FRINGE REVIEW – Arlo Guthrie, Queen’s Hall

*****

19 Aug, 2000 (2130), The Queen’s Hall

As the audience at this performance can attest, an Arlo Guthrie concert is not just about hearing finely crafted songs. Guthrie is also one of the great American storytellers (the basis, after all, for his Vietnam protest epic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”) and a genuine living legend.
Arlo Guthrie boasts one of the most enviable pedigrees in folk music. Son of Woody Guthrie (the Dust Bowl Troubadour himself), collaborator with Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder and more, Woodstock veteran, Guthrie’s earliest memory is of hanging out with Leadbelly at the age of two. These stories and more are told in between spontaneously chosen songs-  Guthrie claims his eyesight is not longer up to reading a set list.
For this performance there is no band, simply the man himself with a grand piano, a guitar, and a harmonica. But his voice has changed little in the 40+ years he has been performing and from the bittersweet opening ballad “Chilling of the Evening” Guthrie takes his enthralled audience on a whirlwind tour of those four decades, including some obvious choices (“City of New Orleans”, “Coming into Los Angeles” and “Motorcycle Song”), some more recent work, a reading of his children’s poem “Mooses Come Walking”, a bit of ragtime, and some of his father’s work – much of which was unfinished at the time of his death and has now been completed by successor’s thanks to the effort’s of Guthrie’s sister Nora.
Arlo chooses to close his set with a cover of his father’s most famous song, “This Land is Your  Land”. It is an entirely fitting end to a memorable night in the company of one of the great heroes of American music.

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