Review: Arlo Guthrie Acknowledges The Past And Looks Toward The Future With His ‘Re:Generation Tour’
By Doug Hall, Contributing Writer, November 21, 2017
There was a very warm welcome awaiting Arlo Guthrie and his family when they took the stage at the Cabot Theater in Beverly, MA last Friday evening. While the atmosphere of the small, intimate setting of the recently renovated 1920s neo-classical-style theater invited a cozy evening, even more apparent were the fans in the audience, mostly a generation of Guthrie’s time and history, with some younger listeners scattered around. Propped on his wooden stool, Guthrie (son of Woody Guthrie, the father of American folksong), the hesitant folk icon and political activist of the 1960’s, legendary singer and songwriter, didn’t waste any time in connecting the political and social “dots” between his age group and the current generation. Surrounded by his extended family on stage, in particular the musicianship of his daughter Sarah Lee Guthrie on acoustic guitar and son Abe Guthrie on electric piano, he launched into his father’s mournful political-laden song “Deportee.” Woody Guthrie’s song recognizes the unnamed deaths of a group of 1940s Mexican migrant workers killed in a southern California plane crash, buried with one singular headstone that read “Deportees.” The story and message was not lost on an audience both young and old. Looking out into the theater, Guthrie chagrined, “ Handy to keep some of these old songs around, you never know when they might be topical again.”
Fortunately, age (now 70) and time has not taken away his gift for storytelling with a message through a song, hitting his target that night with deadpan insight, and always a bit of humor.
Musically the evening included a wonderful combination of old chestnuts by both his father (including “This Land Is Your Land” and “Peace”), and his own selections (“City of New Orleans” by Steve Goodman and “Motorcycle Song”), but also featured his daughter Sarah Lee Guthrie performing with acoustic guitar several of her own poignant compositions with a graceful, penetrating upper-octave voice and harmony that carried her words with potency. The evening was clearly a chronicle of the Guthrie family songwriting tradition, transitioning from grandfather, to father, to daughter.
Taking his audience back with his impeccable mark on folk classics by Bob Dylan “Tambourine Man” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and a rousing powerhouse version of Pete Seeger’s “Midnight Special,” Guthrie also paused mid-song creating moments to share his dry understated folksy wit about the current social and political landscape. But, as he ushered out his grandchildren to see if they could remember the refrain of his classic 1960’s anti-war anthem, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” Guthrie had the beaming smile of a proud grandfather and father. The moment was shared by everyone in attendance of a “circle unbroken” with his extended family onstage singing “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.” With the audience automatically chiming-in and singing along, the Guthrie Re:Generation Tour became a family affair for everyone in the theater.
Arlo Guthrie’s Re:Generation Tour at the Cabot, 286 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA on November 17, 2017. Featuring Arlo Guthrie, Abe Guthrie and Sarah Lee Guthrie.
Arlo Guthrie will be appearing at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on November 25. For more information click here.
Cover: Arlo Guthrie with extended family members on stage at the Cabot Theater; photo: Sheila Orlando.