Arlo Guthrie Eyes End of Annual Thanksgiving Carnegie Hall Concerts

Katie Darby/Invision/AP
Arlo Guthrie performs during the Arlo Guthrie: Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour at the Ferst Center For The Arts on Jan. 31, 2015 in Atlanta.

Arlo Guthrie's holiday weekend concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall have become as much a part of Thanksgiving tradition as turkey, pumpkin pie and giant balloons floating down Sixth Avenue. But it may not be that way for much longer.

Guthrie is in the midst of his Alice's Restaurant -- Back By Popular Demand Tour, which he started this fall and plans to carry into 2020, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his epic 1967 story song and the 1969 movie it helped inspire. He and his family-filled guest list return for another performance on Nov. 24, which Guthrie predicts will be the penultimate performance of his long run at the esteemed venue. (Use the code TWB30394 for a 20 percent ticket discount at www.carnegiehall.org.)

"I don't know if we'll continue it beyond next year," Guthrie tells Billboard. "Next year we'll do the actual 50th anniversary show at Carnegie, and I think I'll probably call it quits after that. It's been a long tradition, but the older I get the harder it is to do. I'd rather quit while we're ahead and it's still a good show."

If that holds true, however, Guthrie is confident the good memories will remain and sustain fans who have turned out for the shows since the late 60s. "It's been a wonderful experience for me and the family," says the Massachusetts-based Guthrie. "My kids grew up there. Every year it became a family tradition to go to New York, walk around town, eat here and there, then do the show. We've had a whole routine going, and we've loved it."

"Alice's Restaurant Massacree" -- which chronicles a citation for littering in 1965 and the U.S. Army's refusal to draft him because of that conviction (for the much more in-between, listen to the song... probably again) -- came out during October of 1967 and became an instant Thanksgiving tradition for fans and radio stations around the country. Guthrie himself gave it a long lay-off before returning to performing it during 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event that inspired that song, complete with a multi-media presentation on stage

"I remember the moment I realized that everybody coming to the gig had already heard the song, probably in the early 70s, that the day was over when I was performing it to new victims," Guthrie says. "At some point I realized the days of surprising people were over, so I stop playing it for long periods of time, and then would only play it on the anniversaries. I'm overall happy that we decided to do it that way. I'm not burned out on it. And I'm still enjoying the tour and performing it every night again for people."

Guthrie says plans are being formulated for next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Alice's Restaurant film, in which he starred -- although he was "never a big fan of the movie" -- and for which director Arthur Penn received an Academy Award nomination. Firm plans have yet to be announced, but the 2019 Carnegie Hall show will be a focal point. In the meantime he'll keep the "Massacree" alive in concert -- as well as the spirit of counter-culture protest it evokes and which is still a big part of Guthrie's own repertoire.

"Obviously, it's what we do," he says. "I’m not a professional protestor. I was never looking for things to complain about. But there are times when I think people need to stand up for what they think, whether it's left, right or center." And center, Guthrie adds, sounds like an appealing place these days.

"The middle ground at this point is a pure protest to crazy people on the right -- and crazy people on the left as well. I keep thinking that if everybody with common sense can hold the middle ground, we'll get through it. I mean, who would've thought that a lot of my peers would ever be defending the FBI at this point in time? What a travesty! We had so much fun complaining about them years ago -- and for good reason. But here we are, and just thinking about those things puts a smile on your face."


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