Monday, March 7, 2016

Concert Review - Joan Baez at the Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood, NJ - March 6, 2016

Joan Baez is an iconic figure, having made it huge in the 1960's, becoming one of the major influences of 1960's political activism and alternative thought, with her tremendously powerful lyrics and way of thinking. She was an activist, and has remained so over the course of many decades. My brother rightly pointed out that she has remained an activist long after this was the cool thing to be or to so.

As such, it should serve as no surprise that she spoke out about the ridiculous political situation that we find ourselves in today. During one of the introductions to an early song - Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) - she mentioned that it was infinitely preferable to accept immigrants into the country and take what they can provide for us, rather than to build walls and fences, which she said cannot be done, in any case. She also mentioned her activism against the Vietnam War draft, and in introducing another of her songs, Day After Tomorrow, she also spoke about what a world might be after an end, and she suggested that the end was already a done deal with climate change running rampant and remaining unchecked by humanity.

I cannot recall the entire set list off the top of my head, although if and when I manage to get it, rest assured it will be posted here. That said, here is a list of many of the songs that she did perform at last night's show, in no particular order:

Freight Train

Silver Dagger

Day After Tomorrow

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) - Woodie Guthrie cover about a plane full of Mexican immigrants that caught fire and went down. When it was reported in the newspapers the next day, those immigrants on board were not even named, but listed as "deportees." Over the course of many years, they would eventually be named, bringing closure for the families.

Baez performed a cover of Richard Thompson's She Never Could Resist a Winding Road, adapting a bit by changing the lyrics to "I" and explaining that, in her case, it was true that she could never resist a winding road.

Me and Bobby McGee

Diamonds and Rust - a song about her ultimately doomed relationship with fellow folk legend and 1960's icon, Bob Dylan.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

The House of the Rising Sun - A very different version of this iconic song. Admittedly, I am more familiar with the version done by the Animals. She recorded a version on a 1960 album and has frequently played it during her concerts, although the song is not original either to her nor to the Animals.

She performed a beautiful version of John Lennon's immortal Imagine, changing some of the lyrics slightly, and performing a beautiful and unique version of this iconic song, which is fitting given some of the similarities in activism and thought of both Lennon and Baez.

God Is God

Hard Times Come Again No More

Jerusalem - a song with very powerful lyrics, which open like this:

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 

She closed out the evening with a rendition of The Boxer, getting the entire audience to sign along at the Li Li Li parts.

All in all, a pleasant evening with a great artist in an intimate venue. My brother said that her voice, if anything, has improved over time, which is a rare quality, and I would be inclined to agree.

A very pleasant and memorable concert experience indeed!


  1. Yes,it was so wonderful to see this beautiful icon just being herself. My favorite song was Diamonds and Rust. She can really play that guitar. Just beautiful. And who was that very talented young woman that sang with her? That was a treat as well.

  2. Great show. Some of the other songs she performed, whose titles I couldn't recall offhand but which I recognized when I saw them listed for one of her other performances at the website, included "She Never Could Resist a Winding Road", "Me and Bobby McGee", "Sweet Chariot" and "The House of the Rising Sun". To my surprise she didn't do her version of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", but that was OK; I enjoyed every song.
    @ Anonymous: that young woman's name is Grace Stumberg.

  3. Really was a great show, and thanks again to my brother for this very early Father's Day gift!