Arlo Guthrie

Arlo GuthrieArlo Guthrie is a freakin' genius. I rarely resort to expletives, in reviews, let alone their Americanised cousins, but, since he peppers his banter with same, it seems oddly appropriate. The genius part is completely fitting.

But, before I deal with ADG, a few words about Jodi Martin, whom the goodly Guthrie has specified as support since she made her professional debut, with him, mid-'96, while still a student of Southern Cross University. In so doing, he's shown sublime taste and perspicacity.

She was, if I have this right, born near Ceduna, on the far western coast of South Australia (Eyre Peninsula; if you cross the Nullarbor, a stop, on its eastern edge, is practically inevitable), but grew-up in Lismore. She was, I understand, living in Sydney, but, currently, resides in Montreal.

Wherever she lives, on hearing her songs and delivery of them, I'll bet you're gonna wanna move-in, next door. Such are 'the colours, the flavours, melodies and sounds'; to paraphrase the opening line of her song, 'Colours', from 2002's 'Water & Wood'.

Water & wood, too, tend to exemplify her elemental on-stage presentation, especially. A warm, comforting voice, matched with a couple of guitars; (including a Gilet resophonic).

Despite barely having entered her 30s, Martin has the self-assuredness of a seasoned veteran and, thus, is a hand-in-glove fit with Arlo. Her songs, too, defy her youth, holding a candle to the darker corners of mind and heart; in the process, revealing much about her, but, also, us. A classic example being one of her best, Riddles (from that same, first album), which tenderly tells the story of her Grade 3, requited affections for a black boy, but this becomes a backstory to keen, universal observations about racism.

The long-and-short of it is, see her anytime the opportunity presents itself & buying all three of her albums to date. Both will improve your appreciation and understanding of the life we lead and should elevate your street cred at the same time as your spirit.

It was Jodi whose distinct pleasure it was to welcome the inimitable Guthrie to the stage and, just before doing so, she reflected there were two people she wanted to be more like: Bob Marley ('though a Freudian slip, just caught, had it as Dylan) & Arlo Guthrie. Having now seen that latter, I can completely understand.

He opened the first of two, fulsome sets with Chilling Of The Evening, the opening cut from his seminal folk album, from '67, Alice's restaurant. This song is so eponymously, chillingly lonely and sad, yet, paradoxically, inspires and uplifts: 'warm me from the wind and take my hand'. The entire, substantially diehard audience seemed utterly willing to abandon themselves to this invitation and the rewards were inestimable.

For those who don't know, Arlo is the son of Woody, an iconic folk hero so intrinsic to American culture, no son or daughter could hope to match his status. Maybe not, but Arlo has as much substance and, as such, ought be afforded as much stature. How and why he isn't insane, embittered, or both, given that both his father and Dylan surpass him in the public mind, is a breathtakingly confounding conundrum. Yet not so much: when you hear him talk about the 'little peace', inside each of us, and how, if we surrender to that, the big peace will take care of itself, one gets a crystal-clear snapshot of how he is who he is.

But don't get the idea he's all philosophical solemnity. God forbid! Even in relating the biblical stories around Joseph (he of the coolest coat in the kingdom), he had us all in veritable stitches and, in my case, tears of laughter. And, despite his Simpsonian simplification of such, he drew out more meaning than the most erudite rabbi, let alone serious-minded Sunday school teacher.

There were far too many songs & stories to recount, here and now; suffice to say, he satisfied those who came to hear a few favourites, as well as those who came to see who & what the hell Arlo Guthrie really is.

This is a man as much a living international treasure as his dear, departed dad. As much so as Dylan. Or Marley. He is a veritable musical Mandela; a retiring, if not shy, prophet, for any age.

A man who, as a child, knew Leadbelly, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee. A man that stood & stands up for good friends, like the late Steve Goodman. A man that stands up for good, period.

His talents don't end with storytelling, though that would be enough. Nor songwriting, though that would be enough. He's a brilliant instrumental guitar soloist, who's as comfortable behind a piano, playing a rag he penned himself.

You can live without seeing or hearing Arlo Guthrie, but not nearly as well. And you won't have as much fun, either. I mean, who knew terrorist's only use new mandolin strings to strangle people? You had to be there. I humbly suggest, next time, make sure you are.

Footnote: speaking of Dylan, I can't resist paraphrasing Guthrie's songwriting metaphor. Songwriting, in the gospel according to Arlo, is like fishing; it's mostly just sitting around. You throw a line in the water and, occasionally, a song bobs up. That's if it doesn't escape. Then someone else gets it. The one thing you need to know is, don't go fishing downstream of Dylan!


Richard James Promotions present
Arlo Guthrie in Concert

Venue: Seymour Centre | Cnr Clevelend Street and City Road, Chippendale
Date:
Saturday 14 June
Time: 7.30pm
Tickets: Full $62, Concession $42
Bookings: Seymour Online Box Office: 9351 7940

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