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Arlo Guthrie and family concert review Colonial Theatre Pittsfield, MA

Nov. 19, 2011 concert reviewed by

Arlo Guthrie and family played Pittsfield's Colonial THeatre, Nov. 19, 2011.
Arlo Guthrie and family played Pittsfield's Colonial THeatre, Nov. 19, 2011.
Arlo Guthrie and Family entertained a near-capacity audience at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield on the Saturday before Thanksgiving; he’ll play his annual Thanksgiving concert at Carnegie Hall next Saturday. The show was an ad hoc reprisal of the 2009 Guthrie Family Rides Again tour, which had everybody’s favorite folksinger accompanied by son Abe and his kids, daughters Cathy, Annie, and Sarah Lee Guthrie and husband Johnny Irion and various of their kids.

On the eve of his centennary, Woody Guthrie’s musical legacy seems to be expanding at a rate even greater than the growth of his progeny, thanks to the family archive work of Arlo’s sister Norah Guthrie, who has enlisted a variety of musicians to create musical settings for heretofore unknown poems and songs found in Woody Guthrie’s notebooks. The best known examples would be the Mermaid Avenue albums by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

Explaining his father’s methodology, Arlo called him a “song-stealer,” which may be another way of describing the “folk method,” where known material is there to be modified and repurposed. By way of illustration, Arlo told a story of how Woody came up with a new song in answer to a complaint from a woman that a union anthem failed to pay adequate tribute to the contributions of the ladies auxiliary.

Coming into Los Angeles – redux

The concert’s comedy high point arrived just ahead of Arlo’s Woddstock era hit Coming into Los Angeles; in a fresh introduction, which had to deal with, among other things (as all Arlo stories do) a new shortcut from the Guthrie home in Washington to Bradley airport where wife Jackie was arrested when a little container of “a certain horticultural substance” was discovered in luggage labeled Arlo Guthrie, which was searched because the luggage checkers knew Arlo wasn’t in the boarding line, he had only dropped Jackie off and was driving back home when she phoned and then the Connecticut state police phoned with the particulars of where to retrieve his wife, who couldn’t be un-arrested but would be released. We were left to surmise that Ms. Guthrie’s legal woes ended there and then; no clue as to what became of the reefer!

The Guthrie Family Rides Again, Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
The Guthrie Family Rides Again, Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA

It was on … Los Angeles that Abe took a lead on keyboards that stunned the old man, and which would’ve felt at home in Muscle Shoals; his son Krishna’s blues chops highlighted a couple later songs. Perhaps the most affecting segment of the show was when the sisters came together to form a vocal trio for a few songs including Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie and Alabama Bound, favorites of their grandfather’s friend Lead Belly.

On a more humorous note were a couple “inappropriate” songs by Cathy, who tours and records with Willie Nelson’s daughter Amy as Folk Uke. In addition to being hilarious, she sings beautifully, reminding me of Iris Dement.

Official honorary Guthrie family member Terry A La Berry (nee Hall) kept the generations on time with his artful drumming. In the audience were his mother, playwright and teacher Frances Benn Hall, who has been reviewing plays here for eleven years.

More about Arlo Guthrie – concert reviews, photos and an interview.

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2009 A Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood review

June 29, 2009 Tanglewood concert review by

How ’bout that Garrison Keillor, ladies and gentlemen, ain’t he something – signs you up for two hours of entertainment, then goes and delivers three! To the two hour live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, in the Koussevitsky Music Shed at Tanglewood, he appended a twenty minute pre-show and a forty minute after-show that included audience sing-alongs, duets with Heather Masse, and thrilling encore performances by guests Steve Martin with The Steep Canyon Rangers and hometown favorite Arlo Guthrie. (re: Arlo)

This was the tenth time he’s brought the 35 year old show to Tanglewood, and it keeps getting better. Arlo Guthrie, whose Thanksgiving garbage caper took place just down the road 42 years ago, was an unannounced guest; Keillor said he’ll be back next year so they can talk “Berkshire history.” Early afternoon showers had cleared by the time we arrived around 5PM and mother nature delivered a splendid tableau for the festivities. Maybe jealous at being upstaged by the lanky Minnesotan, midway through the show she delivered a steady drizzle that sparkled through bright sunshine to about one-third of the Lawnsters outside the Shed. Keillor asked Guthrie if that was typical Berkshires weather? “Oh yeah, it’s been like that for weeks.”

Actor Martin Sheen was the show’s non-musical guest, delighting the audience in the role of a prickly wi-fi hog at Arlo’s Dew Drop Inn. Sheen and family were seen around Stockbridge throughout the weekend, at Mass on Sunday and then greeting fans on the porch at the Red Lion Inn.

Keillor, Martin, and Guthrie are pretty good talkers

Even though all the music and comedy performed today was as good as it gets, this show is especially memorable because it displayed the powerful beauty of the spoken word; for the satisfying feeling of community that can arise from the plain speaking of artists whose medium is language.

Besides all their other talents, Keillor, Martin, and Guthrie are talking adepts, which raises all the connecting patter of show to the level of the performance. We’re envious, wishing we could summarize more smartly than by declaring that the tenth Tanglewood rendition of A Prairie Home Companion was a titillating picnic of linguistic penache, verbal verve, and jocular jello.

re: Arlo: You may be interested in : Arlo Guthrie concert reviews, photos, and an interview.

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Arlo Guthrie interviewed Nov. 1998 at The Guthrie Center

November 16, 1998 interview by

Arlo Guthrie first came to the Berkshires in the late ’50s to attend the former Indian Hill camp in Strockbridge, where his mother was the dance teacher. His Berkshire roots were further established while he was a student at The Stockbridge School and he became involved with the Berkshire Folk Music Society, then headed by the late Hank Grover, David’s father.

Guthrie recently bought the Kresge Building on North St. in Pittsfield. Besides moving Rising Son Records there, he is looking into the possibility of developing an entertainment center. We visited with Arlo on November 16, 1998 at The Guthrie Center, in the former Episcopal church that his friend Alice Brock used to live in, and where much of Alice’s Restaurant was filmed.

Arlo Guthrie interview with Dave Conlin Read at the Guthrie Center, Nov. 1998.
Arlo Guthrie interview with Dave Conlin Read at the Guthrie Center, Nov. 1998.

“I’ve been trying to get something going in downtown Pittsfield for 25 years. I was interested in the old Palace Theater, or even the Capitol before they turned it into the Senior Center. None of that ever panned out because nobody had a clue as to the value of live entertainment.”

Relating the results of a recent study, commissioned by the city of Pittsfield, that stresses how important providing live entertainment is to the revitalization of downtown, Guthrie continued,

“We want to see if we can be a part of that process. We bought the building and we’re hoping that we can make a go of it. I want to develop a nightclub facility, maybe with a little food, but not a big-time restaurant. What I really know is not the restaurant business, it’s the nightclub/theater business.”

After talking about the various “cultural centers” and “tourist destinations” of Berkshires, Arlo continued,

“I see no reason why Pittsfield can’t become a part of all that, even add something to it and tie together all the different crowds. This is a beautiful part of the world, every part of it. We’ve been let down by the major industries. The only big industry that keeps growing is our cultural industry, so I’m anxious to see if we can all benefit from that.”

The legacy of The Music Inn figures prominently in Guthrie’s motivation to extend his commitment to the Berkshires. His father Woody played the very first show there and Arlo played the last, exactly 25 years to the day later.

“The thing we do in Pittsfield will be the closest that we can get to re-doing the kind of music that we had at The Music Inn. It’ll be a big enough club to bring in some of the same kinds of people – maybe the same people. With the help of the City of Pittsfield, I think we can make that happen. We also want a place for young people to go; we’re thinking of establishing a kind of folklore center there.”

Arlo Guthrie photo proofs

“It’s not something I have to do business-wise; I’ve got enough going on to keep me busy for a long time. However, one of the things I’d like to do is spend less time on the road. I’m on the road ten months a year, and I miss the Berkshires. I love it here and I think that we have an obligation to try and retain the best part of who we are for future generations.”

Where did the name “Arlo” come from?

“When my mom was growing up, there was a series of children’s books, called “Arlo Books”, about a little Swiss kid named ‘Arlo’. They were in all the primary schools on the East coast, and she drew a picture for a class project of this kid. And my mom was one of these packrats who saved everything – every ticket stub of every place she had ever been to. She was incredibly organized.

“While she was pregnant with me, walking down the beach one day with my dad, she suddenly realized that the picture she had drawn of this kid ‘Arlo’, in the fifth or sixth grade, looked exactly like my father. He was wearing the same clothes, the same kind of striped shirt, walking on the same kind of beach. And so she went back and found this old picture, and sure enough, she had drawn my dad.

“So they decided that that was an auspicious sign, and that they were going to name me after the kid. But they didn’t know if I would go for a name as awkward as that, so they gave me the middle name ‘Davy’. So I was named after Davy Crockett. She figured he was a popular figure, sort of a rugged, mountain guy, and if I didn’t like the name ‘Arlo’ – which, she wasn’t sure what that was gonna do to me – that I could always call myself ‘Davy’. So I was named ‘Arlo Davy Guthrie.’

Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge

“I had been going to the Dream Away for years, I knew Mama Frasca real well – she was a terriffic, wonderful, crazy, wild woman. I really loved her and used to bring the kids up to her place every weekend. I actually did some recording with her at the old Shaggy Dog studio in Stockbridge. We did a great record there – all these great songs with this old gal. She made a single, and one song was called something like, “God and Mama”.

“So after we did the Rolling Thunder Revue in Springfield (November 6, 1975), I tought it would be fun to take everybody up there. We came up with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Bobby Neuwirth and Ramblin Jack Elliott. They just loved it there; we were fooling around with Mama Frasca, and it became a part of the film, “Renaldo And Clara”. (For details of the party: Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue party at Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge

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Review of Arlo Guthrie concerts in Pittsfield and Springfield, MA

Nov. 16 and 17 concerts reviewed by Dave Conlin Read. Photos by Jamie Goldenberg.
See more photos from the Colonial Theatre concert.

Arlo Guthrie concert the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MAArlo Guthrie’s 1967 mega-hit “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” had no bigger fan when it came out than me, then a freshman in college. By the summer of 1969, I’d dropped out and was ordered to report to the South Boston Navy yard to be “injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected.” I, too, was informed that I was unfit to serve.

Present for a live broadcast of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree Revisited” at the Guthrie Center in Housatonic ten or so years ago, I marvelled at how well Guthrie had updated it, to include Richard Nixon and the mysterious gap in the Watergate Tapes.

Hearing it on successive nights, Nov. 16th at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and then at Symphony Hall in Springfield, was a bit of a drag, however, and it was apparent that Guthrie has had enough, too. In fact, he announced that he’d just made a deal to play the Colonial every year around Thanksgiving, adding that “the 50th anniversary is probably the next time you’ll hear (it).”

Removing it from the setlist will make room for more of Guthrie’s exquisite treatment of other people’s songs, and for him to play more of his own affecting and timely work, such as his Hurricane Katrina lament, “In Times Like These.”

Arlo Guthrie concert the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MAThat is the title song on his recent release which was recorded live with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, directed by John Nardolillo, who conducted the Springfield Symphony for the Nov. 17th concert.

A highlight of both concerts was the version of “St. James Infirmary” (also on the new CD) that Guthrie learned from his father Woody‘s sidekick Cisco Houston. The solo version is superb, his rich voice and deft guitar play cast a spell on the audience. The orchestral version, with some especially nice trombone and clarinet riffs, carried everybody all the way to the Big Easy.

Both nights Guthrie played “My Peace,” a recently discoverd lyric of Woody Guthrie‘s that he wrote music for; a simple, sweet song, and a poignant collaboration that defies death.

Arlo and ragtime

Another new element both nights was an unnamed ragtime tune played on the concert grand piano that he wrote forty years ago. It had none of the flash you may expect from ragtime; instead it had a restraint and a sneaky complexity to it that was very satisfying.

Guthrie’s guitar mastery was best displayed Friday when he played “St. Louis Tickle,” a rag that he learned from Dave Van Ronk, “an old friend” who he said he’d been missing. He said that until he heard Van Ronk do it, he thought ragtime could only be played on piano. (Read more about Van Ronk and ragtime in our 1999 interview with Dave Van Ronk – and see a YouTube clip of him playing “Cocaine.”)

Lead Belly, Steve Goodman

One of the most mind-blowing things that you’ll ever hear Arlo Guthrie say is that his first memory is of standing next to another of his father’s friends, Lead Belly, the great musician who died from Lou Gehrig’s disease in NYC in 1949.

Friday’s set included a teriffic rendition of Lead Belly’s “Alabama Bound” and Saturday’s show closed with an orchestrated, audience sing-along of Lead Belly’s “Good Night Irene.”

Steve Goodman‘s “City of New Orleans,” also on the new CD, is always a concert highlight, another example of Guthrie’s nimble piano playing. We were at the benefit concert Guthrie put on in Worthington, MA in 1975, where we heard Steve Goodman and Guthrie’s brand new band Shenandoah. Here’s a link to Rising Son Records, where you can see a video of “The Motorcycle Song” from that show, another song he played in Pittsfield.

Where’d the name “Arlo” come from?

If you ever wondered how he got his name, you can find out in an interview we did with Arlo Guthrie at the Guthrie Center in 1998.

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Photos of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA

Photos from Arlo Guthrie‘s Nov. 16, 2007 concert at The colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA. Read our review of this concert and Arlo’s concert with the Springfield Symphony the following night.

Photos by Jamie Goldenberg, copyright BerkshireLinks.com.

Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.
Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA Nov. 16, 2007.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.Photo of Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA.

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Arlo Guthrie and the Springfield Symphony

(Washington, Mass.) Please come and join Arlo Guthrie and guest director-conductor, John Nardolillo, as they perform with the Springfield Symphony, Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 8 p.m. Go to springfieldsymphony.org for ticket purchase and more information.
Arlo Guthrie
Last year’s show sold out. The Republican reported that “Arlo Guthrie and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra took a sold-out house in Springfield Symphony Hall on a homespun, heartfelt musical journey…This score is one of the most challenging in the standard symphonic literature, demanding intense concentration, scrupulous rhythmic precision, and the most highly skilled, expressive wind soloists to bring it to life. Precision is particularly important …with only one rehearsal to prepare Guthrie’s two sets as well as “Appalachian Spring,” it was a singular miracle that the Springfield Symphony undertook the complete suite and performed it flawlessly.”

Arlo Guthrie’s latest CD In Times Like These (Rising Son Records #1126) with the University of Kentucky Orchestra debuted at #2 across the country on the three Folk DJ-L Charts – CD, Artist and Song (“In Times Like These”). It quickly surpassed the “Best of” collection at Amazon.com, which gives it a five star rating. Arlo’s recordings are expressive and reflect the impact of hearing him live. The critics are resounding in their praise:

“[Arlo] sings favorite originals and traditional gems, set to elegant, simply woven arrangements by Oxford University choirmaster James Burton.” – The Boston Globe

“This recording demonstrates the deep beauty of [Arlo’s] work, simultaneously witty and emotional.” – Creative Loafing

“[Arlo] captures the country’s cultural climate and references commercialism and division in the new title track.” – The Oklahoman

“Guthrie and co-producer George Massenburg have the elements in line to make the most of Burton’s arrangements, which underscore and add dimension without drawing attention to themselves.” – No Depression

“… the beauty of In Times Like These comes from a keen song selection and an immensely close communication with UK Symphony director-conductor John Nardolillo.” – Lexington Herald

“All the songs are performed and arranged precisely but the mischievous spirit of Guthrie imbues all of them with its own sense of identity.” – www.Americana-uk.com

Don’t miss the beauty and depth of Arlo’s music with a full symphony nor the fun and pertinence of Arlo’s stories.