Arlo Guthrie is a national treasure in more ways than one.
If he'd never written a song of his own, Arlo could still hold center stage with songs and stories from his dad, Pete Seeger and Lead Belly. Conversely, if he weren't Woody's son, Arlo could still hold center stage with his own brilliant folk songs—some written with dreamlike poetry, and others featuring a deep humor.
Folk music's First Son has been at it so long that his grandkids are taking the stage with him. The band this time around is Arlo, son Abe on keyboards, grandson Krishna on electric guitar, longtime friend Terry a la Berry on drums, and the entire audience on backup singalong vocals.
Taking the Fox stage with the folk standard "Green Green Rocky Road," Arlo was jovial and talkative throughout, a born storyteller offering up stories and jokes as well as songs during the two hour-long sets.
Joking that these days, it's hard enough to remember the songs he wrote, never mind how they all go, Arlo—who turns 65 in July—followed with two of his own best-known compositions: "Darkest Hour" and "Coming Into Los Angeles," the latter coming with an updated story about his wife facing arrest at the airport after borrowing luggage of Arlo's that contained an unopened package of "botanical material" from Amsterdam.
Arlo sang Woody's "Deportees" and "Pretty Boy Floyd," with a bit of commentary about how the struggles of migrants and poor farmers—and the greed of the bankers—haven't changed much since the 1930s and 1940s.
Though most in the crowd were contemporaries of Arlo, two of the show's strongest moments came with newer Arlo songs: 2007's "In Times Like These" and 1989's "When a Soldier Makes It Home," both topical folk tunes that represent a hopeful yearning that people working together can make this world stronger.
Arlo pushed that notion of unity and togetherness, closing the show with songs including "This Land Is Your Land" and "My Peace," the simple tune Arlo wrote for a short lyric Woody never got around to recording. Singing together, the crowd and Arlo found the magic to match the message: "My peace, my peace, is all I've got, that I can give to you."