Concert Review: Raffi (New York City, April 2013)

First off, let's recap Kindiefest 2013.  I'd already got to sing with Ella Jenkins, Dan Zanes, and Elizabeth Mitchell.  I'd got to play a bunch of cool kids music videos.  I got to see the debut live performance of Underbirds.  And I got to catch up some wonderful and interesting folks who make their living (or at least part of a living) making music for families.

So it had already been a pretty full weekend by the time Sunday rolled around.  And normally I would have been happy just to hang out at Kindiefest's Sunday public music festival listening to music from folks like Cat Doorman, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, the Terrible Twos, and more before heading to the airport to catch a flight home.

But I had an even better plan.

I'd get to sing with Raffi.

That's right, the venerable Canadian troubadour, the man whose 1976 album Singable Songs for the Very Young literally created the concept of the kids music genre, was performing on tour, his first significant tour in a number of years.


Now, I was never a #belugagrad, as Raffi hashtagged this tour.  I only have my #belugaGED, as someone who came to his music after having a child of my own.  And, indeed, the biggest regret I have from the show is that one or both of my kids weren't there to enjoy it with me.

Because there were lots of kids there, and they all seemed very happy to be there, even before the show started.  They were calling out "Raffi."  And, then after a brief medley of prerecorded songs, the man himself strode out onstage.

I wish I could say how long he performed; the most honest answer is that I forgot to keep track of it (though in retrospect, it was probably about 60-70 minutes).  The more poetic answer is that I just lost track, watching Raffi and his guitar (and occasional piped-in backing music) keep the audience highly entertained.  Part of that may have been his large back catalog, so that he was able to play almost nothing but familiar hits.

Part of that also had to do with Raffi's youthful nature and voice.  He looks a lot like he does from album covers -- a little older perhaps, but no 3-year-old would at all be confused by who was up there.  And that voice!  Exactly like it sounded 35 years ago -- the best voice in kids music, certainly amongst the males, bar none.

I say that the kids were entertained, but for folks like me who spend a lot of time listening to kids music, I think we adults were entertained as well.  I sat next to Tim Kubart from Tim and the Space Cadets, and Taes and Nick from Splash'N Boots, and they were as thoroughly entertained as I was.  (Even Tim's girlfriend, the non-kindie-obsessive amongst the five of us, enjoyed it.)

The tickets are not cheap and would easily run upwards of $100 for a family of four.  But if your family are big into Raffi, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to plunk down the cash if you can afford it.  The only way it could have been better would have been if he'd been able to bring Pete Seeger onstage (thereby making my weekend utterly complete, sing-along-wise).

I had the opportunity to meet Raffi after the show, but there was a long line of VIPs before us, and nervous about making my cross-country flight home, I had to miss my opportunity to thank him in person in order to catch a cab to the airport.  So consider this my public thanks to Raffi for his many years of making families laugh and sing together, at home and in concert.

Set List

The More We Get Together

Six Little Ducks


Apples and Bananas


On Hockey Days

Yellow Submarine

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (sung by audience)

Brush Your Teeth

De Colores

Wheels on the Bus

Mister Sun

Peanut Butter and Jam (excerpt)

This Land Is Your Land

If I Had a Hammer

All I Really Need

Thanks a Lot

Baby Beluga

Shake My Sillies Out

Down by the Bay

This Little Light of Mine


Our Home

If You’re Happy and You Know It

May There Always Be Sunshine

[Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary ticket to the show.]