The Lope: Arlo Guthrie at the Orpheum in Wichita

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Arlo Guthrie at the Orpheum in Wichita

Folk legend Arlo Guthrie entertained a packed house at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita, Kansas, last night, April 15, 2009.

The Orpheum is a 1922 theatre which is slowly undergoing restoration under the non-profit Orpheum Performing Arts Centre, Ltd., which owns it.

The theatre is located on Broadway, which is Wichita's stretch of old highway 81. Highway 81 from Park City, north of Wichita, through Haysville to the south, contains some nice examples of 20th century architecture that I hope to explore in more detail. The Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother is part of the Via Christi St Francis campus which is bordered on the west by Broadway just a few blocks to the north.

According to the theatre's website, The Orpheum is one of the best remaining examples of the "atmospheric" school of theatre architecture. This approach to theatre architecture emphasized decor intended to give the patron a feeling of being in a landscaped outdoor area. In the case of the Orpheum, architect John Eberson had in mind a Spanish courtyard.

The concert was a sell-out, by the way. I shot this before the show because house lights were still on, dim though they are.

Note Eberson's mock tile roofs over suggestions of building facades at the edge of the balcony. The starry night ceiling is also a neat feature.

The Orpheum is seldom open for tours but one will be offered May 3rd, 2009, in conjunction with a car show on Broadway. Check out the theatre's website for details.

Back to the show at hand: With the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival coming up this August 15-18, 2009, I imagine we'll be seeing more media attention to Guthrie, who performed "Coming into Los Angeles" last night, a song he did at Woodstock.

Guitar enthusiasts have urged that I identify the guitars being played in photos. Based on an interview Modern Guitars Magazine conducted with Guthrie, I believe this is what he called a "GM-38 what they call a 'Quadruple O' Martin." closer photo, farther photo

And this would be the a Gibson J-200 Vine. similar photos here and here.

What this pretty blue guitar is, I do not know. I just know he sounded good playing it. Similar photos are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

(Note added in 2011: after a subsequent appearance I was able to ask Guthrie about this guitar. It is a Composite Acoustics (CA) 12-string. The body is made of carbon fiber.)

I'm not as familiar with his catalog as I'd like to be, but here are songs from the set list that I can identify: "Chilling of the Evening", "The Old Apple Tree", "Darkest Hour", "St. James Infirmary", "Cornbread, Peas, and Molasses", "Motorcycle Song", "Haleiwa Farewell", "Coming Into Los Angeles", "Pretty Boy Floyd", "Alabama Bound", "When a Soldier Makes it Home", "In Times Like These", "Days are Short", "City of New Orleans", "This Land" and "My Peace". "This Land", a song written by his father, Woody Guthrie, was done as a sing along. "Alice's Restaurant" was not performed, but the movie had shown at the Orpheum the previous night.

He also told stories about his father, Woody Guthrie, and friends such as Hoyt Axton. As a matter of fact, his style is a fluid storytelling/singing act. He obviously has a fan base with a devoted core; several of the people seated around me had followed the tour through more than the Wichita stop.

Guthrie took to the piano (A Yamaha) for several tunes, including my favorite, "City of New Orleans".

Guthrie's son, Abe, plays keyboards on this tour. The backup singers were the Burns Sisters.

Guthrie's own people seem genuinely amused by his stories. Considering how often they must have heard them, that's saying something.

Ace Jackalope came dressed in a railroad engineer outfit ("City of New Orleans", you know) but we were not able to get a photo of Ace with Arlo. Ace's pal (and Arlo fan) Sharon did manage to pose with Ace and Abe Guthrie.

Note added in 2011: A couple years later we did get to meet Arlo Guthrie:

Arlo Guthrie's tour schedule is posted on his website.

To see what's coming up at the Orpheum, check their website.


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