This was actually a total score I got from BMV in Toronto on our trip in May. It’s just taken me this long to get around to reading it…
Dave Bidini – Writing Gordon Lightfoot
Dave Bidini is a hero of mine. Not only was he in the venerable Rheostatics, and maker of excellent solo records too, but he’s written a whole bunch of fantastic books too! Long may he run!
When I found this book on our trip to Toronto, of course I had to snap it right up. I am so glad I did. Written as letters to Lightfoot himself, this book is well-researched, funny, and full of memories. The story of one week in Lightfoot’s life in 1970, it’s Gord’s story, Dave’s story, and Canada’s story, from that time, too. A history lesson as much as it is a personal memoir, it’s compulsive, compulsory reading.
In looking this one up online, I was a little surprised to find quite a few negative reviews claiming that it’s a waste of time, poorly written, lacking substance. Did they read they same book I did? Can they not see it for what it is? He never claims it’s a biography of Lightfoot, just a snapshot of one short period, and his own stories and memories as a fan. Ah well, we’re all entitled to our opinions.
Me? I say get this, it’s a great read by an excellent writer in our current Canadian landscape.
He showed up! I was not entirely expecting that. My very limited knowledge of Gordon Lightfoot suggests that he has, in the past, been prone to booking concerts in Regina and then cancelling. This may be entirely apocryphal, or maybe it only ever happened one time and for some reason it really stuck with me. Whatever. My point is that I am a wealth of Gordon Lightfoot facts. Others include:
- According to my pal who owns a bakery here, Gordon Lightfoot likes his whole wheat bread fresh, sliced, and delivered before noon.
- You need to has five bucks for the Homestarmy in case Gordon Lightfoot is creeping around YOUR back stair.
- One time, I tried talking about Gordon Lightfoot in an email or text or something and it came out as “Gordon Lightfood” and I like that a lot better. I might do a find-and-replace so that I remove all instances of Lightfood (except in this bullet) but I most likely won’t.
- This other time, I was challenged to write a song about a guy who went to the computer school I taught at. I did so – it was a parody of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was obscene and some of my finest work ever.
- The Edmund Fitzgerald sank 39 years ago today! I wrote this review yesterday and didn’t intentionally hold off on posting it for a day to tie into the anniversary, but I would have if I’d known.
See? Super knowledgeable over here.
My dad and stepmom picked us up and we went for dinner at the casino. I was prepared for the usual eternal wait to get seated, rushed meal, and mad dash to the show lounge, but actually got through everything in decent time. Surprising, seeing as how the Lightfoot show was long since sold out and every senior citizen in Regina was in attendance.
A nice lady from the CBC introduced the show. I have gotten in trouble before for using the internet to repeat jokes that nice CBC ladies make, so I won’t say which nice CBC lady it was or what she said. Suffice to say that it was a joke about a topic I didn’t think CBC people would be allowed to joke about, and the crowd didn’t really know what to make of it. My dad thought it was super funny, though. And I laughed too. I have no shame.
Lightfoot and his four-piece band took the stage in short order, saying that rumours of his death had been greatly exaggerated – an amusing nod to the Lightfoot death hoax that circulated online a few years ago while Lightfoot, unaware, was happily at the dentist. Or at least I assume it was happily, considering the alternative.
With long gray hair and sporting a red velour jacket over a black collared shirt, Lightfoot looked for all the world like an old man anime Dracula. Like, maybe this is what the boss of a Castlevania game would turn into after you defeat him. Or maybe I just had a lot of time to think about these things.
During dinner, my dad mentioned a newspaper writeup about the show, where Lightfoot said that he normally played two-hour shows, and sometimes went longer if the audience wanted it. At about the 20-minute mark, I found myself hoping that this was an exaggeration.
Gordon Lightfoot is a legend and I’m really glad that I got the chance to see him. However, as you might expect from a 75-year-old, he has seen better days. This show did a fine job of hammering home what a miracle modern Leonard Cohen really is. With a weak voice, Lightfoot mumbled his way through a 90-minute set. Mika suggested that the sound was poorly mixed – that Lightfoot could sometimes not be heard over the drums – but I think Lightfoot just can’t project anymore. He also seemed to lose his train of thought repeatedly while talking between songs, and he took a break for some nasal spray at one point. I get it – he’s 75 – but this joins Dr. John and Mavis Staples and Loretta Lynn in the pantheon of “I wish I’d seen them way back when” shows.
I’m much less familiar with Lightfoot’s songs than I thought I was. I really only recognized Sundown, Carefree Highway, If You Could Read My Mind, and Edmund Fitzgerald; the latter was a nice surprise as I didn’t think we’d get it because it’s a longer song. Mika said she wasn’t expecting it because it gets a little loud, but noted that they toned it down. This was a running theme and did not help the show. I was excited to hear Sundown, but when they played it, all I thought was “yeah, I could stand to see Luke Doucet again.”
It didn’t help that Lightfoot’s band didn’t have much to do. They all had simple parts to play and were never really given chances to show off. The lead guitarist got a solo. That’s about it. The songs themselves could have been freshened up by losing the 1980s keyboards, or at least tweaking their sound.
You may want to ask about other hits and I will shrug cluelessly. I know he played Early Morning Rain and Cotton Jenny, but only because my dad and Mika said so, respectively. There were a number of songs where the opening notes got a nice reaction from the crowd, but they didn’t mean anything to me. Some of them sounded kind of familiar. I have listened to more than my share of Canadian AM radio in my day, so there is no excuse for my ignorance. Once I get this stupid iTunes working on this computer, I’ll check out a Lightfoot greatest hits collection. Probably should have done that a week ago.
- Kim Churchill w/Mo Kenney (November 13)
- Buck 65 (November 14)
- Spirit of the West (November 21)
- Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden and Astral Swans (March 7)