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6The Daily Tar HeelMonday, September 12, 1988
Ya know, this is a very weird night
'it .could go either way."
He grinned from behind his curly,
shoulder-length gray-blond hair and
laughed his unique nervous laugh.
Trie sold-out crowd at the ArtsCenter
Thursday night agreed and they
laughed and joked and occasionally
saiig along with him.
'Arlo Guthrie likes to tell stories. '
Funny, irreverent and, yes, often truly
stupid stories. He also likes to play
the guitar and experiment with the
buXfons on his piano-keyboard.
Guthrie kicked off his "20th Anni
versary of 'Alice's Restaurant Tour,"
by entertaining his audience for two
hoots with his unique blend of music
. He began with his six-string guitar
and; opened the show with "Pretty
B6y Floyd, a tune written by his
father, the legendary Woody Guthrie.
IiUhe first set he also played the blues
classic, "Key to the Highway and
Elizabeth Cotton's "Freight Train.
iThese songs still fit after 40 years,
that's the sad thing, Guthrie said,
"btitthey say this stuff so eloquently.
He then sat down at the keyboard
antfjshared the story of how he found
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out he's not just any nostalgic
folksinger anymore. "Someone in the
basement of a New York department
store came up with this high-pitched
ding sound they figured out it
makes people buy stuff. I was in an
elevator in a huge mall in Canada
and I noticed they were playing whole
songs with this one sound. Then, I
heard this:" he played the first
three bars of "Alice's Restaurant
"and I suddenly realized I was
somebody. Consciousness in
Shaking his head, he looked
around at the still laughing crowd and
shrugged, "I know it's stupid, but
that's why I'm here."
Then he kicked into his hilariously
irreverent, "Oh Mom" "you're just a
throwback to the '60s generation",
which more than a few audience
members chimed in on. When the
applause died, down, Guthrie had
another story to tell. "Sometimes I
could see greatsongs go by me and
I'd be looking for a pen or a piece
of paper and just lose it. I'd think,
man, whoever gets that, it'll be a good
song." Chuckling, he added, "A guy
named Dylan got most of them!"
Guthrie ended the first set with the
childlike tune, "Garden Song," "inch
by inch, row by row, gonna make
this garden grow ' but he didn't make
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it through without yet another story.
"You know, kids really like this song.
Oh, I don't mean to be stopping in
the middle of the song or anything,
but they love it. They want to hear
it again and again. So, of course, you
want to find out why, so you can write
a lot of them."
After a half-hour intermission
Guthrie came back looking possibly
even more mischievous. "I went to
school one time ' about the same
time as Mr. Quayle. People were
either in school then or visiting Asian
nations. I like to be around smart
people, which is why I'm here
Then he opened the set with with
a rocking "Motorcycle Song," "
don 't want a pickle, I just want to
ride on my motorcycle." "Truly a
brilliant piece of work here, I know
this song is stupid. I love America."
"Switching to his 12-string he played
the drug-induced "Coming Into Los
Angeles," which he played at Wood
stock. " 'Don't touch my bags, if you
please, Mr. Customs man ' maybe
this song doesn't apply so much to
the 80s, but I think the instinct to
escape is always entirely correct."
He followed that with an eerily
Dylan-like rendition of "Tambourine
Next he headed back to the piano.
He proceeded to launch into the
humorous "Phone Song," but once
again," stopped in the middle of a
verse: "This is Bob Dylan's favorite
song of mine he called to tell me."
Next, Guthrie performed what is
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probably his biggest hit, "City of New
Then it was back to the six-string
for "This Land is Your Land,"
complete with the verses that were
censored out ofv children's
For his final song, Guthrie proved
his versatility by playing both the
harmonica and the keyboard for an
incredibly moving rendition of
"Amazing Grace." Guthrie does this
song at every concert, and he
"John Newman, the author of this
song, was the captain of a slave ship.
He was headed to America aboard
a ship with thousands of people
chained to. each other when he
decided it was the wrong thing to be
doing and he turned around. Any-,
body not afraid to turn around and
do something right is a friend of
A standing ovation prompted
Guthrie to return for his encore amid
the inevitable cries for "Alice's
Restaurant," which he didnt play.
"Imagine singing about the same half
hour of your hTe every night? Not
: Instead he sang two shorter and
gentler tunes including a tender
rendition of Elvis Presley's "Falling
in Love, with You."
It was a weird night. But if you
missed it, don't worry, because hell
be back March 24 and 25 to close
the tour at the ArtsCenter. Maybe
then that song about Alice will come
around on the guitar one more time.
i... " -mimr
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Arlo Guthrie performs at the
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2634 Chapel Hill Blvd.
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