rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 10/21/2007
Arlo Guthrie at the Coronado - The Art of the Minstrel
by Gary Hill

After catching Arlo Guthrie’s show at the Coronado, I’d have to say that (more than anyone else out there) he is the modern equivalent of the minstrel. For those who aren’t familiar with the minstrel tradition, these people would go from town to town and entertain people with their wit, music and stories. Such is really what Guthrie does – and I can’t think of anyone else who pulls off that combination.

Probably half of his show consists of stories, most of them quite humorous. Some of the humor seems based in truth, other is fanciful imagination. Anyone familiar with Guthrie’s trademark piece, “Alice’s Restaurant” will have a good idea of what I’m talking about. Truly Guthrie builds a rapport with his audience and entertains on many levels. You have to have a genuine admiration for anyone who can walk out onto the stage and (using only his personality, voice, acoustic guitars and piano) keep an audience captivated and entertained for the course of a whole show.

While for me Guthrie’s tales and sense of humor ruled the night, you can’t fault the guy for lack of musical talent. Although he often times downplays his talents, the man is a great songwriter (albeit with an odd quirky edge a lot of the time), an excellent musician and has a voice that (while perhaps lacking a bit in the technical department) manages to weave lyrical and emotional textures. The full package is a set that is sure to entertain and satisfy.

He opened and closed the set with songs from his debut album (released over forty years ago). In between we were treated to old favorites (the aforementioned “Alice’s Restaurant,” “Coming Into Los Angeles,” the John Goodman penned “City of New Orleans” and more), new songs and even a sing-along number that is a new musical arrangement of some lyrics Arlo’s father (folk pioneer Woody Guthrie) penned many years ago. The whole thing felt like sitting down at a friend’s house (granted, an exceptionally talented friend) and listening to his stories and his songs. It was purely enchanting.

I think that everyone walked away from the show with a smile on their faces, joy in their hearts and feeling like they had been part of something special. I know that was my reaction. If you weren’t there, you truly missed out. Arlo Guthrie turned the renovated Coronado Theater into his living room and invited us in for a fun night. It was quite magical. If you were there you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you didn’t make the show, keep your eyes on Guthrie’s website and correct that situation the next time around. Minstrels are a dying breed and Arlo Guthrie is the king of them.

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