This pleasant concert documentary focuses on a Carnegie Hall production from Thanksgiving 2003 honoring the legacy of promoter/producer Harold Leventhal. Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger and his surviving Weavers bandmates, Leon Bibb, Theodore Bikel and Peter, Paul & Mary appear to grace the concert stage.
Filmmaker Jim Brown, who highlighted the tumultuous career of the Weavers in his wonderful 1983 documentary “Wasn’t That a Time,” creates a fairly straightforward documentary here. There is relatively little in the way of vintage footage and recordings of the folkies in their prime, and some of them are past their performing prime on the Carnegie stage (Seeger, in particular, has his grandson performing besides him to bolster his admittedly diminished vocal power). Leventhal, who bravely arranged for the Weavers to break the blacklist with their landmark 1955 concert at Carnegie Hall, also doesn’t seem to be that interesting of an individual – and it doesn’t help matters that most of the praise aimed at him is for achievements of a half-century ago rather than during the 50 years from the 1955 concert to today (Leventhal passed away in October 2005).
Still, the stellar power gathered here (especially the reunion of the surviving Weavers) more than compensates for the film’s gaps and shortcomings – anyone who loves folk music will have a musical/cinematic picnic here. And if age slowed the body and voices of the singers, it did nothing to diminish their vision and compassion (especially with Peter, Paul & Mary). And the brutal honesty (which is a tradition of folk music) happily resonates off stage as well. When Arlo Guthrie’s daughter complains over his umpteenth performance of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Guthrie none-too-playfully reminds her that the song is the reason she has clothing on her back. Way to go, Arlo!