Arlo & Friends

Arlo Guthrie’s show at the Lobero on Thursday (4/8/16) was billed as part of his Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour. The tour is spanning three years, which may be testament to his advanced age (my own) or his commercial needs but also encompasses the three years that elapsed between the “massacree” in Stockbridge, MA on Thanksgiving 1965 and the record’s debut in 1967, about the time I was worrying about my own draft prospects. Arlo did a creditable rendition – “If I’d known then I’d still be singing the song 50 years later I would’ve made it a lot shorter” – with clips from Arthur Penn’s movie version playing on a screen behind him. As it has been a Marshall family tradition to tune in every Thanksgiving at noon, I was honored to finally acknowledge Arlo and his classic in person.

More than Alice’s Restaurant, though, the show was about Arlo’s family and friends. Best of all was Sarah Lee Guthrie, Arlo’s attractive 37-year-old daughter, who opened the show. She has a beautiful voice and charming stage presence and sang songs by grandfather Woody and friends of her father’s, notably Phil Ochs. Arlo, too, had a personal connection with each song, with nods to Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Leadbelly. As many others have recently, he mined leftover Woody lyrics for a “new” anthemic song. He explained how he got “City of New Orleans,” my favorite, from Steve Goodman in Chicago. Most moving was “Highway in the Wind,” written for his wife before he had met her, and dedicated to her memory as family scrapbook photos of her played behind. Seeing what she looked like when young explained Sarah Lee’s looks. Arlo’s shaggy looks, on the other hand, better matched those of his son, playing keyboard in the backup band. Wrapping up the family angle, Sarah Lee brought her husband and two young daughters on stage – it was a school night, but since they live in Santa Barbara…

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