Category Archives: Concerts

Fare thee well, Joan Baez – for now

She’s still got a long way to go with this, her ‘final’ big tour. I believe Scandinavia and now parts of Britain are just the beginning for Joan Baez. We caught her in Glasgow on Friday night, and it took me a few songs to work out why I felt different.

I simply don’t know when I was last surrounded by so many people of mostly the right political persuasion. And they sing so well! There’s a special feeling when an audience joins in and many voices sing together. Anyone not fluent in Spanish, was still able to lalala along with Gracias a la vida.

Although Joan has a new album out – Whistle down the wind – she knew to dish the new songs out sparingly to keep the fans happy. Some of the songs, like House of the rising sun, are only new to her, which makes life easier. There’s no mistaking that songs like Farewell Angelina and Joe Hill go down best. We like what we like.

It was good to hear that all the names of the formerly unknown victims of the plane crash in Deportee have now been discovered, and that Joan has sung to their surviving families. It’s been far too long.

Joan paid tribute to the teenagers in Florida, saying it’s the first positive anti-gun movement she has known in her life. Joan also sang a beautiful song about how President Obama sang Amazing Grace to the members of the church in Charleston, after another mass shooting. Sometimes songs like that are worthier than they are beautiful, but this one was just right.

When Joan was sixteen, her family feared she was going nowhere, only playing the banjo, so an aunt took her to hear Pete Seeger, and that seems to have done the trick. She mentioned Dylan, and she sang Me and Bobby McGee, which really brought back memories. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp that Joan was a fully functioning and famous adult when I was still a child. (I’ve caught up pretty good now.)

As usual there was no interval, and Joan was on stage for the duration, accompanied by Dirk Powell on ‘all’ instruments and her son Gabe on drums, with her assistant Grace running in with a freshly tuned guitar after each song. Joan had a tray with her drinks on, which were put to good use when a fan insisted on giving her a flower. I’d like to think it was a tulip. I hope she remembered not to accidentally drink the tulip.

The local ‘polite’ song was a [to me] unknown Scottish ballad; the only one Joan required sheet music for. Understandable if there is a new one for every part of the world.

Gracias a la vida was the last official song, but Joan said not to worry. We promptly got Dixie and Imagine as extras, followed by that famous road song, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, with plenty of hints that it was time to go home. When that didn’t work, she resorted to Homeward Bound.

So we went home. But for anyone wanting to catch Joan, there is plenty of her Fare Thee Well tour left, all the way through to 2019.


Fair Fairweather

Eight years isn’t too late to review a concert, is it?

Daughter says it isn’t, but she seems to have forgotten the whole evening, which is surprising for someone who remembers everything, especially when I don’t.

So, Dennis Locorriere came to the Lowry back in 2010 (although the rate at which he tours, I’m sure he’s been back several times since). I’d been looking forward to it, as the time I saw him before that, was one of those magical evenings. But this time – eight years ago – he half lost his shine.

Though that’s not what I want to tell you about.

Dennis had someone there to play first, and I hate that! This was someone I’d never heard of; Andy Fairweather Low. Yes, I realise I was unusual in this. But anyway. There was Andy, looking like a middle-aged bank manager, singing unexpected songs in a most unexpected voice. I hoped he wouldn’t take too long over it.

But you just never know when you’ll fall in love, do you? No, not that way. Just the music.

By the second song I was enjoying this bank manager in his brown suit. I was more than pleased that he sang for about 45 minutes, which is a thought that would have shocked me when he started.

In the interval before Dennis came on, I rushed out to beat the queue to buy Andy’s CDs and have them signed. I was second, but had the bad luck to be second after a really big fan. But that was enlightening in itself, as I realised some people had actually come to hear Andy, rather than Dennis. So I listened in on the conversation, and eventually got my CDs signed, and went back in.

That’s when I experienced a certain level of disappointment. But I have already written about that here, and been told off by a fan, so there’s no need to go into that again.

I have listened a lot to Andy Fairweather Low since then, always enjoying his singing. I have also, slightly fruitlessly, looked online every now and then in the hopes he’d be coming to a stage near me, but somehow the time or the place never seemed right.

(In my current situation, I can heartily recommend coming to the Stirling Albert Halls. If they’re good enough for Jimmy Osmond…)

And then what?

When do you give up on the work by someone you’ve liked and admired?

I’m thinking – again – of the latest film producer to have caused a public storm and upset. But – again – it could be anyone discovered to have seriously misbehaved and sometimes not getting found out. These [usually] men have often done great work, in film, music, theatre, literature.

And when the news breaks, some of us find that we have been fans of a monster. If it’s really bad, it’s not too hard to stop watching their films or listening to their music.

But if it’s a bit more borderline? Or they have been involved with so much on the cultural scene, that it can be hard to draw a line, or even to know where that line is.

I was relieved to learn I didn’t have to ‘respect’ Jimmy Savile, so that was no hardship. Likewise OJ Simpson. But it took me a while to know what to do about Rolf Harris. It’s not that I didn’t believe the accusations. I just couldn’t tell how it would affect my fondness for his work. It was gradual, but not slow, and I knew when it was time to delete his albums from iTunes. The books went to the local charity shop, where quite possibly they languished until pulped.

Speaking of books, I have a friend who meets famous people through her work. Luckily I’ve never read anything by the very well known, older male writer she mentioned once. I can’t unsee that unwanted kiss in my mind, and I’m just grateful he wasn’t someone I liked. But whenever I see a photo of this author, it’s all I can think of. No literary merit whatsoever.

And I know what I said in my other post, about being too polite. I was far too polite about the last Rolf Harris concert I went to. It was lacklustre. He was clearly under pressure already, except we didn’t know it.

This Weinstein business is awkward. I have no hesitation blaming the man for anything that’s being said. But he’s been involved in so many films. Good films. Do they need boycotting from now on, or was he too far removed from them, for it not to matter? I mean, I generally don’t even know who produced a film.

To go back to iTunes, I have a couple of albums on there, sung by someone I used to know. Someone who behaved in an unacceptable manner to me about a year ago. I have no problem skipping past the new album, which I didn’t like much. But the really old one; I have always loved it. It’s just when one of those tracks comes on, it’s difficult to forget what she said. It takes the edge off my enjoyment.

So I don’t know.


Music en route

The bad thing about the Edinburgh festival season during August is that travelling turns into a nightmare. I find myself choosing not to go to events at times or days of the week when I suspect travelling will undo any good the event might offer.

So yesterday my trusted photographer and I picked a train earlier than we had to, just so we could go on the King’s Cross train, with four or five times as many coaches as the local one. It was even worth waiting for it as it ran late, just not to get squashed on the little train.

As the Resident IT Consultant dropped us off it was mayhem by the station entrance. There was an interview being conducted on the pavement, complete with BBC camera and everything. Loads of people wearing t-shirts or hoodies with Stirling Orchestra on the back, and an unusual number of double basses for a railway station. Even in August.

I remembered reading something in the local paper about the orchestra; they had been chosen for something special. My photographer googled as we waited and could tell me they were going to London to take part in All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, a ‘four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the UK, will follow five orchestras as they compete for a place in the Grand Final. It will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two.’

That’s pretty good, and I’m sufficiently pleased for them that I didn’t even mind the squeeze on the train. The double basses and the stools, etc, got stowed elsewhere, and it was only the smaller instruments that were all over the place, along with the BBC crew’s junk, carefully blocking the Edinburgh exit door…

Now, if they could only have whipped out their instruments and serenaded us as we went!



Over a meal out the other week we got talking about what famous people we had come across in the wild. Apparently meeting them through ‘work’ like blogging, did not qualify. You had to just happen upon them.

Various semi-famous people were mentioned, but the discussion felt a bit lacklustre. What’s a Jeremy Paxman in Blackwell’s or an Alistair Darling at airport security? I mean, really? The best Son came up with was flying with Gordon Brown. Daughter didn’t even think to mention her own flying with Pilou Asbæk.

I felt I had something to add, but it took me a while to remember Agnetha Fältskog at Heathrow (as we have a flying theme). Jan Malmsjö in the post office might not count, as I worked there. But Daughter found someone from one of those shows I never watch at our former post office. Or was it the greengrocer’s?

We came to the conclusion that the winner was the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin who volunteered the fact that she had danced with John Travolta.

(The niggling feeling that I was forgetting someone, finally matured when I remembered my Cliff Richard and Cilla Black encounter at the theatre. But they don’t beat Travolta, since I didn’t dance with either of them.)


Happy 80th, Roger!

Roger Whittaker is 80 today. There is a new best of CD available. Not very many new tracks, just a new compilation of his greatest songs (in German).

Roger Whittaker, Alles Roger Alles Hits

I had wanted to offer you a short interview, but his agent is turning down all requests, saying Roger has fully retired and is living happily in France. And this is obviously right. Roger has earned his rest and I am grateful he toured for as long as he did.

Thank you!

We have all those albums to listen to, and the memories.

Roger Whittaker

Wishing you many happy returns, Roger.


The deathlist

It is hard keeping track of who has died when you’re living in exile. There are two categories of people I’d know about if I hadn’t left the country of my birth; famous people [but not so famous that their deaths are reported internationally] and local people [to me] that any remaining friends I have would know that I’d want to hear about.

The Retired Children’s Librarian has done a sterling job over the years by keeping a deathlist. In between our phone calls, she writes down who has died, and when we have spoken, she rattles off the dead ones. Some I will know about, because they made it into a British newspaper. Others I won’t, and I’m grateful to be told. She also has a fairly good grip on who I’m most likely to be interested in.

Dead local ordinary people is the hardest. Mother-of-witch would tell me the names of those she knew, but of course, there are always names that wouldn’t have meant anything to her. And it is quite hard to find out if someone is still alive, once you’ve tried the phone directory [which tends no longer to be very effective].

My reason for talking about deathlists here is that today I read a Swedish magazine article about someone famous and long dead. There had been a television programme about her, in which ‘the late’ Alice Babs had taken part. That was the first inkling I had that Alice Babs is dead. Not surprising, though. She died two years ago at the age of 90, which is pretty good going. And when I searched, I found that she made it into the New York Times, but that was probably mainly the Duke Ellington effect.

I have blogged about Alice once before. I still maintain that her Swe-Danes album is one of the best ones I own.