A photo of Peter Yarrow in concert.
Peter Yarrow, formerly of Peter, Paul and Mary, told Saturday night’s audience at the Hopkins Center for the Arts that his performance would be part concert, part protest march, and part orgy. Although he never progressed to the orgy part, Yarrow demonstrated through song his hopes for community, peace, and connectedness – all staples of the singer’s and Peter, Paul and Mary’s music. This deep spirituality made it seem like a concert with God.
Yarrow was very talkative during the concert and, unlike many music icons who I have seen in multiple concerts, he succeeded in not being repetitious of his dialogs from earlier concerts. He made impassion pleas for opposing political sides to come together and to nurture our children with peace and feelings of cooperation which he concluded with his song “The Children are Listening.” Before he played his trademark song “Puff the Magic Dragon”, he invited all children onto the stage to sing along. In this case, however, Yarrow audibly defined the term “children” as anyone under 70 years, leading to as many as one-third of the audience went up on stage. But the center piece of the song was three young children who came onto the stage (two were my grandchildren) to have them not only do brief solos on the classic song, but to also discuss how they came to know the 58-year-old song.
Yarrow played some more recent song such as “The Colonoscopy Song“, which he wrote for a CBS health campaign. But the heart of his concert were the songs of his old group Peter, Paul, and Mary. These included the classics of “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “If I had a Hammer”, “Blowing in the Wind”, “This Land is Your Land”, and the anti-bullying song “Don’t Laugh at Me”. As is frequent with any concert involving Peter Yarrow, the audience could not refrain from singing along to the classic folk tunes. Yarrow did not discourage it, but insisted that anyone singing along must make sure they are singing the same song that he is singing.
Yarrow was in fine voice, especially given that he became an octogenarian this year, and he stood for the whole the entire concert. With him on stage playing a washboard/stick base was his son Christopher. The repeated hugging illustrating their father and son bond was one of the most endearing parts of the concert. The audience left with a serenity and hope that is both hard to find these days and transcended nostalgia for the anti-war and civil rights protests of the 1960s and 1970s.
* The Hopkins Center for the Arts has conducted its concert series for the past 18 years and numerous musical artists of substance have performed. I saw Peter Yarrow perform there in 2013 and I have seen other renowned artists at the Center such as Joan Armatrading, Jefferson Starship, Michael Johnson, and Ruthie Foster. The blues rock band Hot Tuna is scheduled to appear at the Center on December 8, 2018. Hot Tuna should be familiar to anyone who listed to the old KQ when it was essentially an underground free form rock FM station from the late 1960s to 1977.
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