“This is quite new for us,” explained Peter Yarrow after he and his musical partner Noel Paul Stookey finished their opening song, “Weave Me the Sunshine,” at Proctors in Schenectady on Friday evening. While he and Stookey have been sharing stages together for more than a half century, what was new was what was missing – the third member of the famed folk trio, Mary Travers, who passed away last year after a long battle with leukemia.
“Her presence is very strong. We feel her absence, and we feel her presence,” Yarrow added. “Out of the sadness of her passing we reaffirm, in very positive ways, the power of the music.”
Unfortunately, it was Travers’ absence rather than her presence that was felt most deeply during the duo’s ill-paced, hour-long first set. Aided by multi-instrumentalist Paul Prestopino, Yarrow and Stookey – both 72 years old now – seemed to deliberately avoid any of the PP&M hits until toward the end of the set when Yarrow sat down to play “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and the audience joined in for an unprompted sing-along. The best song of the first set was Stookey’s heartfelt reading of Buddy Mondlock’s “The Kid.”
The second set, however, was considerably better. Stookey kicked it off with a 20-minute solo set that featured some expertly timed comedy and the two best performances of the night – the classic “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)” and “Jean-Claude,” a new, absolutely stunning song about the pain endured by the French during World War II. While Stookey’s solo segment was hushed, but intense, Yarrow attempted to rev up the crowd with sing-alongs for his solo turn.
When they re-teamed for the final 20 minutes of the performance, they pulled out the big hits, leading with “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” as the crowd raised their voices to sing Travers’ vocal parts. The audience’s voices grew stronger as the show came to a climax with the rousing “If I Had a Hammer,” the more hopeful than despairing “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the encore of “This Land Is Your Land.”
And, yes, you could finally feel Mary’s presence.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Roger Green’s review at Information Without the Bun
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “At certain points things just got silly, as when Stookey put his arm around a seated Yarrow and began to throw his voice, while Yarrow’s jaw flapped exaggeratedly. Their explanation for this new segment of the performance: “Mary wouldn’t let us.” Despite the occasional wisecrack, Yarrow and Stookey paid tribute to their departed group member, Mary Travers, in grand fashion throughout two sets before a fairly large crowd. “Her presence is still very strong — we walk out, and we feel her absence,” Yarrow said after the first number, “Weave Me the Sunshine.” And true to his word, her absence was felt throughout old favorites such as “Hush-A-Bye,” “It’s Magic,” “Garden Song” and all the others played during the first set. But the two men left onstage managed to present the material in a new light, inviting the audience to sing along on numerous occasions, partially helping to fill the void.”
PETER YARROW & NOEL PAUL STOOKEY SET LIST
Weave Me the Sunshine
Don’t Laugh at Me
Have You Been to Jail for Justice? (Anne Feeney)
The Garden Song (David Mallett)
Light One Candle
Puff the Magic Dragon
Home Sweet Home (Paul Prestopino solo instrumental)
The Kid (Buddy Mondlock)
Day Is Done
The Wedding Song (Paul solo)
Jean-Claude (Paul solo)
Music Speaks Louder Than Words (Peter with Paul Prestopino)
Medley: This Little Light of Mine/Down by the Riverside/Oh, Freedom (Peter with Paul Prestopino)
Leavin’ On a Jet Plane (John Denver)
Blowin’ in the Wind (Bob Dylan)
This Land Is Your Land
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk.