March 2nd, 2019

Husky Airways

Fifty Years Ago I Bought You Some Cufflinks

Not long after I stood in Hyde Park watching Paul Simon on his Homeward Bound farewell tour, another Sixties folk icon, Joan Baez, announced her own retirement from touring with the Fare Thee Well tour. I bought a ticket straight away, and saw her last night at the London Palladium.

She walked on stage, looked up at us, gave a big wave, and launched into Don't Think Twice, It’s All Right - changing the lyrics to ‘you never wasted my precious time’, which I am choosing to believe was about Bobby.

After three solo songs she bade us welcome to the stage her 'big band’. This consisted of two guys, one of whom was her son.

Along with many Baez standards (including, of course, Diamonds and Rust, performed as a duet with Grace Stumberg), it was a setlist full of wonderful surprises, like It Ain’t Me, Babe, possibly my favourite Dylan track, and House of the Rising Sun, one of my favourite songs full stop.

She spoke a little about refugees and immigrants, and how this is not a time for building walls but for feeding, clothing and comforting the vulnerable. This was followed by Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos), perhaps my favourite Woody Guthrie composition.

As well as son Gabe on percussion, Joan was joined for one song by her highschooler granddaughter Jasmine. The piece Jasmine had chosen for them to sing together was Adele's Someone Like You: "I feel very hip and groovy," said her proud gran.

Knowingly, she announced Gracias A La Vida as the ‘last official song’, but we clapped hard in case she had any thoughts of not coming back for an encore.

"This is the last [UK] concert of the last tour," she said on her return. "Bless your hearts." And then...then she sang us Forever Young.

I thought it couldn't get any better, or more emotional, than that, but I was wrong. She only went and sang The Boxer, letting us all join in with the lie la lies.

It wasn't the very last song, but I'll leave it here, because I can't think of a more fitting farewell to the stage for someone of Joan's history and calibre than 'I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains'.
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