By Jim Vailliencourt   Published Sep 25, 2006 at 8:08 AM
“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.