June 24, 2004

the Joan Baez time distortion field

Earle and Baez 062304

Watching Steve Earle (& the Bluegrass Dukes) and Joan Baez tonight was like falling through a secret trapdoor into a parallel universe, where anti-war and pro-worker folkies still pound their guitars and shout their manifestoes in sawdust-strewn coffeehouses and grimy prison yards. They railed against the Washington power structure and the senseless death of young boys in war. They invoked the spirits of Woody Guthrie, Malcolm X, and Mahatma Gandhi. Earle's southern snarl and bluegrass twang stood in sharp counterpoint to Joanie's clear, ringing voice, but the common ground of their activist message was unmistakable. The performance was surprising and stirring, and more than a little jarring given the smugly comfortable surroundings of a well-manicured vineyard perched in the hills above upscale Saratoga.

I grew up hearing a lot of Joan Baez; my dad must have worn out the grooves on David's Album and so many others. Tonight when Joan played "Farewell Angelina", I found myself drifting back to our family home in New York, splayed on that magenta fringed rug in front of the old console stereo. Strangely, I can still smell that old carpet, all these years gone by. Music and memory, so tightly intertwined.

Joan introduced her 91-year old mom, who was sitting in the row behind us (why not the front row for your mom, Joan? Geez.) "She likes all the saddest songs", into "Jesse".

On "Baby Blue", Joan broke into a few lines of a very good, funny Dylan impression, all nasal whine and twangy drawl, which brought a huge laugh from the crowd. How easily she tossed it off, how much history was implied in that simple act.

The show closed all too early, with Steve Earle joining Joan and her band on his song "Jerusalem":

I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Joan Baez set list:
Caleb Meyer - Deportee (Woody Guthrie) - Joe Hill - Christmas in Washington (Steve Earle) - Farewell Angelina - Motherland (Natalie Merchant) - Lily of the West - Long Black Veil - Earth Angel - There But For Fortune (Phil Ochs) - Dixie - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Dylan) - Jerusalem (Earle)

Posted by Gene at June 24, 2004 12:55 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?