by Paul Dugan
An Arlo Guthrie concert is an experience and no matter how many you see, it’s always different. I’ve seen him four times the most recent this past weekend at the Colonial Theatre in Keene NH.
The Colonial is a great place to see a show, with just 888 seats it’s a very intimate venue for both the artists and the fans and when you put Arlo into that type of atmosphere you feel like your sitting in your living room with an old friend singing and telling tales.
Arlo doesn’t always perform his most famous song, fortunately in 2006 it was the 40th anniversary so he performed the updated version (with the missing 18 minutes portion). I’ve also seen him do the Motorcycle Song a couple times with all the appropriate tales of how he came to write the song, and as he says, “It’s amazing that anyone can get away with seeing a song that dumb for that long!”
Some of the stories this time included one about how his wife called him from the airport, she was being detained because of some illegal substance in her luggage, and needed him to come to her rescue. It’s a hilarious story especially if told the way only Arlo can, he then launched into Coming Into Los Angeles.
He told many other tales in between songs like This Land Is Your Land, City Of New Orleans, and Old Friend, a tribute to his cousin the late Hoyt Axton. He spoke of getting his first California gig when he was just 18 and his Mother insisted the only way he could go was if he stayed with friends or family. Having no family in California at the time she said it was okay if he stayed with Woody’s old friend Ramblin Jack Elliot! Something akin to putting Al Capone in charge of the bank vault! Arlo agreed to go, and while he was there he met the woman who would eventually become his wife, at the time she completely ignored him, and Arlo was depressed, so Jack said “Here take this”, when he asked what it was, Jack said “Don’t worry, It’ll wear off”! You have to hear Arlo tell it, in fact all his stories are best coming from the source.
As Arlo tells it every show is an experience, they have a basic plan but you never know how it’s going to go, the fun is in the journey. In fact, that’s the name of this year’s tour, The Journey On Tour, he has his full band with him along with his son Abe and the lovely Burns Sisters. Four years ago it was more acoustic, with his entire family joined him, including daughter Sara Lee and her husband Johnny Irion, Arlo’s other daughters Cathy and Annie and son Abe.
I’m looking forward to seeing him for the fifth time and what kinds of stories he’ll regal us with, what memories, what music he’ll share. Maybe he’ll tell the massacree again! I don’t know when it’ll be but if he does come this way again you can bet I’ll be there.