For more than two hours Sunday night, Garrison Keillor held the stage at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center, captivating a nearly sold-out audience with stories, jokes, songs and poems.

Folk duo Robin and Linda Williams joined him for much of the evening, performing gospel and original tunes with Mr. Keillor singing harmony in his foggy bass. Longtime guests on A Prairie Home Companion, the beloved Minnesota-based public radio program Mr. Keillor created and hosted for more than 40 years, the husband and wife sang traditional and contemporary songs to the accompaniment of their own guitars and banjo.

Mr. Keillor is joined by folk duo Linda and Robin Williams. — Mark Lovewell

But it was Mr. Keillor the audience had come to see. From his first appearance, prowling to the edge of the stage in a rumpled suit with his trademark red sneakers and socks, to his final monologue and farewell, he held his listeners spellbound. No notes or cue cards were evident as he spoke, often with eyes downcast and his glasses in one hand while he held a cordless microphone with the other.

Though best known as a spoken-word performer, Mr. Keillor is also a believer in the power of community singing. He began the evening by leading the audience in an a cappella sing-along medley that included My Country, ’Tis of Thee and The Battle Hymn of the Republic — to which an impressive number of ticket holders knew the second verse — interspersed with Mr. Keillor’s through-sung versions of classic poems and corny jokes.

The sublime and ridiculous often rub elbows in Mr. Keillor’s stage performances. There was no irony when he talked about his visit earlier in the day to an Edgartown resident he called “my hero, the great essayist Edward Hoagland.”

His signature socks add color to the act. — Mark Lovewell

Audience members applauded at the mention, as Mr. Keillor went on to salute Mr. Hoagland for his latest work in the Vineyard Gazette. The monologist praised the Gazette for its design and broad pages, slyly adding, “You can cover a lot of birdcage with that paper.”

Soon to turn 75, Mr. Keillor delighted the largely grey-haired crowd by celebrating old age, his own and others’. “I’m talking like an old person because I have a right to,” he said.

Mr. Hoagland, he said, shows no signs of slowing down in his 80s, while Mr. Keillor himself can still get dressed in the morning without holding on to anything for balance while he puts on his boxer shorts one leg at a time — an announcement that drew both laughter and applause, not for the first or last time during the show.

“Retirement is a dangerous thing. That’s why I’m here,” said Mr. Keillor, who turned over A Prairie Home Companion to mandolinist, bandleader and MacArthur “genius” fellow Chris Thile in July 2016.

“I tried to retire about a year ago and then I thought about it,” he said. “The casualty rate is about 100 percent.”

Mr. Keillor’s monologues touched on his life at home with his wife and teenage daughter, his fundamentalist upbringing in rural Minnesota and the romantic adventures of both his youth and his age.

Original poems he recited included a series of limericks, a frankly sexual sonnet to his wife and a nostalgic salute to an early encounter in a girls’ locker room in Minnesota.

Then, in the method he has perfected over decades of storytelling on the air, Mr. Keillor’s recollection of that long-ago moment of tenderness gradually developed into a full-blown Lake Wobegon monologue packed with absurdities that had his audience in gales of laughter.

He ended the evening with another sing-along, this one ranging from Amazing Grace to John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt to the Old Hundredth psalm, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.

Sunday’s show was presented by the Martha’s Vineyard Concert Series, which continues June 28 with a performance by singer-songwriter Aimee Mann. More information is online at