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  • Writer's pictureJohn McLachlan

Massey Hall and Gordon Lightfoot

This past weekend, the venerable concert hall in Toronto reopened with three concerts by Gordon Lightfoot, after being renovated. I’ve been to Massey Hall in Toronto for six concerts, five of which were by Gordon Lightfoot’s (the sixth was Rufus Wainwright). I saw Gordon two nights in 1981 and two nights in 1982 and then one night in 1999.

These shows were all on visits to Toronto. In early 80s I flew from Vancouver and stayed with my friend, Kevin at his home in Markham. For a west coast young guy like me, just being in Ontario in mid-March was a weather eye-opener. The temperatures were down to -15 Celsius for a few of those days which is colder than it gets in almost any year in Vancouver.

I recall getting the use of Kevin’s mom’s little Honda Covic and driving the 401 to the end of the Yonge Street subway line, parking and riding the train downtown to Massey Hall.

The first time entering that theatre—which was etched in my mind as legend and lore—was really something. I was struck by how small the theatre felt (in a good way). I sat in the first balcony and have to say, I cried a few tears sitting there waiting for the show to begin because I just couldn’t believe I was finally there.

In the early 80s I was at the peak of my interest in Lightfoot’s music so these concerts were like going to the holy shrine and worshipping. I hung off every word, every melody and each new song he played was thrilling to me. That kind of awe wore off over time—but not the admiration for his music—and I became less of a fanatic.

In 1999 I was in Toronto for an arts booking conference and I had met Bernie Fiedler though his work at these conferences (I ran an equivalent event in Vancouver at the time). He produced Gordon’s shows at Massey Hall and asked if I’d like to have a ticket to a show, and drop by the theatre in the afternoon of one of the days he was performing at Massey Hall during that week. Hell, yes!

I had a front row, centre seat—I sat beside Canadian performer Fred Penner—and got invited to the “mix-and-mingle” after the concert downstairs at the hall. The next afternoon, I was invited to drop by the theatre where I chatted with Gordon briefly in a dressing room where he was working on his set list for that evening’s concert. I also got to meet the band in the green room who were just sitting and chilling.

The whole experience was wonderful though I wished it could have happened back when I was there in the early 1980s as my fandom then was on a whole other level.

I think it’s so fitting that he was the first act to open the newly renovated Massey Hall. He’s 83 years old now and it’s amazing he’s still up for performing. The last time I saw him perform was at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver in 2015. I think it will be the last time I see him perform live. I had great seats and saw him up close, which makes such a difference. 30 concerts since 1973, five of which were at Massey Hall.

Gordon Lightfoot performing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, October, 2014


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