“I did a special show with Wavy Gravy a while back, and we were supposed to talk about Woodstock” Arlo Guthrie recalled on Sunday, November 16, as he tuned his sparkly blue 12-string acoustic. “The thing is, neither of us could remember much of anything.”
Guthrie began the second set at Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon Theater with the recollections of Woodstock he did have. After a helicopter dropped him off, Arlo was told he had to play a day before planned. “Someone told me ‘Arlo, you gotta play, man!’ and I just said, ‘I can’t go out there!’ ”
It did not take long for one to realize Guthrie’s anecdotes and tales are as essential to his show as singing and strumming. Genuine laughter reverberated around the historic theater for much of the night, as he demonstrated a practiced sense of humor. With long flowing white hair and a deep raspy voice; Guthrie had the stage to himself for the last night of a solo tour. A harmonica hung around his neck, four acoustic guitars rested beside him, and a black bay grand piano sat behind Guthrie. Each instrument was utilized during both of his 45 minute sets, featuring timeless folk and blues tunes.
It is no surprise that Guthrie looked at home on the Bardavon’s stage. He grew up with his father Woody and his pals drinking whiskey, plucking guitars, and singing the blues, the first generation to record music. Guthrie dedicated an old folk tune to one of those friends—his mentor, friend, and Hudson Valley legend Pete Seeger. “I remember Pete played this song thirty years ago and I didn’t think of it again. Then, one day I was walkin’ down the sidewalk and it got in my head and wouldn’t leave!” Guthrie exclaimed before proffering “Deep Blue Sea.” He devoted another song to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott after describing the night he met his wife of 43 years, Jackie, at a rodeo in Hollywood with Elliott.
Guthrie teased the crowd with a few lines from “Alice’s Restaurant” while joking that he might have written a briefer song had he known everyone would clamor for it the rest of his career. His other most recognizable song, “City of New Orleans” drew the loudest applause of the night from an enthusiastic fan base. “Al The Goose” and “The Motorcycle Song” enticed more laughter from the audience. Guthrie closed the night by inviting the crowd to help in a cover of his father’s “My Peace.” Nearly everyone joined in for an awe-inducing conclusion to the evening.
Arlo Guthrie demonstrated to the Bardavon faithful why he has been touring for four decades. He combines timely humor with his warm personality and music prowess to produce an entertaining performance. No one left the show early or checked their watch; rather, fans were eager to sing along and laugh deeply as Guthrie seemed like an old friend on stage.