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Joan Baez at Symphony Hall, Birmingham - Review

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Fare thee well to the legend that is Joan Baez
If this was to be farewell, then it certainly made the parting all that much harder to bear. Legendary folk singer Joan Baez is embarking on her Fare Thee Well tour which she says will be her last full-length world tour. So I and the rest of the sell-out audience at Symphony Hall in Birmingham felt privileged to see her perform live on March 14 for what seems likely to be the very last time. I have adored Joan and her music, as well as her continuing role as an activist, for most of my life. So it seemed fitting that she should bow out on her appropriately titled Fare Thee Well tour in tremendous style.

Joan Baez
A 5 star performance from the legendary Joan Baez

Joan was belatedly inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 after a career spanning more than 50 years. She should have received it just for introducing fellow folk legend Bob Dylan to the world in the early 1960s, but she has continued to produce wonderful, moving songs from the early protest days of the civil rights movement right through to the present time. In fact her newly released studio album, Whistle Down The Wind - her first in a decade - contains songs such as I Wish The Wars Were All Over, written by Tim Eriksen, and Another World, which paints a bleak picture of our planet's future if mankind continues on its current path.

Joan Baez
Joan performed songs from her first studio album in 10 years

Joan, whose current passionate causes include opposition to a pipeline that could threaten a native American tribe's water supply, had the audience in the palm of her hand as soon as she opened the concert with the beautiful There But For Fortune. She then followed that up with I Believe In God and the Dylan-penned Farewell Angelina before introducing her 'backing band' consisting of her son Gabriel on percussion and Dirk Powell on just about everything else, but mainly guitar, banjo and keyboards. She performed the first of several tracks from her new album, starting with the title track Whistle Down The Wind and followed by Silver Blade, written by Josh Ritter as - according to Joan - a reflection of the traditional tune Silver Dagger which she first sang nearly 60 years ago, and which she performed later in the Birmingham concert.

Joan Baez
Joan Baez in 1963. By Press photo - ebay, Public Domain,

Joan, who goes on to play three more UK dates before briefly returning in May, paid further tribute to Bob Dylan with renditions of It's All Over Baby Blue, Seven Curses, and The Times They Are A Changin', which she dedicated to this week's anti-guns student walkout in America in protest at the latest school massacre. But she also paid homage to her earliest folk and activist influence, Pete Seeger, by singing Darling Corey. Other moving songs included Deportees, which Joan wrote about the Mexican immigrants who died in a plane crash while being sent home from the States. Joan continued to mix things up throughout the concert, displaying her distinctive vocals and style to the utmost, as she performed the likes of Me And Bobby McGee, House Of The Rising Sun, Joe Hill, and the delightful Diamonds And Rust. Other offerings from her new album included The Things That We Are Made Of by Mary Chapin Carpenter and The President Sang Amazing Grace, about President Obama attending a service in the wake of the Charleston church gun shooting in 2015. Two encores rightly followed with John Lennon's Imagine, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Joan Baez
Joan is embarking on her Fare Thee Well tour

Rating: 5 out of 5

Remaining 2018 UK tour dates:

March 16: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall;
March 17: Edinburgh Usher Hall;
March 19: Belfast Waterfront Hall;
May 23: Bristol Colston Hall;
May 24: Manchester Bridgewater Hall;
May 26: Gateshead The Sage;
May 28 & 29: London Royal Albert Hall.
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Why? Final Chance To See A Singing Legend?
Phone: 0121 780 3333
Where: Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EA
Cost: Birmingham tickets were priced £43 - £68
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