Joan Baez Concert

Click on any of the small images below to see a larger version!

On August 1, 2010, Vicki, Karen, Evelyne, and I had the good fortune of attending a wonderful Joan Baez concert in the park of the amazing North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. The concert started at 7 PM, but along with most people who had lawn seating, we entered the site as soon as the organizers opened it to the public, i.e., at 5 PM. The weather was surprisingly cooperative: during the previous days, it had been either sweltering or raining, but on the day of the concert, it was warm without being too hot, and there was a delightful breeze. It was fun to watch the audience gradually take over the lawn; some brought just a blanket to sit on, others arrived with picnic tables and chairs and had dinner while they waited for the concert to start.



The stage

Lawn seating

The stage

Lawn seating

Though I've been listening to Joan Baez songs for at least forty years, I had never seen her in concert. She is 69 years old now and has been performing for half a century, but you wouldn't know it. While she no longer attempts to hit the very high notes she used to reach so effortlessly years ago, her enthusiasm and idealism are unchanged. Oddly enough, her audience seems unchanged as well; it appears to consist of the same people who used to flock to her concerts in the seventies, but of course they are now a few decades older. It was a gathering of geriatric hippies, one might say, ourselves included. "Well, here I am," she said after having opened the concert with The Day After Tomorrow, "...and there you are." The meaning was clear: nothing's changed. As I mentioned above, the temperature was lovely, but it was extremely humid, so after every single song, Emma Vasseur, Joan's assistant, came on stage with a freshly tuned guitar and left with the one that had just been used.



Joan Baez in Concert

Joan Baez and Todd Phillips

Joan Baez in Concert

Joan Baez and Todd Phillips

The concert lasted one hour and fifty minutes, and there was no intermission. Joan Baez performed just about all my favorites, including one I had not expected: the superb Woody Guthrie song Deportee. At several moments during the concert I used my iPhone to capture the sound, and I must say, I got pretty excited when, just after having pressed the record button, I heard the familiar chorus,

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportees.

If your browser supports it, a control should appear below and allow you to listen to the recording. The quality is pretty bad, which matches the photos I took during this event. My excuse is that the conditions (light, distance) were way beyond what I could reasonably expect my small Panasonic Lumix to handle, and as to the recording, well, it was done with a cell phone. I do hope that sight and sound, imperfect though they may be rendered, can at least convey a tiny portion of the atmosphere around that open-air stage.

 Control not available


Gabriel Harris, Joan Baez, Todd Phillips, and Dirk Powell

Gabriel Harris and Joan Baez

Gabriel Harris, Joan Baez, Todd Phillips, and Dirk Powell

Gabriel Harris and Joan Baez

The concert was over after an hour and a half, but the first lady of American folk music allowed herself to be persuaded to add twenty minutes of encores. To me, there were two obvious highlights during these encores: the first came when Joan Baez did an absolutely hilarious imitation of Bob Dylan, and the second when she Drove Old Dixie Down with considerable assistance from the audience. Her band was excellent, too, and it must have been a thrill for her to perform with her son, Gabriel Harris, the percussionist that evening. This, then, was my very first Joan Baez concert. If I can help it, it won't be my last.





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