I've been going to Arlo Guthrie concerts for the past 40 years, I think I've seen him about 10 times. Most of those shows were after the year 2000, when we had the pleasure of seeing and meeting Arlo at that year's Gamble Rogers Folk festival in St Augustine. But, after Friday night's Re:Generation tour stop at the Plaza Live in Orlando I found myself thinking back to my earliest Guthrie concerts....
The first time I saw Arlo was at the beautiful Hialeah horse racetrack at a two-day concert that also featured Joe Walsh, Spirit and The Band. I was mesmerized; what a great venue to see a bunch of my heroes!
It would be a number of years until the next time I saw Arlo Guthrie in concert. The next was at the 1989 Indian River Festival in Vero Beach. Arlo shared the stage that night with folk legend, and former partner of his Dad - Pete Seeger. Whew! Before the show, I met Arlo briefly, when he autographed a portrait (first of several) I did of him. He introduced me to Pete Seeger and asked him if it would be okay if I joined him and and his wife Toshi for BBQ! How fun. I'm forever grateful for that act of hospitality alone.
Upon arriving to the 1993 Indian River Fest in Melbourne, I noticed of the backstage gate was open… So naturally I walked in. I wandered around for a few minutes then was greeted by none other the the master of hippy vibes WAVY GRAVY!! Wavy, who was MC, must have noticed that I didn't have a wristband, so he kindly escorted me over to where the audience entered. But he did give me a backstage pass, and autographed it for me…as Arlo would later.
One of most interesting things about the IRF '93 was that Arlo was joined onstage by his children Sarah Lee, and Abe. Sarah Lee was probably 13. I would later watch her daughter sing with her!
Which brings me back to the Arlo Guthrie and Family Re:Generation Tour Friday night in Orlando. Being a long time-part time Brevard County resident, Arlo greeted the crowd at The Plaza Live as if they were his neighbors, explaining that this tour would basically be taking off out of his backyard with his kids in tow.
Arlo's daughter Sarah Lee, and son Abe share the stage with Arlo most of the night on this tour, Abe sings back up vocals, plays keyboards, and keeps the band in tune and on tempo, while Sarah Lee shares the lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar, sings high harmonies, and lights up the place with her charm and beautiful smile.
The evening brought us songs from three generations of Guthries, starting early in the program with Woody Guthrie's "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)", a tune written 70 years ago, that is as relevant today as ever. Toward the end of the evening we heard Woody's "This Land Is Your Land", complete with the lost verse that Woody taught Arlo as a child. We were treated to several tunes written by Sarah Lee Guthrie, most notably "Go Waggaloo", lyrics by Woody, music by Sarah. Along with his own "Alice's Restaurant", Arlo tended to sing lots of cover songs that night. And they were some beauties!! Not only did we get Leadbelly's "Midnight Special", Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", Sarah Lee did an amazingly beautiful version of Donovan's "Catch The Wind". Arlo did his father's songs, but we also got Arlo covering Bob Dylan (as he's done a lot in recent years)... this time out it was "Mr Tambourine Man", a version so perfect I hope Arlo records it the Sarah and Abe.
The show came to a close with a second encore, Arlo's beautiful, simple, yet poignant "My Peace" - "My Peace my peace is all I've got and all I've ever known My peace is worth a thousand times more that anything I own I pass my peace around and about 'cross hands of every hue I guess my peace is just about all I've got to give to you." I've come to look at the Guthrie clan, America's First Family of Folk, as great harbingers of Peace and Fairness. The message seems too permeate the souls of these artists, and that spills over into the audience, and then to wherever the audience takes it.
Thank you Guthrie Family for all! And the Plaza Live for their hospitality! Peace, Java John