Monday, May 4, 2009

LoveFest in the Garden

You can read what the professionals have written in USA Today and the New York Times.
Here is what I heard, saw and experienced Sunday night in Madison Square Garden.

My wife and I has $19.19 seats in the nosebleed section behind the stage, section 418 Row C. There were no JumboTrons, only two projection screens, and the one we could see best was a reversed image because we were behind it. We could hear just fine, and the small monocular I brought from home allowed us to see some details on the stage.

I am not a music critic so I will not even attempt to go there. I do like folk songs, am an environmentalist, and am committed to social justice, so Pete Seeger is my sort of guy.

Even though there were a lot of big names performing, I did not feel like Sunday’s CLEARWATER CONCERT was a true concert but rather a 90th birthday party sing alone for and with one of America’s icons and I just happened to be invited.

If I had closed my eyes a few of the opening songs would have made me think I was back in the West Virginia, the Home state of Mother Jones, or in Harlan County, Kentucky. I guess labor movement songs work wherever they are song, though.

My friend Tobey has written that the concert made him “feel like a young kid again…felt like the sixties with Baez and MgGuin and Richie Havens etc…” Regarding Pete Seeger, Tobey said “What I saw last night was a man who has lived his beliefs and principles for his whole life. That must be why at age 90 he can get Madison Square Garden to stand up and sing along. Would that we could all be so true and uncompromising to our inner nature. No cabin passage for Pete through this life.

This is what my Wife Vicki, a big Springsteen fan, posted to a Springsteen fan site. “I loved the show! Dave Matthews was worth the price of admission alone... everyone else was just icing on the cake. Bruce sounded a little hoarse but I am thrilled to have seen him do Tom Joad with Tom Morello. Wowzer! . . . Patti was there for the encore and the extras at the end. It was a really great night. So many egos and legends, but it turned into one big liberal lovefest.”

The most stirring moment for me was Pete’s younger sister offering a poetic tribute laced with piano cords. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

I agree with the New York Time’s political assessment. Even if the musical selections or the linuop had not changed, if the Birthday Benefit Concert had been held six months ago, prior to the most recent election, it would have been a different experience. It probably would have felt more like a protest rally rather than a celebration.

As it was, it felt a little like church, or at least what church should be. There was Amazing Grace and Pete telling the story of John Newton. There was This Little Light of Mine. There was Little Boxes on the Hillside. There was When the Saints Go marching In. I felt like circling the pews, building a campfire, toasting marshmallows, making S’mores, and passing round a bottle of rye whiskey to celebrate communion with all the saints of the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the environmental movement.

Thank God for Pete Seeger. His music and public witness have offered us hope and encouragement as well as calling us to action and activism during some difficult times. I hope Bruce Springsteen’s assessment was correct. Pete has outlived the bastards. The times have changed. This is our land again.

1 comment:

John Edward Harris said...

SHould Pete Seeger be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Read about it at this link: