Review by Charlie Braverman
Photographs (from soundcheck) by Rudy Lu
It is still Pete’s season.
Saw Pete Seeger last weekend. So old, he has outlived his singing voice, which died a quiet death years ago… but was it from old age – or a vast right wing conspiracy, you decide.
Played to a packed house of doddering devotees, average age topping 72 years old. The concert, itself, was so long (over three hours) that seven audience members dropped dead of natural causes over the course of the evening. A concert that long mixed with an audience that old, you naturally expect some ‘spillage.’ “And the big fool said, push on…”
[NOTE: nobody died during the performance; that was hyperbole.]
Always with the message. At least seven decades of peace, love and riparian rights. Always challenging his audience with audacious, impassioned calls to action. Still, Sunday’s message came as something of a surprise. While he picked out the melody of Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ on his banjo, Pete broke character, walked to the front of the stage, and implored us all to ‘make money, just make more money. If you live to
be 94, you are gonna run out and you are are gonna need more. Take it from a guy who still has to lead f*cking kiddie sing-alongs at 94-and-a-half.”
[NOTE: he never said anything like the above. Further, he has always looked this thin and malnourished; and the fact that he is wearing the very same shirt he was wearing the last time I saw him, 34 years ago, is strictly by choice. Almost certainly, he can afford another shirt, but maybe not retail.]
Came with his younger sister, Peggy, who became a lesbian years and years ago, ‘because it was the right thing to do.’
[NOTE: Actually, nobody has ever intimated that that was the reason she became a lesbian, ever. I am confident she likes women even more than I do. Which is not meant to cast aspersions upon myself.]
And was I the only one disappointed that he did not appear with the Silver Bullet Band?
[NOTE: Alright, I am fully aware that it was Bob Seger who fronted the Silver Bullet Band. As you probably know, Pete Seeger was a founding member of the Almanac Singers, the Weavers and the Southern Christian Leadership Council.]
If there were actual fashion police, they would have arrested any number of women in the audience. The crime: wearing peasant blouses out of season. About 40 years out of season. By the way, XXL and peasant blouse: an unsettling mix.
[NOTE: Truthfully, I did not see even one pleasant blouse on anybody in the audience, especially not on the women. I did see plenty of XXL, and I won’t back down from that.]
Dramatic climax to the evening, when Pete strapped on an electric guitar and then angrily dragged himself off the stage.
[NOTE: This did not happen. It is a subtle reference to something that DID happen 50 years ago, when Bob Dylan went electric for the first time ever, at the Newport Folk Festival. Pete Seeger was backstage, and was so mad, or felt so betrayed, or was acting on Woody Guthrie’s behalf, that he threatened to hack the electric cabling with an axe. That actually did happen…]
And the full truth is that Pete Seeger still awes. We gave him a standing ovation just for walking on stage; he moved us to tears when he sang ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’; he recited the Gettysburg Address from memory. He showed us the only way to be 94 years old: clear-headed enough to tell stories that had beginnings and ends and made sense; nimble enough to play banjo; still engaged in the world and still more
concerned for our futures than we seem to be.
I say I aspire to be these things when I am 94, but I could just as well aspire to be these same things today.
B.A. Nilsson’s review at Metroland
Greg Haymes’ review at Nippertown
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Seeger is amazingly sharp and capable for his age, standing for many of the songs, strumming a guitar or banjo, and leading the crowd in songs with dozens of verses. At one point in the first set, which lasted an hour, he recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address from memory. The moment he appeared on stage, the packed crowd rose to its feet to honor him with a lengthy and vigorous applause. Early in the show, he told us he never sang ‘Turn Turn Turn’ until ‘an electric band made it well-known. I’ve been singing it ever since.’ While his sister carried most of the guitar work through the night, he handled this one by himself. The crowd interrupted the song with applause when he sang, ‘a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.’ He and Peggy rotated songs. Seeger’s tunes can feel like children’s songs — simple nursery rhymes — that delivered subtle and poignant social lessons. Peggy often used humor to get across her equally clever messages.”