Hope remains Paramount in Havens’ music

By Tom Weber

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

There was a celebratory mood to Richie Havens’ concert Friday night at Austin’s Paramount Theatre. Much of what Havens has been singing about for 40 years has finally come to pass,

"Well, it’s still going," Havens said when he took the stage. "It’s interesting how it turned out."

Then Havens, who achieved fame with his inspiring performance at the original Woodstock in 1969, began the concert with his traditional opener, Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower." Between Havens’ frenzied guitar strumming and passionate singing, he was barely able to remain seated on his stool.


Also setting an early tone was accompanist Walter Parks, whose elegant guitar fills added atmosphere to every song.

For the most part, Havens mixed his better-known songs with newer tunes and gentle homilies about the interconnectedness of all people. But there is nothing preachy about a Havens concert. He pokes fun at himself and lets his music deliver the most potent messages.

He’d have every right to be world-weary at this point, but Havens, at age 68, is all about hope.

He dedicated George Harrison’s "Here Comes the Sun" to children, and it was impossible not to detect Havens’ inference that the sun really does come around now and again.

Later, he combined Dylan’s "Maggie’s Farm" with the Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again" in a powerful creation.

The concert was peppered with a number of affecting ballads, including "You Are So Beautiful" and "My Love is Alive." Among the newer songs was "Say it Isn’t So."

As usual, Havens ended with "Freedom," the song with which he electrified the Woodstock audience 40 years ago.

The restored Paramount’s acoustics were fine throughout the show, and the venue proved to be a hospitable home for an artist of Havens’ stature.


"It’s an interesting business," said Scott Anderson, Paramount manager, in explaining how the concert was scheduled. "An agent sent me an e-mail, and I thought, ‘Why not check into having Richie Havens here?’ So that’s how it happened."

Happening in September at the Paramount: Another big concert, in this case by Roger McGuinn, one of the most influential artists of the folk-rock era.

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Paramount Theatre

Richie Havens

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