When veteran singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie walks out from behind the curtain at the on Friday, it will be a dream realized for venue owner Tom Simpson. Simpson booked the popular folk singer for the 32nd Kent State Folk Festival in 1998, and has been trying to bring him to his venue since the very beginning.
The Kent Stage will celebrate its 9th anniversary with “An Evening with Arlo Guthrie” Friday at 8 p.m.
“This has been a goal of ours since 2002,” Simpson said.
Guthrie is the eldest son of Woody Guthrie, the hugely influential singer-songwriter known for such songs as This Land is Your Land. He grew up surrounded by the folk icons such as Pete Seeger and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and witnessed the folk boom of the ‘60s firsthand.
Guthrie started performing in 1966, and his career took off the following year with the release of his album Alice’s Restaurant. He debuted the title tune (officially called Alice’s Restaurant Massacree) at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival and it immediately connected with audiences. The rambling comic monologue detailed an ill-advised attempt to dispose of some Thanksgiving garbage, and it became somewhat of a classic.
The Woodstock Festival in 1969 provided another big moment for Guthrie, as his tune Coming into Los Angeles was an audience favorite, and was featured on the soundtrack album and film. In 1972, he had a Top 40 hit with his definitive version of Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans, which was a staple on classic rock radio stations for years.
Guthrie has been recording and performing ever since, and he is known today as a powerful concert attraction. His shows feature his easy-going, dry humor, balanced with a nice blend of originals along with well-chosen cover tunes.
For the Kent show, Guthrie will perform with his son Abe on keyboards and vocals, Terry A La Berry on drums, Bobby Sweet on guitar and Jody Lamppro on bass. As an extra special treat, the Burns Sisters will join Guthrie and company for the anniversary show. Singers Jeanne, Annie and Marie Burns have been recording and performing on their own since the mid-‘90s, and this is their third tour with Guthrie. Their sweet vocals promise to add an extra dimension to the proceedings.
Like his father, Guthrie is knows for his socially conscious material, including songs protesting social injustice. On his website, Guthrie recently expressed support for the collective bargaining rights of public unions that are currently being hotly debated in Ohio, Wisconsin and several other states.
Simpson says he tries hard to book special artists for the anniversary shows. “Joan Baez and Tom Paxton played our first anniversary,” Simpson said. “For other years we’ve had folks such as Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, and Roger McGuinn.”
The Kent Stage has come a long way since its start in 2002, when it booked a fairly modest concert schedule. Now the venue is host to more than 150 events annually, drawing patrons from around Northeast Ohio and surrounding states.
Though the area is bracing for another blast of winter weather, Simpson said he hopes that Kent will miss the brunt of the storm. But the show will go on regardless.
“Arlo and the band arrived Thursday afternoon, so they are ready to go," Simpson said. "And we are, too.”
Reserved seats are $50 ($80 for Gold Circle) and are available online and at and . There is no opening act for the show, so guests should plan to arrive on time. Doors open at 7 p.m.
“It’s really rare for Arlo to come through this area with his son, a full band and the Burns Sisters,” Simpson said. “It’s going to be a very special evening.”