More than 40 years after his career-making performance at Woodstock, Richie Havens still walks the walk and talks the talk. On Saturday night, his performance at the Eighth Step at Proctors in Schenectady was peppered with plenty of ’60s lingo. “It’s so far out,” he said. “That’s how heavy it is.” And, “The vibe was on.”
Looking and sounding more like some spiritual guru than a pop star, Havens spoke in a hushed, intimate whisper that went way beyond “laid-back.” And he talked alot, opening the show with a ten-minute reminiscence about his early days on the Greenwich Village folk scene.
But on Saturday night, it also seemed as though perhaps Havens was lulled by his own voice. He seemed unfocused, several times forgetting the lyrics in mid-song, even during Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” a song that I’m sure Havens has sung hundreds – if not thousands – of times.
The near-capacity crowd didn’t seem mind. Electric lead guitarist Walter Parks helped smooth over the rough patches, and Havens still sounded great, his rich, sandpapered voice as resonant as ever. While his eccentric guitar playing didn’t have quite the fury that it had in his younger days, it was still fascinating and hard-driving, with his thumb over the top of his guitar neck fretting the open-tuned strings.
And, yes, at the end of his 85-minute performance, he launched into “Freedom,” standing up mid-song and bringing it to a rousing conclusion with a high kick.
Proudly unrepentant folkies Mustard’s Retreat – the veteran duo of guitarist-bassist Michael Hough and guitarist-mandolinist David Tamulevich – opened the show with an unadorned but captivating five-song set that encompassed the poetic (the opening “When the Moon Howls and the Wolves Are Still”), humorous tall tales (“The Michigan Mosquitos”) and the anthemic (the closing “Simple Faith”).
Read my review in The Times Union.
In his review in The Sunday Gazette, Brian McElhiney wrote, “With a lead guitar accompaniment, Havens commanded the stage from the minute he stepped out, his guitar strapped to his chest and wearing a flowing silver robe. His soft, hypnotic voice set a hushed tone as the audience sat in reverence, hanging on his every word.”
RICHIE HAVENS SET LIST
All Along the Watchtower
Way Down Deep
3:10 to Yuma
One More Day
Maggie’s Farm/Won’t Get Fooled Again
You Are So Beautiful
Here Comes the Sun/The End
Handouts in the Rain
Say It Isn’t So
MUSTARD’S RETREAT SET LIST
When the Moon Howls and the Wolves Are Still
Part of Me Remembers
The Michigan Mosquitos
The Water Is Wide