Low turnout, but they loved Lightfoot

With a page or two of the great Canadian songbook to call his own, Gordon Lightfoot gave his first performance ever in Kamloops Tuesday night, one more stop in a career spanning a half-century.

Lightfoot, who just celebrated his 73 rdbirthday, cut a lean figure fronting for his four-piece band, but ably showed why he is revered as one of the country's greatest songwriters.

"This is the first time we ever played in Kamloops," he said, recalling a visit in the '80s en route to the Stein River Festival near Lytton. "It was about a half-hour 20 years ago."

Riveted at centre stage, the singer and guitarist opened with a series of lesser known songs - Sweet Guinevere, The Watchman's Gone and 14 Karat Gold among them.

Not surprisingly, his pipes - once the gentle tenor with the golden timbre - don't bear the resonance and range they once did. At times his voice seemed strained, though it was Lightfoot through and through on ballads such as The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, If You Could Read My Mind, Beautiful, Early Mornin' Rain and Song for A Winter's Night.

A mostly middle-age-and-up crowd of about 750 fans warmed to the old favourites, songs that helped to define the Canadian cultural landscape of the '60s and '70s when Lightfoot was in his zenith as a songwriter. He gave up songwriting after his last album, 2005's Harmony, and now concentrates solely on performing, which he still loves.

The band and the audience might have been better served in a smaller, soft-seat house such as Sagebrush Theatre. Lightfoot has always had a romantic style to his music, an intimacy that tends to get swallowed up by all arena concrete.

After Winter's Night - a soulful tearjerker Lightfoot wrote in mid-July in Cleveland of all places - the band came back for an upbeat encore of Blackberry Wine.

It was a heatwarming evening of memories wrapped in sweet ballads and melody, that felt a lot like a meeting of old friends.

(The Armchair Mayor was at the concert. Read Mel Rothenburger's takeon the event.)

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