By the Way

That night Arlo Guthrie came to town and changed my life

Jeff Clark

jclark@sunherald.com

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Arlo Guthrie
Arlo Guthrie

Late Saturday night Arlo Guthrie played a show at the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi. Arlo came to play this song and that song and another song. The name of the tour was the 50th Anniversary of “Alice’s Restaurant,” which is about Alice and a restaurant, but that’s not the name of the restaurant, but it was the name of the tour.

OK. I give up. I’m not skilled enough to carry that on for more than 18 minutes the way Guthrie did at the IP.

Let me start over:

Singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie played one of the last shows of his 50th Anniversary of his “Alice’s Restaurant” tour Saturday at the IP Casino Resort. The tour was a celebration of his 1967 album that contains the 18-plus-minutes opus “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” Guthrie’s counterculture  tale of getting arrested for littering which prevented him from getting drafted. It’s hard to imagine a world where Guthrie was actually drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam.

From the stage lighting to the multimedia displays on a screen behind the stage, this intimate evening with Guthrie was visually stunning. And Guthrie was at the top of his game as he performed a variety of his songs such as “The Motorcycle Song” and “Coming to Los Angeles.”

He also performed some songs written by other people including “St. Jame’s Infirmary” and Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.”

Guthrie has also perfected the art of storytelling over the years, and he lent a bit of personal history to each song by recounting some events associated with his music.

The son of folk singer and activist Woody Guthrie, he shared several first-hand accounts about his father and his father's friends including Leadbelly and Pete Seeger.

Although I certainly had high hopes of enjoying the show, I didn’t expect to be deeply affected by his performance. But I was.

It’s hard to not be moved when everyone in the theater was singing along to the chorus of “Alice.” If you can watch Guthrie perform his late father’s anthem “This Land Is Your Land” and not be moved to a couple of tears, then you are a stronger person than I. Woody Guthrie died at 55 and he wasn’t around long enough to see his son become truly successful. I know the feeling.

Guthrie had some type of equipment malfunction towards the end of the set that delayed the show for about 10 minutes or so. Guthrie kept his composure and was good-natured about the delay, but he was persistent in making sure the equipment was working properly and the song was not cut from the set. And I’m glad he didn’t cut the song, “Highway In The Wind,” which he dedicated to his wife, who died in 2012 after 43 years of marriage.

As he performed the song, pictures rolled across the screen of Guthrie’s wife and their family.

It reminded me of how much I love my wife and my son and the tears started flowing. I started thinking about how I’m a 45-year-old man with a 1-year-old son. It’s all about playing beat the clock from here on out. Regardless if I live another day, a year or 40 years, there will never be enough time with my family.

As I dried my eyes and tried to pretend I wasn’t crying, the person sitting next to me was attempting to do the same thing.

“That was something, wasn’t it,” the stranger asked me as the tears dried in eyes.

Yes, it was something. It was that rare moment when I actually felt inspired by art. I walked out of the IP a better person because of Arlo Guthrie’s dedication to detail and beauty.

For that, I am grateful.

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