Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gordon Lightfoot - Alabama Theatre

That evening found me pondering a question men have pondered for many years: Was it really worth two months' salary?

I have to be honest. It didn't seem likely. To put it in practical terms, that's a bunch of rounds of golf. Not to mention several beach trips. No matter how much you love someone or something -- and I do -- it just seemed like too much to spend.

You know, for a pair of football tickets.

But this was THE game. Bama. LSU. National Championship. In New Orleans. (Ironically, the site of the last time I proposed to a girl. Don't worry, I didn't know her name.) So I continued to look desperately for a better deal. There's this guy, Craig Slist (weird name, I know), who sells all kinds of stuff online. I was browsing his site when I saw it:

"Gordon Lightfoot - Alabama Theatre - January 15th"

What? Could it be? Was GLight coming this close? How could I not have heard about it?

It could. He was. And I had not. Perhaps I'm not as "in the loop" as I think? Nonetheless, I was going. (And yes, I'm just now writing about a concert I attended more than two months ago.)

This would be my first visit to the Alabama Theatre, located in Birmingham. Having looked up some info online, I found it was built in 1927. Not knowing anything about architectural styles, I think I can best describe the theatre like this: It looked like what I imagine the theatre where Lincoln was shot probably looked like.

Before the show started, several people were taking pictures of the inside of the theatre. It had a classy feel to it. To wit, there was one section of seats called a "dress circle," which I will confess I was afraid to purchase tickets in because I thought maybe the people who sat there were required to wear formal dress. I mean, would my Argyle be classy enough?

So we sat on the floor. Row 13. Even though I only purchased tickets the day before the show. I found that to be a little sad.

There was no opening act, which I have come to prefer in my late summer years as it has gotten difficult to sit for two hours without becoming stiff. Gordon took the stage with a simple four-piece band, and launched right into the set.

The first thing you notice is the voice isn't as strong. I suppose time and health issues have taken their toll. I remember reading he had been in a coma for six weeks some years back after suffering a ruptured abdominal aneurysm. And then five or six years ago, he had a light stroke.

He struggled at times with the high notes, and you had to strain to hear in a few places. But in a way, it worked to make the show more intimate. A small, half-filled venue. The audience quiet and focused on every word. All except for one (hopefully) drunken female who continually shouted in her native Southern tongue, "Yeeeaaah baybeeee!" and also yelled for "Freebird" once.

Lightfoot never missed a single lyric that I could tell, as he sang probably 20 to 25 songs from his abundant catalog. There were songs I'd forgotten about, such as "Early Mornin' Rain" and "Ribbons Of Darkness," which was a big hit for Marty Robbins. And of course, he did the expected favorites, "Rainy Day People," "Carefree Highway," and the still-haunting "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald."

You couldn't close your eyes and pretend it was forty years ago. You couldn't. But you could open your eyes and appreciate the moment, and what you were experiencing. A prolific and phenomenal songwriter, and gifted storyteller, doing what he's done seemingly forever. And I'll always be thankful I had the opportunity to be there for it.

When he sang "Song For A Winter's Night," I thought of all the thousands of winter nights that song must have been listened to by some lonely soul somewhere. And not just listened to, but felt.

And in Bone-is-a-Wikipedia-nerd news, I'd read that Gordon's daughter had asked him to change a line in "If You Could Read My Mind" from "The feelings that you lack" to "The feelings that we lack." So I was curious to see if he still made that change. He did.

I also hearkened back to the first time I heard that song. In the car. At night. Far from home. And I remember wishing it wouldn't end.

That was the night I discovered Gordon Lightfoot. Back then, the thought of ever seeing him in concert wasn't even a possibility I considered. But maybe I was always meant to. It's funny how things like that work out sometimes.

As for the football game, I opted to save my money and watch it on TV. Guess I'll have to come up with something else to spend that two months' salary on.

What, I have no idea.

"Once upon a time, once upon a day, when I was in my prime, once along the way. If you want to know an answer, I can't turn your life around. For I am just a painter passing through the underground..."


  1. Your mention of his songs brings back so many memories for me...especially "If You Could Read My Mind". It's always kind of bittersweet (and unsettling) seeing these musicians from my younger years when they're much older - to witness their aging, their cracking voices, their reduced energy on the stage. It's a scary reminder that I'M getting older right a long with them.

    P.S. Bone, I did some googling and, alas, was unable to figure out what type of bush it was that I photographed on my blog. I was hoping I'd have an answer for you - so sorry! It's a mystery.

  2. Dang, when you put it like that, I paid a months pay to go see Elton John. Of course it was in Costa Rica, and I took the wife, and we spent a week there, and went to the beach...

  3. You're supposed to spend two months salary on a diamond...not football tickets!

    I've found that Craig Slist guy to have some nice deals...he's sold some of my stuff too. Although we have this one stalker type woman who keeps just showing up to buy this one item without I haven't opened the door for her (I was still in my PJ's!!!)

  4. I may love this post more than is normal for one who doesn't love Gordon Lightfoot.
    Beautifully written.

    Luckily, we don't have to go to every title game-- because we know we'll be back soon. Roll Tide.

  5. You couldn't close your eyes and pretend it was forty years ago. You couldn't. But you could open your eyes and appreciate the moment, and what you were experiencing. ~ I love this.

    Beautifully written. And amazing that's he's still going strong after a stroke and a coma.

  6. Sherri B - Bittersweet is a good way to describe it, I think. I'd read some horrible reviews of his recent shows, and wanted to offer a different perspective.

    PS: I googled, too. Came up with a couple that I thought were close, but nothing that ever seemed to match exactly. So yes, I guess it will remain a mystery for now :)

    MarkD - A week at the beach. I think that's exactly what you're supposed to spend it on.

    Renee - A diamond? That doesn't sound right. Besides, what would I do with a diamond? :)

    Cami - Thank you. I wasn't feeling that great about this one when I posted it, so that means a lot.

    J Adamthwaite - Thank you. Yeah, it's quite remarkable. I twist an ankle and I'm sidelined for a month :)

  7. It's 4 AM in the morning and I'm too half asleep to make a decent comment but you could rewrite the phone book and make it into must reading

    I have gotten too used to seeing much loved entertainers enter their dotage to think much about it, sadly. It's the people in my life I think about

  8. Ahhh, what a sweet post, Bone, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It is a sad fact age comes to us all, but somehow it's all the more depressing when it happens to our hero's - they are MEANT to be immortal, aren't they? I sure would have loved to have caught that concert, though.

  9. I like Gordon Lightfoot, but find it amazing that long after his prime, in the same week, two of my blogger friends have posted about him... Check out this post (I also gave him your URL):

  10. A nice post about one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our time. I enjoyed it!

  11. I can't figure out if you paid WAY too much for tickets or if you get paid WAY too little. I mean, 2 month's salary seems to be a lot for tickets to a concert (I'm basing this off what 2 months salary would've been for me at my old job).

  12. Oh wait. I misread that. You were going to pay 2 month's salary for football tix, not the concert.

  13. Pia - I don't get many 4 AM blog comments. But I like knowing when you can't sleep, you check my blog. Did it help? :)

    Shrinky - Thank you. Yeah, I think when we realize they aren't, it probably reminds us we aren't.

    Sage - That is quite the coincidence! Thanks for letting me know. I'll be heading over there shortly to check it out.

    Michael Manning - I agree. And thank you.

    Xinh - Haha. Glad you got that straightened out. I tried to be as confusing as possible.

  14. Thanks for a really interesting post!