CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Thank you for your work," a woman cried out from the audience at the Gordon Lightfoot concert Monday night at the Clay Center.I suspect she spoke for most of those who came to hear the Canadian singer/songwriter, who produced a string of incredible songs during his half-century career.He sprinkled his most well known throughout the program. In the first 45 minutes, he sang "Rainy Day People," "Beautiful," "Carefree Highway," "Sundown" and "Cotton Jenny."Returning after a 20-minute intermission, Lightfoot launched into "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and brought many audience members to their feet with "If You Could Read My Mind."
But he didn't perform one of the most beloved folk songs of the 1960s, not even when called back for an encore. He didn't sing "Early Morning Rain." Maybe he couldn't. He acknowledged in a Gazz article last week that his voice isn't as strong as it once was -- that he was losing a bit off the high end. Still, it was disappointing to an attentive, respectful audience that filled the main floor and part of the first balcony. Lightfoot, who will be 74 in November, looked thin, rather fragile. His gravelly voice at times sounded a little shaky, and I had trouble hearing the lyrics on some of the songs I wasn't familiar with.On other numbers, such as "If You Could Read My Mind," his rendition sounded like the first time I ever heard the song on the radio.In Canada, Lightfoot has won 16 Juno awards for folk music. Unlike most folk singers of his era, he does not engage in small talk between songs. There is no introduction, no story about how the song came about. If you didn't know the name of the song before the concert, you still don't.Lightfoot also doesn't encourage any sing-a-longs from the audience. I am sure I wasn't the only one hoping to be invited to sing on a second round of "Sundown" or "Cotton Jenny." It would have added more fun to the evening.He did mention that the last concert he performed in Charleston was in 1977. And he said he has been on Mountain Stage twice.His concert here is part of a 14-city tour over 17 days. No wonder he's still at it after all these years -- if all his audiences are as affectionate and appreciative as this one in Charleston. Reach Rosalie Earle@firstname.lastname@example.org