Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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I Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found

I spent a wonderful evening watching Joan Baez at the Royal Albert Hall in the company of my friend and former housemate Pablo and his groovy mother.

It was marred slightly by navigational error, which made me an hour late and caused me to miss out on dinner. I committed the rookie mistake of following a road sign rather than trusting to the route I had carefully planned using Streetmap, and thus I ended up in Perivale rather than Kensington. That'll teach me. (It won't. It never does.)

So I had to be one of those awful rude people who wander in during the support act, whom I despise, and arrived in my seat quivering with stress and hated by everyone in row 7 block H except my companions who beamed delightedly at me. Luckily folk music is very soothing, and after a couple of numbers by Thea Gilmore I was feeling much more relaxed. (Apparently I only missed two of her songs and they weren't very good.)

"But you haven't had anything to eat!" said Pablo's mum in the interval when I told my tale of woe, pressing an apple and a bar of Cadbury's Whole Nut upon me - clearly determined to surrogate since callmemadam wasn't there.

Then Joan came on.

Wearing an orange shirt and baggy trousers, her hair short and grey, her bangles jingling, she was so pretty and feisty and funny and lovely and happy to be there. She announced that she had a lot of material to get through, as this was the fiftieth year of her performing career.

Of all the Woodstock performers I have seen in the last couple of years (I have an ambition to see all of the survivors live and write a coffee table book about it), Joan had the swishest venue, the biggest crowd and the best-dressed audience. She's perhaps also the only one capable of filling the Albert Hall with her voice.

I actually prefer Joan's vocals now to the sound she was producing in the sixties. It's deeper and more mellow, and to be honest I always found the warbling a bit much. But then it's well-documented that I'm a sucker for older women with husky voices.

Joan remains involved in protest and politics, and her choice of material reflected the current climate in the USA: 'Christmas in Washington', 'Joe Hill' and a song introduced as one she had avoided for decades because it felt too much like a nostalgia trip, but whose time had come again: 'With God On Our Side'.

I was disappointed there weren't more Dylan covers, as she does them so well, but she did provide her splendidly snarky impression of his singing voice during, appropriately, 'Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word'. Other omissions I'd have loved to hear: 'Diamonds and Rust'; 'Sweet Sir Galahad'. Maybe next time!

For her encore, she was joined by Thea and gave us a rousing 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down'. I yelped and whooped at the first line and joined in the chorus with the rest of the audience. This was followed by a Spanish song I didn't know, then, rather than end on a loud foot-tapper, she led us in an a capella rendition of 'Amazing Grace', feeding us each line and soaring above our quiet murmur with an amazing grace of her own.

It was like being in church.

The Church of Folk.
Tags: gigs, woodstock
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