Arlo Guthrie Plays Free Concert at Woodstock Site

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Arlo Guthrie, August 15, 2019, at Bethel Woods Center For the Arts, the site of the original Woodstock festival

On August 15, 2019, exactly 50 years to the day after he performed at the  fabled Woodstock festival, Arlo Guthrie returned to the actual site—and gave a free concert. “Well,” said the folk singer-songwriter when he took the stage at what is now Bethel Woods Center For the Arts. “Fancy being here. I sort of remember this.”

And with that, Guthrie and his longtime band began a 12-song set that included his own compositions (“The Motorcycle Song,” “Coming Into Los Angeles,” among them), as well as covers of his father, Woody (“This Land is Your Land,” “Gypsy Davy”), Bob Dylan (“Gates of Eden”), Steve Goodman (“City of New Orleans”), and others.

Guthrie reminisced about his career throughout his performance, and spoke about the legendary 1969 festival. “We’re just happy to be [at the original site] and to celebrate the fact that we’re still here,” he said, as the crowd roared their approval.

One of the colorful members of the audience

“There’s a lot of water under the bridge in the last 50 years. For me, it’s a pound a year every year. When we first came here, we had no idea it would be an historic event. We just took it as another gig. We had booked ourselves at another one just a day or two after we were gonna be here, so we couldn’t even stay for the whole festival. We had to do another gig somewhere. That was when we realized: ‘Man, that was a big deal’.”

When some members of the audience asked for the speakers to be turned up, Guthrie joked, “I realize that at this point of life, most people out here need hearing aids. I had visions of people coming with walkers and canes and wheelchairs. I can hear Wavy Gravy saying: ‘Don’t take the brown antacid’.”

Watch the first six songs of Guthrie’s set

Guthrie was just 22 when he played the original festival and just a few years into his career as a singer-songwriter, following in the footsteps of his father, Woody Guthrie. Arlo’s classic debut album, Alice’s Restaurant, had been released in 1967 and he was a huge star. He performed a seven-song set on the Woodstock stage, beginning with “Coming Into Los Angeles,” a popular radio hit.

Related: Arlo Guthrie talks about “Alice,” Woody and more

Watch Arlo perform “Coming Into Los Angeles” at the original Woodstock festival

“I didn’t remember much about my original appearance at the Woodstock festival until I saw the movie,” he said. “It was actually kind of awful. What I realize was when we first got out on the stage, the microphones weren’t turned on. We couldn’t hear ourselves and nobody else could either.

Watch the second half of Guthrie’s 2019 performance

Thanks to Ed Millner for the videos from the front row.

Guthrie has announced a 20/20 tour. Tickets are available here and here.

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