Thursday, June 16, 2005

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Opening Night: “Alice’s Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacree Tour”

Opening Night: “Alice’s Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacree Tour”

June 16, 2005

By Richard Kuper

The Op Ed Page

Last night I attended the opening night of “Alice’s Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacree Tour” at Rockefeller Park in NYC. What a show! First, the Mammals came on and performed an extremely varied mix of bluegrass, folk, folk-rock, and other interesting music. They performed for an hour and, except for a few numbers being overly loud and distorted, they were terrific. One of the members of the group is the grandson of Pete Seeger. I’m sure Pete is proud.

Following the Mammals, someone from the Parks Department made Arlo Guthrie an honorary Park Ranger. Then Arlo started his most famous story: “Alice’s Restaurant.” It was like going back in time 40 years, and the audience went back and talked/sang along. Along the way Arlo ad libbed now and again, which made it even more fun.

When he completed the twenty-something minute piece, Arlo received a standing ovation. Arlo told more stories and weaved them into some of his most famous songs, such as “Coming into Los Angeles” and “City Of New Orleans.” Sadly for this writer, he did not play one of my other favorites, “The Motorcycle Song.” Instead, he made time to do a rousing bluegrass-style number with the Mammals, who backed him up during his set, he talked about his father, Woody Guthrie, and closed his set with “This Land is Your Land,” interrupting it several times with more stories.

This was an outdoor concert in a park, and so the show was supposed to end by 9pm, but the audience wouldn’t stop its standing ovation until Arlo came back on stage, and so he did one more number. I won’t give it away, in case he varies it at different shows, but it was a great rendition of an old song written by a famous songwriter/musician and made even more famous by a famous folk group with another famous songwriter/musician.

I’m not sure if Arlo and company are still feeling out the sets, or if they are just making it seem that way as part of the show, but I have a suspicion that other than including “Alice’s Restaurant,” “Coming into Los Angeles” and “City Of New Orleans,” each show on the tour will be somewhat different than the one I saw last night.

If the “Alice’s Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacree Tour” is coming to a venue near you, I recommend you find a way to be there. It’s a happening! You might even say: "It’s a movement."