s GORDON LIGHTFOOT, someone who, as I mentioned in the earlier post, I’ve been in awe of for decades, but had never previously managed to see in concert. 

He seemed to enjoy being there — he says he still does 75 or 80 shows a year, just because he likes it — and told some stories, including one about the time he almost met Elvis Presley (who had recorded two of his songs). He mentioned that he had played BergenPAC just 14 months ago, and so would veer from his usual setlist and do some more obscure material — a nice, thoughtful gesture.

Still, he sang all of his biggest hits: “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Carefree Highway.”

And so, no, it was not the Gordon Lightfoot concert experience of my wildest dreams. But I got to hear all those songs and — I know this is going to sound corny — spend a couple of hours in the presence of a great artist. That is, after all, part of what concert-going is all about.

2 thoughts on “Gordon Lightfoot sings hits and more in Englewood

  1. Great review! Taking the artists age and history into account and providing an honest assessment, influenced by admiration and satisfaction. I saw him five years ago and it was very similar. Aged but proud!
    It drives me flipping nuts when people comment on he Stephen Stills / Judy Collins tour and claim Stills voice is shot. Of course it’s fucking shot! If you saw CSN or The Rides over the past fifteen years you would had have a flipping clue. His voice is shot! Yeah, and you’ve gained weight!! Shut the hell up and respect an artist that has been able to maintain progression in his craft as he reaches an age that I’m praying to reach. I’m glad you enjoyed the show. I need a drink…

  2. This IS a great review!! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen GL in concert, even got to meet him post concert several years ago. At one concert, as he took stage, someone behind me was upset at how old he looked. I turned around to see an even older looking person and asked her which direction do any of us go. Yes, his voice is thinner, but his music isn’t just about his voice, it’s the poetry in his lyrics and how the musical composition compliments this. I’m no music expert but I know what I like and I think GL is one of the best lyricist/writers/poet of all time.

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