ALBUM LINER NOTES
If the concert was scheduled for eight-thirty, it's generally about eight forty-five before the houselights are dimmed. Peter and Paul are still in the dressing room tuning. It's now some three years, many miles, laughs and headaches later, and they still want to be as near perfectly in tune as is unreasonably possible. Probably the hardest part of making a living just being yourself is keeping that self from changing too radically once you've become very good and/or successful at it. Peter, Paul and Mary have no problems in this area.
And if it's now eight forty-five in one of the less sedate auditoriums on the concert circuit, an element of the audience may already be stamping its feet and clapping its hands with impatience. Possibly this element doesn't yet know that something good can be worth waiting for. In two hours hence it will have been dramatically convinced. But in the meantime, this impatience turns quickly to enthusiasm once the spotlight picks up our musical triumvirate being swept onstage by a din of applause.
And for the next little while, if your attention and your heart don't belong to P, P & M, you've come to their concert with a great deal on your mind. The program, of course, will be sprinkled with songs for which they're already famous. But in most instances they'll be sung better in this live performance than they were on the record you know, for that was "yesterday" and these youngsters live pretty much in the Now. How rewarding to hear a familiar song sung familiarly yet with greater polish, magnified, soul, whatever the nuance that revitalizes and, hence, revalidates it! No wax museum of old favorites here. We visit once again with changing, ripening musical expressions. (Case in point, this rendition of If I Had My Way which manages to multiply the rhythmic excitement of their earlier version.)
But the biggest part of the P, P & M In Concert experience is entirely new. And if we're at all sensitive to it, we can share in the deep excitement that the kids themselves feel a split second before they generate it through new vehicles like The Times They Are A' Changin' and Jesus Met The Woman. Certainly these numbers are good examples of an aspect of Peter, Paul and Mary that deserves more critical attention: Performers of real artistic stature continue to grow and modify their art and, in so doing, (if they're strong enough), modify that fickle phenomenon, public taste. They'll refuse to stand static amidst their "greatest hits" and wait for the world, while saluting, to pass them by. Influencing public taste is quite a thing apart from attempting to "keep up" with it.
Since the very beginning there's been another special ingredient in "live" Peter, Paul and Mary that even further distinguishes them from less spectacular performing groups. Having yet to see them in concert, you may be surprised to hear the third side of this album begin with Peter's thoughtful and stirring French solo, then move switfly into a round of singing under his tutelage that, in light of its energy, pales Mr. Miller's best efforts. (This piece was recorded outdoors).
What follows soon thereafter is a magnificent hunk of Paul's private and perculiar comedy invention. It's clear his name could be Noel Stookey and we'd be just as prone to guffaw. Anyway, he leaves the mind boggled only long enough to reclaim his guitar, introduce and then accompany Mary during her own individual thesus.
At the end of Mary's second and very moving solo (Peter plays alto recorder on There Is A Ship we find all three reassemble on stage, ready to make their final, most dynamic statement as a group. This statement has just been prefaced by a glimpse at each of them as unique and very talented human beings. And it now serves to help us understand how the whole can apparently be greater than the sum of its parts; for each of them adds up to a good deal more than just one-third of American's favorite vocal group. And, as a last example of just how up-to-the-minute Peter, Paul and Mary like to stay, it bears mentioning that the enclosed version of their traditional encore, IfI Had A Hammer, was taken from the last five minutes of the last concert recorded for this album (Long Beach, California, May 22, 1964). It is, therefore, the best version so far.
Cries of "More...more!" can be heard above the swelling ovation that ends the album. If they've taken their last bow, Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers are probably back in that dressing room already, discussing corners of tonight's performance that, from their point of view, might have been smoother. Or, if it's been one of those magical nights that make a performer unreservedly happy about his often all-too-public life, they may be back there singing a new song, still in the works, for a few friends with whom they want to share their enthusiasm and whose opinion they respect. And not until they're satisfied that it has a life unto itself will that song become part of a concert or an album offered up in answer to cries for "More...more!" Which cries issue, very likely, from those who were stamping their feet when they didn't know that a good thing was worth waiting for, and who, now that they've experienced it, are not at all sure they've had enough.