Joan Baez – the 2012 Manchester concert

Joan Baez

I felt so guilty, dragging the Resident IT Consultant to another concert, even though we don’t go often and even though it was Joan Baez at the Bridgewater Hall. Decided it was good for us, however, and it was. What won’t be so good is this amateurish review of Joan’s concert. I have just been reading what one of my favourite music reviewers thinks of people who are not experts on writing about music. Although I refuse to be intimidated.

Well, I know what I like, as the saying goes…

Besides, I like Joan Baez, and whereas she might not sound the same as she did forty years ago, her voice has the ability to transport me back to about 1970, and that’s good enough for me. Her singing reminds me of what ‘it felt like’ back when it was cool to like Joan and when we still thought the world might one day – soon – become a better place.

Joan Baez

She went through guitars as though there was no tomorrow. Her assistant Grace trotted out with a new one (newly tuned, I assume) for almost every song. On this tour Joan has a two-man-band along, and that is quite sufficient. Many of the songs she did on her own anyway, and her style is such that too much ‘noisy’ accompaniment is neither necessary nor wanted.

Joan started out with some ballads, including her favourite type, with unhappy people who will soon be dead. But there is no avoiding the fact that Farewell, Angelina made the audience much happier. She reminisced about Woodstock, and about not giving birth in a caravan. Praise for Dylan, the best songwriter of the 1960s, and some confusion over Donovan’s contribution to one song.

Her stage drink this time was reported to be fruit tea, rather than the Irish coffee she’d once enjoyed, leaving her face with froth all over. It’s a relief to see someone like Joan on stage, feeling so secure in herself that she can wear cool and clunky shoes, so unlike the seductive dresses and impossible shoes other singers go for.

Joan Baez - the shoes

She must have been reading my mind, because as I was wondering if she only consorts with people on the right side of politics (the left side, obviously), she mentioned a conservative friend who loves Joe Hill, despite this beautiful song having been written about the ‘wrong person.’

I could be mistaken, but I felt Joan sung more songs that I didn’t know, or perhaps just ones I haven’t heard so much, including a love song written by her keyboard and strings and everything else musician, Dirk Powell. There were big hits as well, like Suzanne, Jerusalem, and an unusual arrangement of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Joan Baez

As usual, no interval, but after 90 minutes Joan came back on for three encores. First ‘Dixie’, sung with a bunch of fan’s flowers in her arms (very effective look), followed by Imagine. We had to ask for the third, but Joan said we were worth it, so got Blowin’ in the Wind. That’s when the audience stood up, and cameras flashed, making it the ‘rowdiest’ part of the concert.

Joan Baez

Came to my senses on the way out. No point in feeling guilty. Not just because  we are worth it. But I remembered that of all the singers I’ve forced on the Resident IT Consultant, Joan Baez is one he fell in love with. That could be why he seemed so happy.

It was a good concert.

11 responses to “Joan Baez – the 2012 Manchester concert

  1. Kathryn Dean

    This is the Fourth concert I have seen of Joan and I thoroughly enjoyed it as usual, I did think however that she had a problem, either with her back or her neck as she seemed so stiff, and unable to turn properly. In all though that did not detect from her voice and the warmness of her personality. I do hope she comes back to manchester just one more time.
    The very first time I saw her was either 1964 or 1965 at the FreeTrade Hall, and because she had a cold she introduced us to a new singer called Donovan who did most of the second half for her, what a double treat.

    • About her “stiff” movement, it may not have made the news in England, but in Nov. 2010, she fell 20 feet from a treehouse at her home. The injuries were significant but could have been much much worse. I suspect the stiffness you noticed is the ongoing effect of that fall.

      • Perhaps I read the wrong papers, but I suspect in this case it just goes to show that we don’t hear news like this. It’s only ever unimportant facts about unimportant celebrities.
        Just glad Joan is well enough to continue working.

  2. Oh wow! Donovan!

    Didn’t think about any stiff movements, but she’s entitled to, at her age. I’m 15 years younger and I certainly can’t move or bend the way I did just a couple of years ago. At least singing is ‘easier’ than reaching the bits in the shower that need cleaning…

  3. Thank you for your review. I live in Italy. Next week I’m taking a plane for the Joan Baez concert in Oxford.

    • You must be a real fan to come over to England twice, to see Joan, wish I could afford to have seen her twice, Hope you enjoy this show just as much. Kathryn.

  4. You are nearly as crazy as I am, Massimo! Hope you have great time.

  5. Allan Petcher

    I went to see Joan at the Bridgewater Hall, in Manchester, she was inspirational in her singing, wished I could of seen her 30/40 years ago! Saying that I met her after the show and she was most gracious and took the time out, after a long concert, to meet and greet her ” friends” even at 71 years young! Long may she continue to tour.
    I would also like to make a special comment on Dirk Powell, he was truly a very special accompanist,bumped into him later on in Manchester city center, took time out to speak to me, ” a gentleman” . Will look out for his music in the future!

  6. Please, Please can anyone tell me what the song was that Joan sang written by Dirk Powell. Have been trying to find it without success. Would be so grateful if anyone can help me with this. Thought the lyrics were wonderful.

    We saw her in Basingstoke and was REALLY pleased had made the effort to travel from Devon (couldn’t make any of her other concerts) to be there. Used to love her in the 60’s listening to her for hours and hours on end and knowing all the words of everything. Was a bit aggrieved that we only got 2 encores after reading Manchester got ‘Blowing in the the Wind’ – how we would have loved that!

    Thanks Joan for all the wonderful music – I hope I’ll get another chance to see her.

  7. I’ll see if it’s possible to find information about the song.

    As for the encore, you can’t have been shouting loudly enough!

    My husband rather missed the Spanish songs, and I’ve just found Liverpool got one…

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