Peter Yarrow shines at the Clark Center
February 15, 2012
By COLIN JONES
Some artists and athletes are simply known by their first name: Kobe, Demi, Tiger. The name of singer/ songwriter Peter Yarrow may not mean a lot but Peter, Paul and Mary certainly does.
On Saturday night, the man who made up a third of the iconic folk group and was lyricist of some of their biggest numbers entertained and enlightened a near-capacity Clark Center crowd with a tour de force, 150-minute performance that most artists half his age wouldn’t have the stamina for.
The 73-year old New York native enthusiastically offered his strong political/personal views and reminiscences to an appreciative audience of mostly older baby boomers. It was part sermon, lecture and sing along all rolled into one.
Oh and in between, he confidently strummed and sang some of the best folk and protest songs ever created.
Starting with a sweet song called ‘Music Speaks Louder than Words,’ which conveyed its power and set the tone for the evening, Yarrow dove into ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane,’ one of Peter, Paul and Mary’s greatest hits in the early 1960s. Another new tune ‘Don’t Laugh at Me’ launched him into a long soliloquy about the pain of bullying and the need to treat children with respect and dignity, something he founded Operation Respect to do.
Yarrow is one of those old school artists who continually engages the crowd, almost to a fault and at the expense of the overall performance. So when he asked children in the audience to join him on stage for ‘Puff the Magic Dragon,’ I was a bit skeptical. But he’s been doing this performance thing for years so who am I to doubt. Then he was inviting everyone under 35 to come up and the ensuing group sing along was memorable and touching. Yarrow even managed to dispel a few myths about the origins and meaning of the classic fantasy tale.
After a brief intermission, Yarrow focused on the many folk and protest songs that defined a generation and served as a precursor to the rock and roll phenomenon. The stylish and comfortable Clark Center, which offers an intimacy the PACs’ Cohan Center lacks, proved to be the perfect setting for Yarrow and his guitar.
All night long, he paid tribute to musical partners Mary Travers, who died in 2009, and Noel Paul Stookey, who wrote the ‘Wedding Song (There is Love)’ for Yarrow’s wedding in 1969. After ‘Wedding Song,’ ‘Lemon Tree’ brought out a story about love advice from his father, ‘Stewball’ about a racehorse and Dylan’s ‘Blowin in the Wind,’ which became an iconic anti-Vietnam war anthem.
Yarrow was on a roll so he just kept playing, even as a few patrons got up and left. Hey, it’s Friday night and you’re probably retired anyway so why not stick around and sleep in tomorrow.
Those who did stay were treated to fine renditions of ‘The Great Mandala,’ ‘Light One Candle,’ ‘Weave Me the Sunshine,’ ‘If I Had a Hammer,’ ‘We Shall Overcome’ and a rousing finale of ‘This Land Is Your Land.’
The night proved that as mighty as the power of music is, when it comes with conviction, storytelling and humanity it can change the world. Or maybe just your own.