As he snakes his way through a musical narrative of American history, complete with piano rag, Hawaiian guitar instrumental, Bob Dylan tune (Mr. Tambourine Man), and the work of his father Woody and Woodys old pals, one theme keeps re-entering the musical lexicon: peace. At one point, Guthrie even remarks about the audience, saying this is a weird audience tonight those peace and love types just crawl out of the woodwork for this stuff. I know, because I used to be one.
Guthrie, much like his father, is a natural born story teller, and wastes no time in bringing all his stories back around to the importance of the individual, little things in the quest for change. Times are strangely familiar, he quips, as he rolls into the song we all came here to celebrate.
Forty years ago, Guthrie released a groundbreaking record called Alices Restaurant. Tonight, the story he tells in between the sing-along, You can have anything you want at Alices Restaurant, is freckled like any evolving folk song by new additions. About the draft, he comments, You think the draft is just something from a long time ago but you tell that to the guys from back then that just got called up again.
But its not all rip-rolling politics and preachy folk sermons. As he enters into his classic The Motorcycle Song, he talks about being struck by divine inspiration as the clouds opened up and he started writing I dont want a pickle.
The crowd is in his left pocket by now, and loving every minute. Its not just the stories that keep us all comfortable and happy in our seats. The music is strikingly beautiful, and earnestly poignant - something else Guthrie no doubt inherited from his father. With melodies punctuated by his son Abe and his pal Graham, and a beautiful contribution called No More Silence by the Burns Sisters, the night is not wanting for great songs.
As the two-hour show winds to a close, Guthrie is brought out by an enthusiastic crowd for an encore. The song he chooses to close the night with is a new Woody Guthrie song. Woody, he says, wrote at least 3500 songs in his short lifetime. Many of the songs were never recorded, and have no music set to them. The one Arlo chooses to share is a sing-along that appropriately seals the feeling: My peace, my peace is all Ive got that I can give to you.