NEWARK, N.J. - - No one ever told Joan Baez's voice that it's in its seventh decade. Ms. Baez' vocals during her Dark Chords Tour performance were as strong as ever on Friday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
From her opening The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, an audience-participation La-La-La, to her second encore, the signature of Diamonds & Rust, the classic and classy folk singer filled the hall with her golden (vocal) chords and the air with a salvo at Washington.
Joan Baez - NJPAC Profile; ticket stub
Addressing the graying audience, Ms. Baez sang a song from her 'first album' and asked if anyone out there knew what an 'album' was.
Of course, everybody in this audience of women and men with balding pates and gray pony tails did.
They knew almost all the words to her songs, and forgave the repeated line during A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall. Or did she repeat the "I saw a young child beside a dead pony" line on purpose?
Of course, Baez was chagrinned that that song would be so 'apropos' 42 years later.
And yes, those old Bob Dylan songs fit well into Baez' repertoire, with God On Our Side, Hard Rain, and It's All Over Now, Baby Blue sounding as fresh as ever.
Another sign of the years showed itself during Diamonds & Rust when Baez struggled for a chord that she could see but her hands just couldn't reach. The hall sympathized with the years.
In her rendition of the Steve Earle song Christmas In Washington, she seemed to channel Woody Guthrie and Martin Luther King in calling them in song.
Oddly, she quoted a bumper sticker she saw recently, 'After the rapture, can I have your stuff?'
Baez was not overly talkative between songs, but she noted that antiwar activist and Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan's favorite song was Joe Hill. Baez said she sang it in Crawford, Texas, where there were only two gift shops. Both stores resented the protesters but didn't shy away from selling them souvenirs.
After a beautiful a cappella rendition of Finlandia, "from my newest album," Bowery Songs, Baez mentioned that at one show, a few citizens of Finland came up after the show and said, 'Those aren't the words' to their national anthem.
Dark Chords Tour Clockwise: Joan Baez: Bowery Songs CD; Dark Chords Tour souvenir booklet; Liner notes for Joan Baez: The Complete A&M Recordings.
As she encouraged applause, Baez said "it was never the money, it was the adulation." After all these years, the truth comes out.
The fit-and-trim 64-year-old singer never introduced her band during her hour and twenty minutes on stage. Maybe she figured everyone knew who they were, or that no one was all that interested in the two young men accompanying her on stage.
Introducing Long Black Veil, Baez said she first heard it from Johnny Cash. At the time he introduced Baez to his first wife, and, she said, that's just what he called her.
NJPAC Show Booklet, ticket stub Limited view did not affect the sounds in the hall.
Another note on the years rose to the top when during Diamonds & Rust, Baez changed the lyric to '40 years ago I bought you some cuff links, and ended it with, not "I've already paid," or the more recent, "I'll take the diamonds," but with the updated "I'll take the Grammy."
In the lobby at the merchandise booth, the Merchandise Manager fielded questions about the array of CDs available. Someone asked him about CD that was for sale at a show in London. "I was there," he acknowledged, quickly pointing out that Baez has over 50 recordings available and they weren't all available at the small booth.
So as the tourists fled into the Newark night, through the construction detours, the echoes of the music in their smiles, quite a few must have bemoaned a favorite song unsung.
But with such a repertoire from which to choose, the dozen or so songs sung reaffirmed our questions about ourselves, and Baez too, in a classic unsung that night, You're Aging Well.
We should all look and sound so good when it comes time for our Dark Chords Tour.
Approximate Set List
- The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
- With God On Our Side
- Stand By Me
- Christmas In Washington
- Joe Hill
- It's All Over Now Baby Blue
- Sir Galahad
- Hard Rain
- 2nd Encore - Diamonds & Rust
Joan Baez: Bowery SongsJoan Baez - Ring Them Bells
Bob Dylan -No Direction Home
Dar Williams, review, at Monmouth University
Dar Williams - My Better Self