Farrrrr out! John Denver's back. The quintessential Country Boy showed up at the Greek Theatre on Saturday with a musical entourage large enough to satisfy the most sophisticated city-dweller.
Of course, Denver has never really been away. A record released nearly every year in the '80s, world concert tours and television appearances have kept his sometimes sweetly sentimental, sometimes militantly proselytizing songs alive for legions of devoted fans.
Still, there were times in his concert when even Denver raised the issue of his music's relevance in a changing entertainment industry. "Hey, I'm not just a golden oldie," he shouted at one point, an edgy laugh not quite taking the plaintive edge off his assertion.
Even so, Denver's most crowd-pleasing moments--the times when he made the audience connection that seemed so important to him--came, as always, on his older numbers. "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Annie's Song" and more; it's a list that would do most composers proud, and he performed the tunes with enough vigor and enthusiasm to confirm their continuing value.
Denver is a better singer and performer than he was in his younger years. His higher notes sounded as pure and open as a summer zephyr, and his phrasing was rich with subtle depth and variation. His stage manner resonated with a laid-back, let's-all-hang-out-and-have-fun attitude.
But Denver made it clear that he has higher goals and more serious ambitions. His relevance these days is best associated with fine new songs like "Raven's Child" and "The Flower That Shattered the Stone"--songs that underscore his dedication to work for the environment. Yesterday's Country Boy has become a responsible citizen of the world, and his music sounded all the better for it.