Carolina Theatre, Durham
Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016
Last month, Arlo Guthrie stopped in Durham to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his landmark, Alice’s Restaurant. But first, his daughter, the excellent songwriter Sarah Lee Guthrie, opened with a few numbers of her own.
Those expecting to see Arlo onstage by himself with just an acoustic guitar were pleasantly surprised, no doubt, by a full backing band and elaborate lighting and multimedia presentation. Guthrie walked on stage while a delightfully bizarre, pickle-themed claymation played on a screen above. The band kicked into “The Motorcycle Song.”
An early highlight arrived in the second slot with “Chilling of the Wind,” an overlooked song from Alice's Restaurant. Guthrie's harmonica echoed off the walls of the Carolina, and as the last notes bounced, Guthrie transitioned into storytelling mode. His tale of playing Woodstock actually lasted much longer than the song that followed, “Coming Into Los Angeles."
After a brief intermission, Guthrie stepped into his signature ramble, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” The short film, shot years after the song’s actual events, played above, leading to an entertaining interplay between the Guthrie onstage and the much younger Guthrie on the screen above. Likewise, as he sang “Highway in the Wind," photos of the Guthrie and his wife, Jackie, flashed. Guthrie closed with “This Land is Your Land” and “My Peace,” sending the crowd into a standing ovation.