Legendary folksinger Arlo Guthrie is in Mesa, Arizona on this beautiful April 1, 2016, night to continue celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Alice’s Restaurant.” That is not an April Fools joke. “Alice’s Restaurant” was written and performed for the first time 50 years ago. Guthrie and his band have been touring the United States for a year with a special anniversary show. A “normal” show for Guthrie does not include a light show or video clips. The celebration concert did, however.
As usual, Guthrie not only performed his trademark hits such as “City of New Orleans”, “Coming into Los Angeles,” and “Chilling of the Evening”, he also sang his father, Woody Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land.” Guthrie then told us stories about growing up as Woody’s son. Ironically, Guthrie’s daughter, Sarah Lee, opened the show with beautiful music and stories of her own – growing up as his daughter.
After intermission, Guthrie came back out on stage, sat on his stool, and started strumming his guitar. The crowd cheered. He was priming us for “Alice”. The unmistakable notes came drifting out of his guitar and surrounded the audience. This is why we were all here. Guthrie did not disappoint. Playing on the screen behind him were video clips from the movie, Alice’s Restaurant which not only starred Guthrie but included the actual cop and judge from the original incident all those years ago. He not only performed the song; he continued talking about it. At one point he quipped, “If I knew this was going to be such a big hit I would have made it a lot shorter!” For those of you who do not know; “Alice’s Restaurant” is eighteen minutes long and worth every minute of it.
Guthrie's band includes his son, Abe, whose birthday was also on this day, April 1. Sarah Lee played with the band that night. I had never seen Sarah Lee perform before so it was an added treat for me. She has a children’s album out titled Go Waggaloo that I think I want to get even though my children are all grown.
Guthrie performed a beautiful tribute to his late wife, Jackie, including a slide show of their life together. It was extremely touching. You might not think a simple folksinger would get a standing ovation, but Guthrie received a well-deserved standing "O". All in all, it was a wonderful celebration. When he comes around with his guitar next year I will be sure to see him again. And remember “you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant – Excepting Alice!”