OK, I admit it. I REALLY didn’t want to go hear Joan Baez at Town Hall last night. Bob and I went to see her about 15 years ago at the Beacon and she was all weirded out trying to both tap in and distance herself from her Bob Dylan days. But marriage is a partnership, yes? So he agreed to go to the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific on Thursday and I agreed to go to Joan Baez last night.
From the beginning it didn’t look good. We arrived in a cold, downpour and there was no line at the will call window of the box office. Then slowly some very old people started to show up. We must have gotten late-released house seats as we ended up to the right of center on the third row! It looked like there were lots of empty seats and I figured everyone just had election fatique or was too old to come out.
Within the last minute before the performance started, the hall was nearly full. Three folk/blues/rockabilly looking dudes walked out with an elegant, thin woman with stylish shortly-cut, gleaming silver hair. She was dressed in a sleek black silk pants ensemble with a fringed, gold scarf wrapped once around her neck with one piece draping down her left side. She wore simple, small drop diamond earrings and a matching pendant necklace. “Is that her?” I asked Bob who has adored her since he was in high school. I sort of still pictured the long dark-haired, Amazing Grace Joan Baez.
Then she started to sing. The voice was clear, straightforward and unforced but certainly recognizable as that of Joan Baez. At one point she stopped to chew a throat lozenge and take a drink. She remarked, “The voice is a gift. My job is maintenance and delivery.” She was poised and so comfortable in her current skin. She was funny and she didn’t pander to anyone. Her political voice was kept predominantly to her music both old and new ballads except for the moment when she asked the audience to give it up for Obama. After the tumultuous roar subsided, she laughed, “I can see we have a diverse house tonight.”
I guess she has recently released a new album. Two of the songs from that album were particularly moving, God is God and Day After Tomorrow. Those just got added to my iTunes collection.
I loved having my expectations shattered. I loved seeing an “older woman” revel in her current capacities and accept her limitations. I loved the power of the arts and artists to transform our lives.