Sunday, 11 October 2009

Autumnal Beauty: Joan Baez at The Sage by Terry Kelly

Joan Baez

The Sage Gateshead

MORE than 40 years ago, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were crowned the King and Queen of folk music. While Baez's romantic relationship with Dylan eventually petered out, she still includes songs by her former beau in her set.

So a capacity and reverent crowd at The Sage were treated to such Dylan classics as
Farewell Angelina, With God on Our Side and Love Is Just a Four Letter Word. But her best Dylan cover version of the evening was Forever Young, which Baez sang when her elderly parents remarried after 30 years.

At 68, Baez is still performing at the top of her game, backed by a superlative band, including her son, Gabriel Harris, on percussion. Her famous soaring soprano voice - which was not to everyone's taste in the 1960s - has mellowed and deepened into a thing of great autumnal beauty, as demonstrated on moving versions of the 16th century Child ballad, Mary Hamilton, the opening number, The Lily of the West, and her Dylan-inspired best original song, Diamonds and Rust.

But possibly the highlight of the night was Just the Way You Are, by band member, Dirk Powell, with Baez wringing every ounce of emotion from the moving song.

The encores ended with Baez and her musicians harmonising on an a cappella version of the bluegrass standard, Angel Band, the adoring audience rising to applaud a woman who remains a true Queen of folk music.

Terry Kelly

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