Friday, July 10, 2009

"Saint" Joan by the Sea

So, it was the source of some debate for us last week. After having seen the Internet phenomenom band "Playing for Change" at the Santa Monica Pier last Thursday night, we wondered if the rather modest size crowd of that night would be repeated or exceeded the following Thursday when we returned to see Joan Baez. I wasn't sure myself. Could the viral power of the internet, which made the "Playing for Change" video of "Stand By Me" such an inspirational success, trump almost 5 decades of musical accomplishment and social activism? Good news, fellow boomers! The crowd that showed up to see Joan last night grew so large they had to stop letting people in to the free concert and over-whelmed security finally gave up at keeping fire lanes open as they had been insisting on earlier in the night.

Well since I brought it up already, a quick review of last week's show. The Playing for Change Band was formed of some of the participants of the "Stand by Me" video, brought together from all over the world for this tour. Members of the band come from Africa, South America, Europe, the Caribbean and North America. The various musicians took turns in the spotlight doing a varied repertoire of ethnic music from their native areas, original tunes and some pop and soul standards. Despite some audio problems and a very out-of -tune guitar that apparently only I could hear, the band played a spirited set of crowd pleasing , life -affirming feel-good music and we really enjoyed it. The opening act was local reggae talent Bushman who sounded good also.
Check out video below.

Anyhow, back to last night. Joan looks great! And she sounds great still! Again there were some difficulties with the sound so the band finally said they would compensate for it on stage, which they did successfully. Her band consistedof a guitar/mandola player who sang background, a stand up bassist, a mandolin/fiddle/ pianist, and a hand percussionist. Unfortunarely the only musician's name I caught was the percussionist, who is named Gabriel Harris and, if I'm not mistaken, is Joan's son. I'll have to check that out.

I admit, over the years I've been kind of up and down on Joan's music, I generally like most of it but she tends to sound bland and boring sometimes. Well she really wowed me last night, performing some new songs as well as the gems of the past you'd expect. The emotional highlight came when she introduced a song she swore she would never do as nostalgia and dedicated it to the people of Iran. She then led the crowd in a moving singalong of "We Shall Overcome" and when she delivered the last verse in Farsi, we were shocked how many in the crowd could still sing along. Lots of Iranian emigrees in SoCal. The other highlights for me were the labor movement anthem "Joe Hill", a great version of "Don't Think Twice Its Alright" where she sang the last verse doing her best Bob Dylan impression (yes, really, I was pretty shocked too!), and ,as an encore, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". All in all a really nice time. And I love the fact that Joan is still out there daily fighting the good fight for social justice etc. I'll always admire her for that even after her voice goes away!


  1. I'm impressed by the audio content of the videos...I look forward to more!
    Peace >^^<

  2. Our seats were pretty good that night. Scott and Fawn and family had saved us space, we lucked out. Then its just Becky's semi-old pretty cheap Sony doing its short video thing. My thanks to Becky, the woman who makes it ALL happen for me. Then I figure out what to click on to bring it to you! Miracles of technology taken for granted every second of every day for most Americans! Not me!

  3. Sounds great! This is much better than trying to find out on Monday morning what happened! Susan