Monday, May 4, 2009

American Beauty: Happy 90th, Pete Seeger

I'm a bit overwhelmed this morning with the usual mundane trivialities of my day job, so regrettably, I don't have the time to draft a proper review of last night's concert. But out of respect for Pete Seeger, I will offer a few thoughts:

Last night, MSG hosted a (surprisingly) very well-coordinated and touching tribute concert to honor the 90th birthday of legendary folk hero and American patriot, Pete Seeger. Guests ranged from Bruce Springsteen to Ani DiFranco, Richie Havens to Bruce Cockburn, Dave Matthews to John Mellencamp, and Ben Harper to Joan Baez. It was quite moving -- even tear jerking at times -- to watch these artists collaborate for the sole purpose of celebrating the career of one of the last true national icons. Over the course of the evening, we heard former Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn sing 60's anthem "Turn! Turn! Turn!," Havens play the obligatory "Freedom," and Springsteen pay his own personal homage to Seeger with "The Ghost of Tom Joad."

Frequent performers included Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine (who contrary to my original thoughts was quite impressive), the ubiquitous Warren Haynes and of course, Arlo Guthrie, the son of Seeger compatriot Woody Guthrie. We watched the sprightly DiFranco and a raspy Kris Kristofferson perform a playful rendition of "There's a Hole in my Bucket." Rufus Wainwright blessed us with his heavenly vocals on a number of tunes, while actor turned activist, Tim Robbins, offered a heartfelt dedication to the life and times of the 90-year old songwriter. Dave Matthews performed a, well, Dave-esqe rendition of "Rye Whiskey" and Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka banjoed-it-up on stage throughout the night. While I'm certain there were a number of celebs in attendance, I can personally vouch for at least one -- Mike Gordon -- who I did spot amongst the crowd. I have to think that Seeger's own feisty environmentalism (see Hudson River Sloop Clearwater) influenced the charitable endeavors of countless other bands, including Phish's own Waterwheel Foundation. It's a shame Jerry Garcia isn't still alive (for so many reasons) because I think he would have undoubtedly participated in this celebration of life, liberty and music.

But the true highlight of the evening was when Seeger himself led the audience of roughly 20,000 in an emotional rendition of "Amazing Grace" that had everyone chanting the hymn in unison. His weathered voice -- barely able to squeak out the notes -- had tears welling my eyes. It was at that moment, Seeger proved that while his frail body is in its hour of twilight, his soul will peaceably live on forever. Happy Birthday, Pete.

(AP Photo/Evan Agostini)


ak said...


dave matthews- that was incredible.

Ben Harper - also pretty darn good, backed up by his mom and aunt.

Eddie Vedder- not showing up saved me from having to roll my eyes 16 times, while he gave some god awful holier than thou speech about why he is a better person then everyone else at MSG.

Cover of Maggie's farm armed with Kris Kristopherson, Taj Mahal, Richie Havens, Steve Earle (i think) and a few others.

Low-Lights: angry aging white upper middle class folk-lovers singing where have all the flowers gone and we shall overcome, while moments later they curse and start fights with other old folkies who are singing too loud.

ak said...

Pete Seeger...nobel prize?