- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gordon Lightfoot showed Wednesday that he can still command the stage. Over a little more than two hours at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, Mr. Lightfoot kept the full house rapt as he quietly wove through the decades, performing his songs from the 1960s through his latest recording, “Harmony,” released last year.

The 66-year-old Canadian folk artist is touring for the first time since he was stricken with an abdominal aneurysm during a September 2002 concert in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario. Comatose for six weeks, Mr. Lightfoot spent more than 19 months recovering in the hospital. He returned to the concert stage last November, and is now on the second leg of a 36-date tour that will end Dec. 3 in Orillia.

With his four-piece band — all of whom have played for Mr. Lightfoot for 18 years or more — the gaunt singer-songwriter acknowledged a standing ovation when he strode to center stage, saying, “All right.”

He sang “Spanish Moss,” from his 1976 “Summertime Dream” album and segued immediately to “Don Quixote,” the title track of his 1972 LP.

After performing “Minstrel of the Dawn,” he waited for the applause to die down and then addressed the audience.

“There’s some ethereal stuff for you. What else can you call it? It ain’t rock ‘n’ roll. But we’ve got some toe tappers,” Mr. Lightfoot said.

What followed was a mix of songs, old and new. He followed 1982’s “In My Fashion” with the title song of the “Harmony” CD. Then he dipped back to “Summertime Dream” for “Never Too Close,” and followed that with “Ghosts of Cape Horn” from 1980’s “Dream Street Rose.”

In front of a decidedly bubbly lighting effect of pink and green polka dots, Mr. Lightfoot sang “Rainy Day People,” one of his more popular songs from 1975’s “Cold on the Shoulder” album.

Then after a half-hour of finger-picking his six-string guitar, he traded that instrument for his signature Gibson 12-string for six songs, including his hits, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” from 1976 and “Sundown” from 1974, to close the first set.

Audience members tried to clap along, but the rhythm never really got established. The band was playing so quietly that the clapping was almost as loud as the drums. Mr. Lightfoot’s vocals at times sounded a bit weak in the mix.

In his second set, Mr. Lightfoot — who has performed eight times at Wolf Trap, most recently in 2000 before Wednesday’s concert — again juxtaposed old songs with new ones. He opened with “Restless,” from 1993, and followed it with “Beautiful” from the 1972 “Don Quixote” album. His “Shadows,” the title tune from his 1982 album, was followed by “If You Could Read My Mind,” his 1970 hit.

“I’ve outlasted just about everybody at Warner Brothers,” Mr. Lightfoot quipped as his program was winding down. He begged the audience to let him play “one more off the new record.”

“I like this ballad a lot,” he said, when introducing “Clouds of Loneliness.”

Mr. Lightfoot played his “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” a fan favorite, followed by “Song for a Winter’s Night” from the same 1967 album, “The Way I Feel.” He closed with “Old Dan’s Records,” from 1972, unquestionably the liveliest song of the evening.

The crowd brought him back for two encores: “Early Morning Rain,” his first hit song from 1965, and “Cold on the Shoulder,” the title track from his 1975 album.

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