Saturday, March 14, 2009
Lucid, Luminous Joan Baez
I'm just home from hearing Joan Baez, 20 feet away, at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater here in Bloomington, Indiana. Her voice, still extraordinary, has filled my mind and spirit, and when she was singing there were times when I felt she was capturing the hearts of the audience in the fullness of her notes – those hearts were just pulled out of our bodies into the air to rise up somewhere and be released into the Big Universe. Uni-verse.
The photo here of Joan playing the guitar was taken by Ron Baker; I found it at his site, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. There are some nice pictures there of lots of great performers: Gillian Welch, Eliza Gilkyson, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Roseanne Cash, The Be Good Tanyas...take a look!
Lucid, luminous, human, serious, gracious, witty, Joan Baez. As she performed, I was astonished by the fact that somewhere inside me, long ago, many of those songs were installed, right down to specific inflections. There they were again.
She talked about her mother: "Joan, did I take my ginko bilboa today?" "I don't remember, Mom." She did a wicked imitation of Bob Dylan in "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and then said "Mellencamp? Are you really going to go on tour with that guy? Seriously, come talk to me after the show." (And of course we all laughed). Our own local rock star, John Mellencamp, was in the audience of about 640, with at least one of his handsome teen-aged sons, Hud and/or Speck, lending the occasion an additional thrill.
Baez has a wonderful website, and if you follow this link you'll find out how she and her band celebrated Obama's victory on election night.
At the end of the night she led us all in "Amazing Grace..That Saved a Soul Like Me." She has a brilliant way of subtly leading an audience in song, conducting a choir of voices, and we didn't sound too bad. ("Beautiful," she said.) And after the instruments were packed up in the bus (parked throughout, at the front of the theater), she came out the front doors with her dazzling smile, and shook hands with everyone waiting to say hello. Magnificent, magical Joan Baez.