Tag Archives: Joan Baez

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.

Slow conversion

I am slowly – very slowly – converting LPs to mp3. It’s not as though it’s hard to do, nor do I own hundreds of LPs.

But each normal length LP probably requires an hour’s attention to convert, and that is less easy to find than I had imagined. You need to sit with the record deck and the laptop as it plays, and click new track for each new track. If I were to do anything else at the same time I’d just forget, and end up having to do it all over again. So, false economy with time.

At first I only intended to do my Roger Whittaker albums, since a surprising number of his songs only exist on vinyl, and I noticed I was forgetting some of them because they weren’t part of the iPod shuffle.

Joan Baez

But as I discovered how good I felt reconnecting with his albums, I decided I would do all my LPs, unless I already had them in a newer format. So I am mixing Roger with all the other old albums. I did a Pete Seeger one the other day, and have been enjoying my first Joan Baez double album from forty years ago.

When I persuaded the Resident IT Consultant it would be a good idea to convert, I fondly imagined an LP a week would be a realistic goal. With my current speed (or lack thereof) I’ll be forever doing this. But at least I will have a satisfying hobby for years to come.

That’s disturbing

Let’s talk about bladders and other disturbing stuff! Are you sitting comfortably? Might be best to visit the toilet now, before we begin.

I was struck by the discussion about Bianca Jagger and whether or not she used flash to take photos at the opera. It doesn’t matter whether she’s famous. It’s neither more or less right for the famous to behave badly. And the way people use phone cameras or other digital cameras it’s often hard to tell if the bright light you see is flash, or simply the camera going about its business.

At the recent Joan Baez concert I went to, it said flash photography was not permitted, which I took to mean that photos without were fine, so I got my camera out. But after a while I felt the light visible when I used it was not acceptable to people sitting opposite me, so I put it away, and only got it out again at the end when absolutely everyone was taking pictures, with flash and everything.

John Barrowman

Daughter has been known to agonise over the legality of taking pictures at concerts. It often says you mustn’t. But people still do. I don’t feel there should be any ‘rights’ to images of someone singing on a stage. (Different for theatre productions.) What I do feel is that people shouldn’t disturb others.

The Guardian’s theatre critic Lyn Gardner reckons ‘people’s bladders have quite clearly got weaker over the last 20 years,’ and I know what she means, but suspect the answer is that they haven’t. What has changed is people’s habit of drinking indiscriminately at all times, regardless of what they are about to do, like go to the theatre. And also that they have got neither the instinct to try and ‘hold it in’ nor the inclination not to keep leaving their seats from – usually – the middle of the row.

If I have to ‘go out’ mid performance I tend to wait for a suitable moment both for leaving and for returning. I was a bit disconcerted at the National Theatre to find that the usher hovered anxiously outside the Ladies until I emerged again, and checked I was all right. Very caring and sensible, but I’m glad I didn’t know until then.

Went to the MEN arena for an S Club concert many years ago. Was startled by how the audience kept popping out for food and drink in the middle of the show. I suppose it’s the sports arena mentality, coupled with the sheer noise level at these events.

The understanding of what disturbs others varies from country to country. During Roger Whittaker’s concert in Cologne I waited for a song to finish before returning to my seat, only to have the usher urging me to just go in. She clearly thought I was stark raving mad for thinking of others.

And speaking of Roger; I once sat next to a woman, who was happily singing along to every single song. Having exchanged pleasantries on arrival, I felt it would be rude to complain, even though she was ruining ‘my’ concert. I thought if I asked her to shut up, I would ruin her evening instead. I gritted my teeth, almost cheered when Roger got to a song she didn’t know, and after the interval I asked the Resident IT Consultant to swap seats with me.

It is not always the audience who has mishaps, either. I recall the tiny St Paul’s chorister who was sick on stage and had to be bundled out by an older ‘boy.’

To get back to the bladders, it all depends on how long you have to sit through something. Films are frequently dreadfully long these days, with the added pain of too many commercials and too many trailers. With no interval necessary as cinema equipment improves, we simply have to pop out mid-film. And seeing as they want us to buy buckets of fizzy drinks, how can they possibly mind the running in and out? Nor is popcorn terribly silent to eat, and not odour free, either.

At least films don’t talk back to the audience when they rustle their sweet wrappers a little too loudly. Perhaps they should.

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.

Bowery Songs

OK, so afternoon tea sounds a little OTT. But we like that pot of tea we have in the afternoon, usually with toast and jam. It’s sometimes the only time we sit down peacefully in the ‘nicest’ room in the house. It’s a bit crazy, but that’s how it is. Sometimes we even engage in conversation.

If conversation seems too daring there is always music. I generally listen to everything on shuffle on the iPod, so the novelty of putting on a CD and hearing a whole album from start to finish has some value. If it’s to go with the pot of tea I tend to pick a CD that no one will object to.

Joan Baez

One of the ones I pick more and more frequently is Bowery Songs by Joan Baez. The more I hear it, the better it gets. There is something about it that makes me feel calm and happy. And it’s not as if the songs are particularly ‘happy’ as Joan is still protesting all that is bad with society. But she does so with music that is good for the soul.

I try not to pick Bowery Songs every time. In case someone complains.

Christmas in Washington

with Joan Baez. Not a traditional Christmas song at all, but so very beautiful, and still so valid. To me it’s especially good that Joe Hill gets a mention.

There are other video clips of this song, and they are nearly all bad, with wobbly camera work or dreadful acoustics from various concert venues.

Let’s hope things will get better one day, both here and there.

Joan Baez and whatsisname

It was the fact that I was feverish that meant I had time to watch the Joan Baez programme on BBC the other evening. Had I been more myself I’d have been too busy. So, silver lining and all that. I believe the programme was introduced as something that would tell us lots (all?) about Joan we didn’t already know. That may have been over optimistic.

But it was still a good programme, with a lot of 1960s ‘nostalgia’, Martin Luther King and the Vietnam war and other stuff long forgotten. Joan talked fairly openly about some things, but I bet she kept quiet about a lot more which we, quite rightly, have no business knowing.

Joan Baez 9

The interesting thing was that every person who was interviewed for their knowledge of Joan had a name displayed when they were on screen. All except that little man in the spotted purple shirt. I’m old enough to know who he is, but had I watched with the younger generation I’m fairly sure he’d have been anonymous. At what stage is a person so important that they can appear without a credit?

Anyway, never mind him. Joan is infinitely the most talented of the two, and it was her programme. I also think she is better now than she ever was. Power to older females!

Joan Baez in Manchester

Joan Baez 9

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.

Joan Baez 2

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.

Joan Baez 3

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?

Joan Baez 5

“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.

Joan Baez 8

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.

Joan Baez 6

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)