From the nestled grounds in front of Bluesfest’s Blacksheep stage to the top of the grassy hill, a massive crowd had gathered in anticipation of Canada’s orchestral rock ensemble, Lighthouse. On a large screen backdrop, a brief video history of the band told the story of their beginnings in the late sixties and their wildly successful early days of big hits, momentous events, and world tours. Ten musicians took their places onstage including co-founder/keyboardist Paul Hoffert and guitarist Ralph Cole who has played every single gig since 1969. Skip Prokop, the founder of Lighthouse who envisioned and created a band that blends rock with classical and jazz, played his last gig in 2014 and sadly passed away last year. His son Jamie now carries the torch as drummer for the band.
They began with their 1973 hit “You Girl”, which immediately smacked the crowd with big band power. Every member of the band also sang, and together they created an additional boost of choral magic and multiple harmonies to their already bombastic sound. “Hats Off (To The Stranger)” had a rock-fuelled, gospel-driven vibe, and later the audience would wildly participate in the chorus of the classic “Sunny Days”, which climbed up into those iconic high notes. The band’s lead singer Dan Clancy, who joined Lighthouse in 1992, led the way on every song with his robust and full-ranged voice and dynamic stage presence. I zoomed in on Jamie Prokop, whose strong and crisp harmony vocals stood out clearly from behind the drums.
One from their 1971 album One Fine Morning, entitled “1849”, was a truly exceptional piece of work that involved horn swells, full choral blasts, and majestic builds throughout. More big brass moments with “Pretty Lady”, another early seventies AM radio favourite. “Are you ready to rock, Ottawa?!” Clancy shouted to the crowd, before delving into the thunderous drum and full brass opening of “Rockin’ Chair”, beefed up with brilliant organ and guitar gusto throughout its blues-rock melody. The highlight of the set came with the instantly recognizable guitar rhythm intro to “One Fine Morning”, the band’s biggest hit to date. The crowd embraced the song’s spirited and challenging jazz-rock melody, which was sung flawlessly by Clancy.
“We’re celebrating 50 years next year, and we’d love to come back!”, Clancy threw out to the audience, who reciprocated wholeheartedly. The band left us with one more song, “Can Ya Feel It” (1973), which featured soloing highlights all around. It ended Day 7 at Bluesfest on a high, and brought back the music, the magic, and the memories.
RBC Bluesfest runs from July 5–15, 2018 at LeBreton Flats. Visit ottawabluesfest.com for the lineup and schedule. Keep checking back for more of Apt613’s Bluesfest coverage and follow us on Instagram for the latest photos.