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Review and photos by Mary Andrews50 years ago an 18-year old Guthrie and some friends got arrested for littering in a small town in Massachusetts over the Thanksgiving holiday. This arrest led to a draft deferment during the Vietnam War. Arlo decided to write and record this incident in an 18-minute narrative song that became career defining for the story telling troubadour. He followed the recording with a popular movie in 1969. This is the second leg of a tour that he is taking on the road for a year and a half.
The show started with a short, weird Claymation film adaptation of Mr. Guthrie's "Motorcycle Song" or "I Don't Want a Pickle." As the film ends Arlo and the band walked on stage. Son, Abe Guthrie on keyboards, Bobbie Sweet on guitar, Terry Hall on drums, and Darren Todd on bass round out the band. They are not flashy musicians, but they support Arlo well.
The first half of the show was a conglomeration of songs from albums throughout Guthrie's career. At one point he spoke of his hero worship for Lead Belly. "He called himself the king of the twelve string guitar. He was not kidding. Even to this day the stuff he was doing is unusual. You would not hear it a lot. He was so inventive. He played more than twelve string guitar. He played everything. Banjo, mandolin, squeezebox, piano. If it made noise, Lead Belly could play it. Lead Belly and his wife were friends of the family and they would come over. One of the first memories I have. I must have been two-years old. I was standing there next to Lead Belly. I must have come up to his knees., holding on to his pant leg or something. I asked myself a few years back, why would something that only lasted a few seconds maybe a minute or two at most. Why would that memory be etched in my brain for an entire lifetime? There's no answer. I'm just asking." This brings to my mind the first time I saw a gangly, quiet, young man at the rehearsal and taping of "The Johnny Cash Show" in 1970. Guthrie was resisting the make up artist's attempts to put make up on his face. He wanted no part of the activity. At the time I was not familiar with "Alice's Restaurant" or the movie. For some reason, I never forgot that scene. Sometime over the years, Arlo found his sense of humor. Guthrie has the ability to take some of the most mundane moments in life and relate the humor of the situations. This show was no exception.
Mr. Guthrie's stories centered on his Woodstock experiences, family experiences, and making the movie of "Alice's Restaurant." There is an extensive multimedia component that includes archival and family photos, movies, and song lyrics that augments the stories and songs throughout the show.
After an intermission, Mr. Guthrie gave the crowd what they had been anxiously anticipating, "Alice's Restaurant." The majority of the song's 18 minutes is spoken word poetry framed by a sung verse. The song was accompanied by still images from the 1969 movie. When it came to the singing, the crowd joined in for a boisterous chorus and ended with a standing ovation. The song took us back to the times of an unpopular Vietnam War, draft dodging, angry protests, and challenges to authority. Those times also fostered free love, psychedelic drugs, and lots of hair! It's amazing how Guthrie's lyrics can bring all of it back.
One of the most touching portions of the show was Guthrie's story about his love at first sight experience with his wife of 43 years, Jackie. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She died of liver cancer over two years ago. He dedicated "Highway in the Wind" to her memory. As he sang the song, there were photos projected of their life together over the years.
This nostalgic show exemplified importance of family, friends, and community. A standing ovation brought Arlo back to the stage for one more Woody Guithrie song, "My Peace."
1. The Motorcycle Song
2. Chilling of the Evening
3. Darkest Hour
4. St. James Infirmary (Louis Armstrong cover)
5. Ballad of Me and My Goose
6. Ocean Crossing
7. Last Train v 8. Pig Meat Blues (Lead Belly cover)
9. Coming Into Los Angeles
10. Alice's Restaurant Massacree
11. When a Soldier Makes It Home
12. I Hear You Sing Again (Woody Guthrie cover)
13. City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman cover)
14. Highway in the Wind
15. My Peace (Woody Guthrie cover)
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