Veterans of 1969 show aging toward perfection
Melanie: Her long blonde hair was flowing. Her tent dress was billowing. Her strong voice was warbling Woodstock-era songs like "Brand New Key," "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma" and "Summer of Love." If you had gone to sleep at the 1969 Woodstock festival and awoke at A Day in the Garden, you would have sworn three decades hadn't elapsed. The Woodstock veteran said she knew she "left a lot in this field." She found it yesterday.
Woodstock moment: "There's a power on this hillside," she said.
Donovan: Today's acts use electronics to get vibrato. Not Donovan. His voice echoed with gentle passion as he reprised virtually all of his hits, from folkie tunes like "Catch the Wind" and "Universal Soldier" to flower-power gems like "Mellow Yellow," "Sunshine Superman," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Atlantis."
Woodstock moment: "Close your eyes, breathe easy and visualize the future mandala of peace," he said before "Atlantis."
Richie Havens with Middletown guitarist Bill Perry: What would any Woodstock be without the man who opened Woodstock, Richie Havens? Wearing a long purple robe, Havens was in typically fine form as his gruff yet gentle voice sang classics like "All Along the Watchtower," "Just Like a Woman" and the song that launched the Woodstock era, "Freedom." But the real treat was Middletown's ace blues guitarist Bill Perry, who was reunited with Havens for this special gig. Perry, who grew up in Chester, paid homage to his childhood hero Jimi Hendrix with a soaring, feedback-laden, nerve-jangling "Star Spangled Banner."
Woodstock moment: Every moment is Woodstock for Havens. Perry was icing on the cake.
Lou Reed: Reed's band made music as tough and supple as the black leather on his jacket. As soon as he walked on stage and dug into a fierce "Sweet Jane," the Day in the Garden energy level turned up several notches. On tunes like "Vicious" and "Satellite of Love," Reed's band dug a rhythmic groove that grew deeper, darker and sharper during the nearly two-hour set. No peace and love for Lou, who waited an hour to speak to the crowd. His lyrics mostly described the darker side of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, although he didn't play "Walk On the Wild Side." His set was a showcase for one of the sharpest and clearest sound systems ever heard.
Woodstock moment: Yeah, right.
Joni Mitchell: The moment more than 20,000 fans waited for came at the end of a superb, sophisticated set that featured only one vintage tune, "Big Yellow Taxi," and a host of newer jazzy tunes from albums like "Turbulent Indigo" and "Night Ride Home." Holding an electric guitar, she strode up to the microphone and said, "You're a beautiful audience. I missed the first one so I wrote a song about it." Then, with her hips gently swaying, she strummed that guitar and sang in a husky, rich voice, "We were stardust/We were golden/And we've got to back to the garden." Joni Mitchell has grown older gracefully.
Woodstock moment: That was it.
Pete Townshend: "It's great to be here, really great," said Pete Townshend at the beginning of his two-hour set. His music sounded like he meant it. Townshend put an exclamation point on a great day of music with a set that began with a bluesy acoustic version of Canned Heat's "On the Road Again," and featured pounding renditions of the Who's "The Kids Are Allright" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," as well as a glorious version of "Tommy" that featured the heavenly-sounding Soul Saving Station Mass Choir of Newburgh. In between, he played the fiercest rock of A Day in the Garden, windmilling his guitar as if he were a 20-year-old bashing guitars with the Who. Plus, he brought on guest Taj Mahal for some rootsy blues. Not only did Townshend rock the crowd with his guitar, his voice was a husky howl that captured the passion and power of the best performance of A Day in the Garden.
Woodstock moment: His set was THE moment.