Thursday, 18 November 2010

Intimacy Underlines Phil Ochs' Concert

April 22, 1968

Phil Ochs, in concert at the Hartman Theatre Friday April 19.

Arts and Entertainment Editor

The gymnasium-like Hartman Theatre is certainly several notches below "intimate" in atmosphere and those cramped seats force long-legged critics into the fetal position. But Folksinger Phil Ochs turned the place into a coffee house Friday night.

Ochs, who looks like he would be a waiter at Larry's Bar on High Street, did more than sing; he almost entered into a dialogue with the audience, such was the strength of the rapport he built.

A former Ohio State journalism student turned success, Ochs possesses a voice tinged with a hard-edged lyricism. His protest songs are disparaging but never dirge-like; they push home their point by emphasizing absurdities. In "I Ain't a 'Marchin' Anymore," Ochs sings: "It's always the old who lead us to the war; it's always the young who fall."

"Draft Dodger's Rag," a wry commentary on the art of evading Gen. Louis Hershey's grasping organization, crackled at the hands of its composer as did the poignant "There But For Fortune," familiar to Judy Collins fans.

"Some of the songs I wrote have more meaning today than when I wrote them," Ochs said, launching himself into "I've Got Something To Say Sir; I'm Gonna Say It Now." He could have been speaking about the subject of any Administration Building demonstration at Ohio State as his song struck out at depersonalization on a modern campus.

Long were his ballads but never boring. Ochs converted Alfred Noyes' poem "The Highwayman," into that form and the result was more than pleasant.

Indeed, the concert was superior.

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