Monday, May 04, 2009

Pete's 90th

Dave Matthews at the Garden last night.

I and 15,000 others sang "Happy Birthday" to Pete Seeger last night at Madison Square Garden. Springsteeen sang "The Ghost of Tom Joad" with Tom Morello, after a longish introduction by Bruce which ended: "He's gonna look a lot like your granddad that wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He gonna look like your granddad if your granddad can kick your ass." We saw and heard Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp ("If I Had a Hammer"), Ani DiFranco (selflessly sang to accompany several others), Arlo Guthrie ("Oh Mary Don't You Weep" with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band), Billy Bragg (prefaced by a great story of Pete's musical teachings), Bruce Cockburn (intense as always), Emmylou Harris (the most moving performance of "The Water Is Wide" I"ve ever heard), Joan Baez (two songs--the first not quite her usual, the second, "Jacob's Ladder," fantastic), Kris Kristofferson ("Got a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza"), Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Richie Havens (sang "Freedom"--his Woodstock song), Roger McGuinn (did the Animals version of "Turn, Turn, Turn"), Steve Earle, Taj Mahal (a favorite of mine), Bernice Reagon, Dar Williams, Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton, Eric Weissberg, and others.

The opening of the 4-hour performance: a lone light shone on Seeger (but we didn't really know it was Pete) as he played a flute solo called "Menomonee Love Song." As the lights came up, they revealed the outline of a sloop, apt for an event titled the "Clearwater Concert" after the organization's vessel, the gaff sloop Clearwater.


1) Dave Matthews, after telling us he should introduce himself as "David," since that's what his mother called him and she was the one who took him to his first concert, near Croton NY--a Pete Seeger concert. Matthews sang an emotional but musically pure version of "Whiskey Rye Whiskey."

2) Emmylou Harris, "The Water Is Wide," as noted above. Not a dry eye in the house.

3) Springsteen and Morello, trading verses of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Earlier in the week (!) I'd seen Bruce with the E Street Band, a great concert. The whole band did its hauntingly good "Tom Joad," but this, Bruce in the clear voice of a guy singing for just 10 minutes in a whole evening, and two acoustic guitars, and a harmony with Morello, was even better.

4) Seeger, Baez, Billy Bragg, Emmy Lou Harris singing "We Shall Overcome."