Review: ‘Pete Seeger’

Pete Seeger (Ash Grove, Santa Monica; 450 seats; $ 50) Promoted inhouse. Band: Seeger, Tao Rodriguez. Reviewed May 20, 1997. Even though it seems that there aren't many genuine cultural icons left, Pete Seeger is one of them. But, at 78, he isn't as active as he used to be, so his appearances this week may well have been among the last opportunities for local audiences to see the East Coast-based folk singer in person. Shows, at the Ash Grove and Wednesday night at a Santa Monica high school, were benefits for the newly revived nightclub, already facing financial difficulties. Ash Grove founder Ed Pearl first booked Seeger locally in 1954, when other promoters wouldn't sponsor the blacklisted performer. Seeger's voice isn't what it used to be; some might say it never was, that his appeal comes from his hugely engaging stage presence --- he can get an audience singing along so fast that Mitch Miller would admit defeat. In any event, he brought along his grandson, Tao Rodriguez, to sing harmony and add percussion to Seeger's banjo and 12-string guitar. Rodriguez sings high harmony, reminiscent to old-timers of Hamilton Camp with Bob Gibson or Glenn Yarbrough with the Limeliters. He also seemed to be enjoying himself and Seeger's company as much as anyone in the capacity audience. The evening was divided into two 45 -minute sets, interrupted by a half-hour break. Songs ranged from greatest hits ("Midnight Special," "If I Had a Hammer," "Guantanamera") to new, familiar-sounding originals. Highlights included Seeger and Rodriguez's version of Country Joe McDonald's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" (the best song to come out of the Vietnam War, according to Seeger); and rewritings of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" and Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me to Do" by members of the Clearwater Sloop crew (a Seeger project to clean up the Hudson River), the latter featuring a blues banjo solo --- musical universality being as much a Seeger trademark as his populist, brotherhood-of-man politics.

Pete Seeger (Ash Grove, Santa Monica; 450 seats; $ 50) Promoted inhouse. Band: Seeger, Tao Rodriguez. Reviewed May 20, 1997. Even though it seems that there aren’t many genuine cultural icons left, Pete Seeger is one of them. But, at 78, he isn’t as active as he used to be, so his appearances this week may well have been among the last opportunities for local audiences to see the East Coast-based folk singer in person. Shows, at the Ash Grove and Wednesday night at a Santa Monica high school, were benefits for the newly revived nightclub, already facing financial difficulties. Ash Grove founder Ed Pearl first booked Seeger locally in 1954, when other promoters wouldn’t sponsor the blacklisted performer. Seeger’s voice isn’t what it used to be; some might say it never was, that his appeal comes from his hugely engaging stage presence — he can get an audience singing along so fast that Mitch Miller would admit defeat. In any event, he brought along his grandson, Tao Rodriguez, to sing harmony and add percussion to Seeger’s banjo and 12-string guitar. Rodriguez sings high harmony, reminiscent to old-timers of Hamilton Camp with Bob Gibson or Glenn Yarbrough with the Limeliters. He also seemed to be enjoying himself and Seeger’s company as much as anyone in the capacity audience. The evening was divided into two 45 -minute sets, interrupted by a half-hour break. Songs ranged from greatest hits (“Midnight Special,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Guantanamera”) to new, familiar-sounding originals. Highlights included Seeger and Rodriguez’s version of Country Joe McDonald’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” (the best song to come out of the Vietnam War, according to Seeger); and rewritings of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do” by members of the Clearwater Sloop crew (a Seeger project to clean up the Hudson River), the latter featuring a blues banjo solo — musical universality being as much a Seeger trademark as his populist, brotherhood-of-man politics.

Pete Seeger

Ash Grove, Santa Monica; 450 seats; $50

Production

Promoted inhouse.

Crew

Reviewed May 20, 1997.

Cast

Band: Seeger, Tao Rodriguez.
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