Friday, September 19, 2014

Joan, Once Again

Well, Joan Baez did not disappoint last night. Even at 73, she sounds as distinctive as ever, her voice lower and throatier but still immediately recognizable. And she looked great, which you can't tell from my really pathetic iPhone photo, taken from my seat in a row so far off to the side that no one was behind me, and I had to stand up to see the stage.

Oh well. At least I was allowed to stand up, thus enabling me to take a bad iPhone photo.

The evening started on a questionable note, when a completely dotty woman sat next to me and proceeded to talk my ear off, telling me all about her musical tastes and various concert outings and the fact that she liked Joan's music but not her politics. She also threw in a reference to her own dead husband. Then she said, "So tell me about you." Which I so did not want to do. I mumbled something about my partner being away and having a night to myself, so why not see Joan for a fifth time? And then, mercifully, the show started.

Joan was dressed all in black, with a long red scarf and red-accented shoes, which you can barely see in my bad photo. (I didn't take a camera to the show because I just assumed photos were verboten, but people were taking pictures all around me, so maybe not.) She developed a bit of banter with the audience right away and even told a joke with the f-bomb in the punchline. Her son, Gabriel Harris, played drums, including a groovy conga solo.

Introducing "Long Black Veil," she said she met Johnny Cash when he was wicked and cute. "He stayed wicked -- he didn't stay cute," she said. Apparently her Johnny Cash stories are a regular shtick -- the last time I saw her, in 2008, she also joked about him. In fact she repeated her line from that show six years ago: "The first time I met Johnny he was with his first wife, and that's how he introduced her."

It's a pretty funny line. She probably uses it at every show. I don't blame her.

My dotty companion had expressed a desire to hear "Diamonds and Rust," and I assured her Joan would play it. I've heard her play it several times and I'm sure her audiences expect it. Well, Joan wrapped up the show with that song, and my dotty companion -- who by now had a fairly tall drink in her, because yes, you can have drinks in your seat at Royal Festival Hall! -- seriously wept, with tears falling and sniffling and everything. I don't mean to mock her too much, because God knows I love "Diamonds and Rust" too, and we all have certain romantic and possibly painful associations with certain songs. But that seemed just a bit overboard.

Joan did not play "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which I kind of expected, but I can live without it. Here's the complete set list:

Handsome Molly
God is God
Farewell Angelina
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Mi Venganza Personal
La Llorona
I Love You Just The Way You Are*
Seven Curses
The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
The House Carpenter
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Catch the Wind
Joe Hill
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
Gimme Cornbread When I'm Hungry and Corn Whiskey When I'm Dry
House of the Rising Sun
Long Black Veil
Diamonds and Rust

Gracias a la Vida
There But For Fortune

*Not the Billy Joel song!


  1. The show sounds like it was great despite the dotty woman. I can hear that distinctive voice in my head just reading the song list.

  2. I blush to think that _I_ would have been that dotty woman. And yes, I would have cried during Diamonds and Rust. With snot and everything. So glad it was a great concert!

  3. I have been to several Joan concerts through the years, various stages, first time in L.A. when I was 23. She made eye contact and smiled and sang like treacle poured from a crystal pitcher...always love Joan. I came so close to having a ticket for her B'ham concert , but then it was swooped out from under me...Oh well, your post will have to appease...and it has. Thank you!

  4. ya know, I've never been a big Joan Baez fan. or of folk music much for that matter. I think we, as a culture, has lost something though with the advent of radio and TV and recordings. nobody sings anymore. used to be that was the entertainment. that was how you made work more pleasant. maybe that's one of the reasons people like church so much. you still get to sing.

  5. Sounds wonderful -- and your companion story was hilarious. I went solo to see La Dolce Vita this week and had an annoying person sitting next to me, too. I'm glad we both still enjoyed ourselves!