concert reviews

Peter, Paul & Mary at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Friday 13 August 2004

Not surprisingly for a group whose activism is as well known as its music, Peter, Paul & Mary gave a concert at Wolf Trap on Friday night heavily weighted toward issues of peace and equality. This show marked the 21st consecutive year the trio has played Wolf Trap, and while the group's music will always maintain a timeless beauty, the content of the antiwar songs has new relevance. In "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," the group hit each verse with a fresh emphasis. Later, Peter Yarrow talked about his work in the antiwar movement of his youth, apologizing that he had at one time "confused the warrior and the war." With a nod to former senator Max Cleland in the front row (who himself received a lengthy standing ovation), he launched into "The Great Mandala," the most powerful anti-violence song of the night.

The two-hour performance was not devoted entirely to politics. In addition to crowd-pleasing favorites such as "Puff, the Magic Dragon" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane," the trio played newer songs, such as "Don't Laugh at Me," whose touching chorus ("Don't get your pleasure from my pain") moved the audience to its feet.

Toward the end of the evening, a fan shouted, "You rock tonight!" to which Yarrow responded with a laugh, "Your timing was exquisite; your content, questionable." By contrast, the content of Peter, Paul & Mary's set was far from questionable, and while their voices may no longer be what they once were, the classic simplicity of their music remains exquisite.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 16 August 2004
.: Selected discography: In These Times (Peter, Paul & Mary, 2004); Carry It On (Peter, Paul & Mary, 2004).