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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Arlo Guthrie

Live in Rockford, IL, October, 2007

Review by Gary Hill

I’m sure a lot of prog fans out there enjoy the music of Arlo Guthrie. You might not have kept up with his career, though. The folk music hero, balladeer and humorist is still producing great music and I had the chance to check out one of his recent performances. I have to say that this was the first time I’d seen Guthrie in concert. It definitely won’t be the last if I have anything to say about it. This was one of the most entertaining concerts I’ve ever attended.

Guthrie’s show (as any who is familiar with his “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” can probably imagine) is at least half humorous stories and observations from Guthrie. Rather than take away from the music, this tends to augment it, and vice versa. I’ve been a fan of Guthrie’s albums for years, but after listening to the recordings so many times, they just seem like recitations. You forget how funny it really was the first time you heard it. Well, seeing Guthrie perform live is a first class reminder of the joy that is Guthrie’s off-beat, but always on the money, sense of humor. How many concerts have you been to where you have genuinely laughed? Unless you’ve had the worst day in the history of the world, I think Guthrie’s show would get a giggle out of you.

The thing is, his stories are also at times glimpses into his life that lend a certain familiarity to the show. It feels like you are sitting down with an old friend a lot of the time. Guthrie’s interactions with the audience add to that. At one point a cell phone rang (come on people, they asked you to shut them off before the show started and it’s just common sense!). Guthrie asked if the call was for him and then said that it was probably “Dick Cheney” asking him to go hunting. At another point, after a lengthy discussion about how Steve Goodman had first gotten Guthrie to listen to “City of New Orleans” by buying him a beer, a man requested a song and then told Guthrie that he’d buy him a beer – and followed that with a keg. Guthrie did the song and said that it was worth the keg. Those type of things rise beyond the usual interaction one expects at a rock show. OK, so technically this was a folk show, but Guthrie has been firmly tied to the rock scene ever since his appearance at Woodstock all those years ago.

As to the music, we got a lot of classics, the aforementioned “City of New Orleans,” and “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” along with “Coming Into Los Angeles” (accompanied by another hilarious story) and “Motorcycle Song.” He opened and closed the set with tracks from his debut album. In between we got a song written by his father, new tracks, old tracks and a whole lot more. All in all, this was the type of show that had you singing, laughing and in general left you with a warm feeling in your heart. If you get the chance to see Guthrie perform, by all means, don’t pass it up. His balladeer, minstrel music type of approach is one of a kind these days. I was always a fan before seeing him live, but my admiration is even more profound after the concert.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at
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