I’d heard the Johnny Cash joke before, but it’s good enough to repeat a few times. Joan Baez at the Bridgewater Hall last night was as wonderful as we’d expected. Joan started by pointing out that it’s now 50 years since she began singing in public, and she’s a little surprised that we still come to hear her sing. Nothing surprising about that, Joan, but count me out from having been a fan that long. I’m just not old enough, and I can’t often say that these days.
In the early seventies it was a given thing to be a Joan Baez fan. It went with all the political stuff at the time, when we were all hopeful it would get better fairly soon. Well, Joan is still singing, and things are different, but not as good as we’d hoped. Christmas in Washington came early in the concert, and feels very relevant right now with the Presidential election and everything. The Swede in me likes the reference to Joe Hill, and for good measure we then got the Joe Hill song immediately after.
The musicians on this tour are brand new, but they seemed to have things under control, with the possible exception of Joan’s guitar tuning which needed some assistance. She also had one false start, but is so professional that she just laughed and started again. Most other singers let their background musicians take over with a few instrumentals, while they rest their voice. Joan lets the boys rest, while she sings on on her own. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is magical done by Joan. Not everyone sounds good without backing, but Joan very definitely does.
Not having an interval, now that the audiences who have hung around for the last 50 years have got older, could be worth reconsidering. I heard one man explaining his weak bladder to the door attendant… Joan, on the other hand, drank from spotted mugs, which got replaced throughout the concert. Tea?
“Old age” for Joan means that she still sings ballads, but they no longer have to be sad or have someone dying in them. Her new ballad was a happy one. And the fans are not all old. One very young man approached her halfway through by coming up to the stage and giving her a present, and receiving a kiss in return. Must remember that for future concerts.
Another joke, about yoghurt this time. What’s the difference between Turkish yoghurt and America? The yoghurt has a living culture. Well, yes, but while America has Joan Baez, there is hope. She finished far too early, with Jerusalem, which just makes me want to stand up and sing. And no, it’s not that Jerusalem, from the proms.
Two extra songs; Imagine, followed by The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Straight back to my teens with that one. Come back soon, Joan.
Meanwhile, check out her website, which is one of the best I’ve seen.
(All photos by H Giles)