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John Swartz Review,, Nov., 2023

SUNONLINEMEDIA.CA     Submitted by John Swartz, Nov, 2023

Last weekend’s Lightfoot Days Festival was successful on at least four counts. It attracted visitors from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. It might be others from elsewhere came too, those are just the ones I know of. People told me they were thrilled to be here.

The opening night concert by Classic Lightfoot Live at St. Paul’s Centre was sold out. The band (Gord’s nephew Steve Eyers, Erik Kidd, John Stinson, Liz Anderson and Bruce Campbell) covered many of Gord’s better known tunes, plus a number of what are called deep album cuts (the ones not often played in original form on the radio, or covered by others).

John does the singing. There were moments on a few tunes I thought – if my eyes were closed and I didn’t know better, I’d swear Gord was there. Not that John only sounded that way on a few tunes, it’s just I have heard Gord singing some favourites live so many times, how they sounded is burned into my memory. On those tunes Friday night I experienced a bit of transportation through the time continuum. For others, I’m sure something similar happened with other tunes. Everything was met by applause at the beginning of tunes and at the end, with a standing ovation to close out the night.

John replicates Gord in a natural way. There are some peculiar and unique things about the way Gord sang, his diction, and the way he inflected the rise and fall of the melodies. The melodies are crafted to be memorable and the lyrics to fit the pitch he chose. Gord worked diligently to make the two go together in just the right way for his sensibility. Gord was a musician, not just a songwriter. The notes were important. It may seem like a minor point, but there was a foundational musical sense to why the melodies went the way they did. Gord’s English teachers might be proud of the vocabulary Gord developed. You can tell by the lyrics, using a word or phrase to describe a number of emotions in an economical way. Gord mastered finding the right notes to go with each word and the right word to go with each note he wrote.

One can learn the words and the melodies and have a voice in the range and timbre like Gord, but if you overlook how Gord wrote any line the way he did and the delivery you’ll be just another singer in a rock and roll band.

John isn’t that. He gets how to sing the tunes and does it effortlessly (though I’m sure with a lot of practice) and doesn’t forget the job at hand by inserting himself into the reproduction. Let me qualify that last bit, He’s done it enough times I’m sure it feels he owns the performance and isn’t consciously playing a part.

Others can tell, even if they don’t know how or why John’s renditions come off as being so faithful. I’ve been told before, and many did that night, they can’t believe how well John sings Gord’s tunes.

The band has done a string of concerts all over the province in the last couple months. It’s been quite a road trip for them. This week they played in Cincinnati, so others far afield are catching on to this band. If they aren’t careful they could end up with a touring schedule like Gord had.

The full house, aside from accomplishing the obvious, anchoring the return of the festival on a positive note, also gave the committee some working capital for next year. I know some of the folks who organized it are already talking about next year.

So they became a tourist attraction out of the gate, filled the venues, mounted a great centerpiece for the festival, and have a nest-egg to move forward. Not bad.

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Vocals & Guitar

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Bass Guitar

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Lead Guitar

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Gordon Lightfoot in the audience!

In 2016 we were honoured to have the legend himself in the audience...

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 John Swartz Review - The Orillia Packet and Times Newspaper

There was a surreal moment at Lake Country Grill Sunday afternoon.

John Stinson is singing a tune. Of course, it’s Lightfoot Days, so it’s something from the Lightfoot compendium of music. Eric Kidd is playing lead guitar. His affinity for Gord’s music is natural; his guitar teacher was Red Shea. Steve Eyers is playing bass. His ability to get inside a tune Gord wrote comes from growing up with it; he’s Gord’s nephew. Stinson played previous Lightfoot Days. His voice is too much like Gord’s in tone. Add an ability to phrase like Gord and other vocal idiosyncrasies and he sounds just like the voice on all of the records. He doesn’t appear to be trying too hard to be a Memorex machine; it’s more natural. With your eyes closed, you’d think you were in the room with Gord.

Then you open your eyes and sitting right across from you is Gord.

He’d come to hear his nephew’s band at what amounts to a bit of a family reunion with more than a dozen other relatives on hand. Between conversation with a niece or other family member, he pays attention to Stinson. How does an observer process that? Seeing the icon watching a darned good band performing the icon’s tunes so  well? Heck, how does the singer process that? Stinson said before he stepped up to the mic, he was a bit nervous, on top of not feeling 100% chipper. He’d sung every day of the festival. But he pulled it off. When the set was done, Gord shook his hand and congratulated him.

(from Orillia Packet and Times, Nov 16, 2016)

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