Saturday, December 5, 2009

Greeting Peter And Paul–And Missing Mary

Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey's concert at the Capitol One Theater in Westbury, Long Island, on Friday night began with an acknowledgment that their performance cannot be the same following the death of Mary Travers on September 16th. Both stated, however, that Mary's spirit remained with them and the audience, and they asked the latter to fill in some of her parts. But can anyone fill the role she played as seen, for example, in the video above from 1965?

Peter and Paul have been performing for most of their lives as part of folk music's most legendary trio, and their comfort on stage is clear. They have the ability to make an audience feel as if they were sitting in a living room listening to them sing, schmooze and joke around. Of course, their fans greeted them as familiar friends going back to a time when two acoustic guitars accompanied by longtime bassist Dick Kniss were all the instrumentation needed for an enjoyable concert.

On the other hand, I found Peter's observations and banter to be excessive at times. Perhaps it's my curmudgeonly nature–the audience was obviously entertained–but I would have traded some of it for two or three more songs. Peter said that Mary sometimes played the part of a mother hen who kept the two boys from getting too rambunctious, so perhaps his behavior in her absence proved that point. On the other hand, Paul did present a meaningful talk on folk music's message of inclusiveness and the way it reflects the common experiences of all people.

The concert wasn't all talk, however, and it was wonderful to hear the two sing classics such as "Blowin' In The Wind" and "This Land Is Your Land." But my gaze kept wandering to the space between them that had been so long occupied by Mary. Especially on certain songs such as "Leaving On A Jet Plane," it was clear that Mary's wonderful voice, warmth and compassion are irreplaceable.

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