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John Denver Stresses His Activist Side

October 10, 1988|DON HECKMAN

Faaar out! John Denver makes a comeback. Well, not exactly. His program Friday night at the Greek Theatre (the first show of his three-night engagement) was more an energetic retrospective and impassioned polemic than it was a pop music ritual of revival.

Denver's apple-cheeked image, his warmly communicative stage manner and his high, airy-sounding tenor singing voice were as effective--and, in some senses, even better--than ever. He performed a long string of hits--from "Rocky Mountain High" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" to "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Poems, Prayers & Promises"--with an intensity that was rarely present a decade ago.

But Denver seemed more concerned with stressing the increasingly activist qualities of his recent work with songs about world hunger, space, pollution, the oceans and disarmament. A song titled "What Are We Making Weapons For," performed with a recorded vocal by Soviet singer Alexander Brodsky, was a powerful statement--one which suggested that Denver's simple, direct honesty has survived the cynical '70s with all its courage intact.

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