I talked so much yesterday about people walking by, and not much about the band I went to see – Lighthouse, all fourteen of them. Started by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert fifty years ago, back then there were two keyboards, a lead guitar, a bass guitar, two violins, a cello, a double bass, a trumpet, a trombone, two types of saxophone, a drum set … and a lead singer. No one had heard of such a thing. And Toronto was home.
From the front row, I gazed out at two original members – Paul on the far side on keyboard and Ralph Cole right in front of me playing lead guitar. Ralph looked like my dad and dressed like my dad, in a turtleneck and a conservative suit jacket. But he rocked unlike any 75-year-old I’ve ever seen! He made that guitar wail as he pulled the strings to the side and then launched into a flurry of runs. His face contorted as decades of onstage work came through. Dan Clancy, the lead singer, told us that Ralph hasn’t missed playing in a Lighthouse gig for the entire fifty years!
Paul beckoned to the crowd with one hand and smashed some notes on the keyboard with the other, as he blasted out Sunny Days with his fellows, to the roar of the crowd. At one point, just after receiving an award from Mayor John Tory for Lighthouse’s service to music in Toronto, Paul cradled the microphone and thanked generations of Canadians for loving him and his friends. Clearly it was mutual.
At the back of the proceedings sat a drummer, a young man. He seemed out of place until I found out who he was – Jamie Prokop, the son of founder Skip Prokop. As Skip was dying a few years ago, he had two requests: that the band continue to play the songs he wrote, in hopes that they would touch a new flow of young people; and that Jamie take his place at the drum set. Both have come true. The furious beat goes on.
I don’t even remember what the final song was, but almost all of us were standing and dancing. The boys in front of us were loving it. Over 1100 souls shared joy last night. The energy in Koerner Hall was immense.
So it was over. Did we all file out like sheep, us to the back of the hall and the performers to backstage? No. I think everybody in the band came forward to shake our hands. The front row works quite well for that. I looked into the eyes of Don, Ralph, Dan, Jamie and Paul, one after the other, and thanked them for their music, and for their delight in performing. Ralph held my hand an especially long time. Thank you, dear compatriot of my dad.
If Ralph can be so deeply Ralph at 75, surely I can be deeply Bruce at 70