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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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Stroke doesn't diminish Lightfoot's skills as an entertainer


"We were commenting backstage during the break," Gordon Lightfoot said to the enthusiastic crowd Sunday night at the Riverside. "This doesn't seem like a Sunday night crowd. It's more like a Saturday night crowd!"

For a man who turned 68 on Nov. 17, and who nine days ago suffered a transient stroke which affected his strumming hand so that he could only use two fingers, Lightfoot's Sunday show -- which was originally scheduled for the Pabst Theater but was moved after it sold out -- was outstanding.

He opened the show with "Cotton Jenny," off his 1971 album "Summer Side of Life." From there he went to "Carefree Highway," then "Sea of Tranquility" off of 1980's "Dream Street Rose."

Throughout the show he rotated between three acoustic guitars -- two 12-strings and a six-string -- all capoed between the second and third frets. The first set ended with his big hits "Sundown" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

After opening the second set with "The Watchman's Gone" and "Triangle," Lightfoot graciously apologized about not being able to play guitar on some of the songs he usually plays, saying that although he had been practicing, he was forced to change some of the numbers he usually plays on tour.

Perhaps a Lightfoot uber-fan may have noticed when he'd hold off on the strumming, but Terry Clements, Gordon's guitarist of 35 years, did an excellent job of covering.

Lightfoot's bassist Rick Haynes has been with him for over 30 years and keyboard player Mike Hefferman and percussionist Barry Keene have been in the band for more than 20.

This was my third Lightfoot concert -- after a 1996 show in Detroit and a 2001 gig in Green Bay -- and to be honest, I had my reservations about seeing him again. Luckily, he proved me wrong.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Oct. 1, 2006 at 7:12 p.m. (report)

Walter K said: My 23 year old daughter was raised on Gordon Lightfoot. She wanted to see him in concert, and although I knew that the Lightfoot of 2006 would not be the Lightfoot of 1974-1975 I went along. Yes the voice is gone, but it was my daughter who picked up on his guitar playing. Was I disappointed, yes and no. He's still plugging away after damn near dying, 9 days after a transient stroke. He isn't the performer he was 30 years ago, but who is? But he's a hell of a writer.

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OMCreader | Sept. 30, 2006 at 5:48 p.m. (report)

Todd said: Just heard a song from GL on XMsat. radio. I have always loved his songs. So, I was wondering how he was doing health-wise and decided to find out. I was not aware of his latest setback, but it is great to know that he was still able to put on a great concert for you folks. Awesome! I was able to see him perform live at the Embassy in Fort Wayne, IN a number of years ago and I am so glad that I did. Keep it going Gordon! Thanks for the musical memories!

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OMCreader | Sept. 27, 2006 at 9:15 a.m. (report)

Mike said: The concert was unbearable for anyone sitting near the rowdy group of "fans" dressed in 70's costumes - including wigs. Loud, obnoxious, constantly interrupting the songs, and spilling drinks on those sitting nearby; these idiots made an otherwise good show unbearable for all those nearby. I left at the intermission.

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OMCreader | Sept. 26, 2006 at 9:32 p.m. (report)

Ginny said: I attended the concert in Minniapolis on a Sunday night a day or two after Gordon had his TIA, I can't tell you how much courgage it must have taken to step onto that stage. He did a great job, along with his band. You could tell they had been playing together for a long time or they wouldn't have been able to pick up where one or the other of them left off. I love Gordon's music and very happy he didn't cancel his concert in Minneapolis that night. It was well worth the money.

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OMCreader | Sept. 26, 2006 at 5:22 p.m. (report)

Jim Kapell said: I went to the show Sunday and was very disappointed. We left at the intermissiom. His voice was very weak. You would have thought that the sound crew would have turned up the vocals on him. You could barely hear him. I know that he's older and had a stroke but we paid good money for these tickets and felt cheated. I think the crowd was cheering for who he was, not how he sounded now

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