Photos: Arlo Guthrie at Denver Botanic Gardens - Reverb

Arlo Guthrie at Denver Botanic Gardens, 7-14-13 (photos, review)

“It’s hard enough to remember who wrote the song, let alone how it goes,” said Arlo Guthrie during one of his many storytelling monologues at the Denver Botanic Gardens on Sunday night.

In fact, Guthrie probably spent as much time talking as he did playing and singing. Many of the stories had some sort of humorous component, and some even left the audience in stitches, such as his description of writing the first line of “The Motorcycle Song” and staring at the words “I don’t want a pickle” and wondering what the heck inspiration was bringing him. He topped that one on the funny department when he described having to go pick up his wife at the airport after she had been arrested because some pot a fan had given Arlo had ended up in her luggage, and how she was a “serial hugger” who hugged all the arresting officers before departing with Arlo.

Sunday’s show had a special note of poignancy, as July 14 is the birthday of Woody Guthrie. Arlo has been playing many of his father’s songs in his shows over the last few songs, and he frequently paid tribute to his dad Sunday night. Woody was evidently a far more prolific songwriter than Arlo, and left many unfinished songs or songs that had lyrics but no music. Some of those lyrics have been sent off to other songwriters to be turned into songs, and Arlo covered one such song last night, Janis Ian’s collaboration with Woody lyrics titled “I Hear You Sing Again.”

Arlo, by his own admission, had an exceptional musical indoctrination, as he got to sit and listen to many of his father’s famous friends, such as Lead Belly, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Peter Seeger. In addition to playing many of his father’s songs, Arlo also played songs by his extended musical family, laughing about how all musicians seem to steal from each other, as he feels that his love of the 12-string guitar comes from listening to Lead Belly.

Arlo also teased his most famous song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” after a shouted request from the crowd, but used it again as part of a monologue, describing how a friend of his had gone to see Kris Kristofferson and reported that Kristofferson never finished his songs. He would start them, play a verse, and then say, “You know the rest.” Arlo laughed and said that he could have added 50 years to his life if he had used that technique for his famous song.

Arlo ended the show the way he began it, with songs by his father, first with “This Land is Your Land,” during which he talked about learning the song from his father after Arlo heard his classmates sing it to each other in school. Woody taught Arlo verses that weren’t in the popular version, and Arlo said he went back the next day, “armed.” For an encore, he played “My Peace,” another set of lyrics that Arlo had added music to, and he got the crowd to sing along.

Austin-based band the Trishas, a five-piece female country folk act, opened the show, showing impressive harmonies on “Over Forgiving You.” The band is headed up to Montana, but will be swinging back through Denver next week on their way home and playing Elway’s on July 24.

Setlists

Arlo
Oklahoma Hills, Pretty Boy Floyd, Gambler’s Blues, Haleiwa Farewell, When a Solider Makes it Home, Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos), I Hear You Sing Again, Do Re Mi, The Motorcycle Song, Coming into Los Angeles, Alabama Bound, Mooses Come Walking, Old Shep -> Me and My Goose, St. Louis Tickle, City of New Orleans, Highway in the Wind, This Land is Your Land, E: My Peace

The Trishas
Mother of Invention, Little Sweet Cigars, Liars and Fools, Cheaters Game, Must Be Time, She Ain’t, Gold and Silver, Oh Alice, Over Forgiving You, Drive

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band Black Postcards.