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Friday, March 18, 2011

Arlo Guthrie--- Featuring: The Burns Sisters

     © Lydia Lowe  3/18/2011

     Legendary.  An American Icon.  National Treasure.  All words that I heard last night to describe Arlo Guthrie, first born son of folk singer Woody Guthrie.
     The show started with the Burns Sisters who sang three high energy songs, two of which were Woody Guthrie songs.  Then Arlo Guthrie took the stage and the music and stories didn't stop for three hours.
     Guthrie opened the show by stating that he had never played the Stiefel before and after all of his years in the business that was a pretty hard thing to find, a venue that he had never played before.
     Guthrie's second song was a spirited toe tapping Leadbelly tune that I really enjoyed, and it would have been great if the Stiefel sound system hadn't been over modulated and I could have actually understood the words.  The performers sang their hearts out and gave it their all but with the instrument amplification up so loud, I simply couldn't make out what they were saying.  That happened to a lesser degree on another song later in the evening.  Thankfully they caught this one and fixed it before the song got to far along.
     The songs ranged from spirited toe tapping folk songs to songs of introspection that drew the listener in to reflect on the deeper meaning within the tune then onto a blues number or two.  There was a lovely hymn which Guthrie had written recently and the Burns Sisters did a back up vocal on that gave me chills, it was so beautiful.  Whether he was playing the piano, or his collection of various guitar's, the music was inspirational and spoke to a universal place inside all of us.  As a performer, Guthrie has amazing stamina.   
     Guthrie also told stories from his life.  I think everyone enjoys the personal story.  These stories bind us together in ways that make us all a part of one family of mankind.  He also spoke to current events.
     One such event, the busting up of the unions in Wisconsin, he said was a crying shame.  He said that he was listening to the coverage on the radio one day and just happened to have his pocket constitution handy as he was also reading at the time.  (laughter)  The beginning of the constitution reads, "We the people in order to form a more perfect union. . .".  Wait a minute, we're all in a union?  So, does the government know this?  What are the ramifications of this union busting if the entire country is in a union?  There are no easy answers for that question and Guthrie didn't offer any, just food for thought.
     As a performer, Guthrie has amazing stamina.  He was on fire, singing and playing for over three hours quite literally non-stop.  The group took a short break at about the two hour mark, and came back with the same high energy that they had before.  But when the show was over, the show was over.  The crowd gave Guthrie and his fellow band members a standing ovation lobbying  for an encore.  Finally, somewhat reluctantly, Guthrie obliged. 
     "Alice's Restaurant", Guthrie's most famous song, was not one of the songs that he sang on this night.  He likened it to the movie Groundhog Day and didn't want to re-live it again and again.  He informed us all that it's 30 minutes long and if the audience wanted to hear it, there were CD's available.  He sang a short two verse song for his encore and let everyone join in when he sang it again.  And that was the end of it.  (Even with a second standing ovation).
     I took lots of photo's but unfortunately, none of them turned out.  So, no photo's this time.  Sorry!  I promise to do better with my next review.  Watch for it next week, on March 25.

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