When pop entertainers take the stage, they open with a driving, rhythmic number to whip the crowd into a frenzy and get the adrenalin pumping.
When Gordon Lightfoot takes the stage, he quiets everyone down with a couple of soft ballads.That's the difference between Lightfoot and the modern world of pop music.
Over the years the singer has gotten thinner (he works out regularly). His hair has gotten thinner. Even his voice has gotten thinner. The "carefree highway" he's been on for more than 40 years now has indeed put some miles on him.
But inside he's still the minstrel of the dawn, the singer/songwriter who helped define his generation.
Ping-ponging among a series of guitars (including a sturdy Gibson 12-string and a gorgeous old six-string Martin), Lightfoot did some time-traveling at Kingsbury Hall on Tuesday night. Between tunes from his new "Painter Passing Through" CD, he sandwiched in a variety of his songs from a variety of eras.
Fronting a four-man combo (a setup that probably wouldn't have changed if he'd been at the Delta Center or the Hungry I), Lightfoot tried to recreate the club and cafe look and sound of the 70s.
And the music rolled out from that era as well:
"Beautiful," "Sundown," "Don Quijote," "Carefree Highway."
To close the opening set he chose "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." His other topical saga, "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy," would eventually close the show.
There are so many Lightfoot songs connected with so many communal memories, that everyone was bound to go home both satisfied and disappointed. Disappointed because old favorites such as "Cotton Jenny," "Ribbon of Darkness," "Bitter Green" and "Alberta Bound" never showed up. Yet satisfied that "On Susan's Floor," "Early Morning Rain" and "If You Could Read My Mind" did.
The Lightfoot delivery is a little less forceful than it once was. And the Utah altitude had him gulping water like a camel. But inside the songs, he was the Canadian troubadour people had come to hear.
He did make one gaffe. He trumpeted the name Michael Jordan from the stage and got a blast of boos for the effort. But he quickly pulled up some old memories of performing in Park City and working with Donny and Marie, and eventually worked his way back into favor.
Two standing ovations at the end brought him back out for two encores, including what is his most commercially successful number, "Rainy Day People."