NEWTON, NJ—Even at 75 years old, a frail and thin Gordon Lightfoot captivated the sold-out crowd at The Newton Theatre as he sang and performed two career-spanning 50-minute sets, highlighting his most treasured hits. While his voice lost some of its richness and range due to his string of near-death illnesses over the previous years, Lightfoot still retained his iconic voice on his lesser vocally demanding songs. With a tight four-piece band behind him, Lightfoot took the audience back to the time where he stood toe to toe with some of the greatest songwriters including Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who both covered Lightfoot songs.
Lightfoot began the performance rattling off three quick songs, which included the crowd pleaser “Cotton Jenny,” before taking a break to introduce himself, saying, “I’m Gordon Lightfoot, and the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” boasting laughter from the audience. He incorporated songs “Wild Strawberries” and “Spanish Moss” that were not the most popular, but still painted a vivid and interesting picture of life on the road and running from love. The first set ended with two of his well-known songs, “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” and “Carefree Highway,” which had the packed theater singing cheerfully along.
The second set featured keyboardist Mike Heffernan enhancing the sound of many songs with synth strings, and lead guitarist Carter Lancaster playing efficient, melodic solos, most notably on the bluesy rocker “Baby Step Back.” The entire time, Lightfoot accompanied his band on his six- and 12-string guitars, prominently providing the signature licks and riffs of his songs with his folk-infused finger picking, especially heard on “Let It Ride.” This set definitely sent the crowd wild with hits like “Sundown,” “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” and his most renowned song, “If You Could Read My Mind,” which sent the crowd into a minute-long standing ovation.
While he may be a ghostly image of yesteryear and have a tarnished voice compared to his prime, Lightfoot stood valiant and sang wholeheartedly for the near two-hour show, interjecting humorous and historical anecdotes of his travels throughout and keeping the audience transfixed on his incredible storytelling through song.