On Friday Nov.22nd I had the chance to see Arlo Guthrie in concert at William Paterson College in Wayne, N.J. I’ve seen Arlo upteen times over the years in many incarnations and never tire of hearing his folksy tales and songs. I’ve seen him as a solo artist with just him and his guitar, I’ve seen him with his son Abe’s band Shenendoah, I’ve seen him with Judy Collins and seen him with his whole Guthrie family consisting of his daughters, sisters, son in law and grandkids.
At Friday night’s concert Arlo was accompanies by just an electric guitar, drummer, his son Abe on keyboards and himself with four guitars and keyboards. Arlo is at the end of a two year tour celebrating the 100th birthday of his late legendary father Woody Guthrie who wrote songs about his travels around the world and mid west during the depression and dust bowl era. Woody wrote thousands of songs and at Friday’s show Arlo shared some of those songs and stories during the first half of the show and some of his own songs during the second half. I’ve heard Arlo tell many of these stories before but never tire of hearing them and Arlo has a way of telling them that sounds like he’s telling them for the first time. Since Arlo was backed up by such a small band it made the concert more intimate like you were in his living room with him as he tunes the guitars for different songs while talking to you casually.
Woody Guthrie is best known for his song “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My land.” Arlo said when he was a little kid in school when they sang that song not only did he not know the words, but he didn’t know they sang his father’s song outside the home. 😀 Arlo then led the audience in singing “This Land is Your Land” Arlo also tells stories about meeting folk singer Ramblin’ Jack Eliot and legendary Blues guitarist Leadbelly which are also humorous and interesting. For instance Arlo told about meeting Leadbelly when he was about 4 years old and was amazed at the versatility of Leadbelly playing harmonica, guitar and squeezebox, etc. Later on Leadbelly got in a fight and a person died and he served a long prison sentence. In later years Arlo and his friends went looking for Leadbelly’s grave. “There’s no GPS that says Leadbelly’s grave,” Arlo says with a slight smile. They finally found his grave in a church yard in Louisiana and it had a wrought iron fence around it and one of his friends said, ”They still have him incarcerated.” 😀
Arlo did his songs “Coming into Los Angeles,” ‘I don’t Want to be a Pickle, I just want to ride my Motorcycle,” Woody’s song “Deportees,” “City of New Orleans,” which is my favorite and a few others including an instrumental each done on the four different guitars he brought along.”
Arlo is best known for his 1965 hit “Alice’s Restaurant” which I’ve heard him do several times and he only does it on anniversaries of it now. It’s an 18 ½ minute song about him and his buddy getting arrested on Thanksgiving for dumping a half a ton of garbage in a vacant lot which is played on the radio somewhere every Thanksgiving Day. It also chronolizes his experiences with the draft board at the time. I heard him say a few years ago ‘if anyone told me in 1965 I’d still be singing Alice’s Restaurant in 2010 I’d laugh in their face.”
During the encore at Friday’s performance Arlo started a few notes from Alice to the cheers from the audience and then stopped saying,”That’s all I can remember.” He added that if he knew it was going to be such a big hit he would have made it shorter. :D. Arlo then told how his friend, fellow song writer and singer Kris Kristofferson told him when he forgets the words to a song he just says to the audience, ”You know the rest.” Arlo said that’s what he should do with Alice. Arlo said 2015 will be the 50th anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant and they will be planning a tour around it. In the meantime that will give him time to learn it all over again. 😀
I’m including a link to Arlo singing Alice’s Restaurant from a few years ago below. If you ever get a chance to see Arlo, by all means see him. He is enjoyable.
Alice’s Restaurant (Full 23 Minute Song) – YouTube (The updated extended 23 minute version recording)
Arlo Guthrie – All 16 minutes of Alice’s Restaurant – YouTube (live version from 2005 Farm Aid.That’s exactly what he’s like and looks like today too. 🙂 )