Only one small disappointment in Gordon Lightfoot concert

“Ribbon of Darkness,” Syd said last night as we listened to Gordon Lightfoot in the Interior Savings Centre. “He’s gotta do Ribbon of Darkness.”

Sure enough, after opening with a few of his lesser-known songs, he turned to what he called his “more familiar” material, including Ribbon of Darkness.

“Early Mornin’ Rain,” said Syd. “He’s gotta do Early Mornin’ Rain.” After sitting on edge for awhile longer, there it was, Early Mornin’ Rain.

Gordon Lightfood at Interior Savings Centre. (Daily News photo)

“If You Could Read My Mind,” Syd said. “He’s gotta do If You Could Read My Mind.”

“No,” I said. “Edmund Fitzgerald. He’s gotta do Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

I’d come prepared to be disappointed. At 73, how good could Gordon Lightfoot be? He’ll probably have some second-rate band open for him, then come on stage and massacre his oldies with an attempt at re-inventing them, I thought. But no, it was all Lightfoot, vintage Lightfoot.

I bought my first Gordon Lightfoot LP when I was 18. I remember that day, I remember the store, I remember the thrill of putting it on my old record player. I still have it. Little did I know Syd had fallen in love with Gordon Lightfoot when she was barely out of Kindergarten. After 28 years of marriage, we’re still finding things we have in common.

His distinctive, reedy voice isn’t as strong as it used to be, but it didn’t matter. It was like family coming back together after being apart for many years, the crowd quickly warming to this man who has made such a mark on Canadian music.

I almost missed Edmund Fitzgerald. He opened the second set with it while I was visiting the men’s room. The audience thought they’d died and gone to heaven, borne on the wings of the greatest balladeer in our country’s history. And his voice, rather than weakening, grew stronger in the second half, bolstered, perhaps, by Lightfoot’s increasing sense of comfort with an appreciative house.

“Railroad Trilogy,” said Syd. “He’s gotta do Canadian Railroad Trilogy.”

“Encore,” I said. “He’s saving it for the encore. Big finish.”

Of course he would do Railroad Trilogy for his encore. Money in the bank. A given.

Two hours after he’d started, the concert was over, too soon, and Lightfoot and his four-piece band left the stage. The audience stood, the applause and cheering reached its crescendo, and Lightfoot and his band came back. Now, time for Railroad Trilogy.

“This one is a toe tapper,” he said. “We’re gonna tap our way outta here.”

Toe tapper? Railroad Trilogy is many things, but it’s not a toe tapper.

No, it was Blackberry Wine, a toe tapper for sure, but not Canadian Railroad Trilogy. He finished up and walked off the stage again. The crowd cheered. Now, for the big finale, the return to stage for Railroad Trilogy.

Nothing. The crowd got up and started to file out. Syd and I stared at each other.

“Impossible,” she said.

“It can’t be,” I said. “How could he not finish with Railroad Trilogy?”

After all hope had fled, we, too, dejectedly left the building. It was the single disappointment in an otherwise lovely evening. That, and the fact there was no kiosk flogging CDs. Syd really wanted that CD.

Listening to Syd singing Railroad Trilogy on the way home, complete with her own rendition of the instrumentals, wasn’t the same. Better than nothing, mind you, but what we’d yearned for, expected, were sure of, was Gordon Lightfoot performing the greatest Canadian ballad of all time.

Despite that, everyone who was there is thankful for his first-ever Kamloops concert. In the shower this morning, I found myself belting out Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

About Mel Rothenburger (8666 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on Only one small disappointment in Gordon Lightfoot concert

  1. Lightfoot will sometimes perform both of his epic songs – The Wreck and The Trilogy but with the dry air and elevations in some of the venues he plays he will perform only one and replace the other with Early Morning Rain. I flew in from Toronto and saw him in Edmonton, Banff and Calgary and he did not sing The Trilogy at any of those shows. He also has taken to singing it after the break so he’s rested.
    His band members, other than the new lead guitarist who started earlier this year after the death of Terry Clements (41 years with Lightfoot) have been with him for decades. They only stopped touring for 2 years after Lightfoot fell ill in Sept. 2002. Bass player Rick Haynes has been with him for 43 years, drummer Barry Keane for 36 years I believe and keyboard player Mike Heffernan is coming up on 31 years in January 2012. has Lightfoot info,tour dates for 2012 (more to come) and lots more! has an active fan discussion board with reviews/pictures/videos.
    Enjoy the music!
    moderator @ corfid

  2. Ayren Messmer // November 23, 2011 at 1:04 PM // Reply

    Why can’t we live like brothers?
    Why can’t we live in peace?
    But the hands of the have nots.
    Keep falling out of reach.
    Black Day in July

    Such a great political protest song!

    Did he play it?

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