Joan Baez at the Beacon Theater

by Paul Levinson 2 years ago in concert

Always Trenchant

Joan Baez at the Beacon Theater

There are so many ways I could begin my review of Joan Baez's superb concert at the Beacon Theater the other night -

1. This is the second time in less than a week that Tina and I attended a farewell concert: Paul Simon's at the Prudential Center in Newark last week and Joan Baez's the other night. In both cases, the concerts were so good that it's hard to believe these masters of music, voice, and lyrics are retiring from touring.

2. Joan Baez, always current and trenchant, sang a powerful Woody Guthrie song about immigrants. We couldn't help thinking about Joy Reed's interview of Jose Antonio Vargas at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn last Wednesday night.

3. One of Joan's last songs was Paul Simon's "The Boxer" - also one of the last encores that Paul Simon sang last week. "I am leaving but the fighter still remains" was never more apt.

And all of those openers are valid. And there is much more to be said about Joan Baez's concert. She said, after one song—a song her sister Mimi sang all the time—that it's hard to sing and cry at the same time. At several times in the concert, I felt the same way about applauding and crying. Especially after she sang Zoe Mulford's "The President Sang Amazing Grace." (Yes, that's exactly what the song's about.)

Baez sang one of her masterpieces early on—"Diamonds and Rust," her parting reflection about Bob Dylan. This was after opening the concert with a Dylan song. She followed with a wonderful rendition of Phil Ochs' "There But For Fortune"—a lyricist who never received the recognition he deserved as someone right up there with Dylan. And she sang several more Dylan songs, including the incomparable "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," which Baez linked to the state of the nation and world today. After all these years, Joan Baez remains the best voice Dylan ever had.

And we do live in a world "where souls are forgotten," certainly by the White House and its minions. Which means we need Joan Baez's voice more than ever. I remain ever hopeful we can hear it again.

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Paul Levinson
Paul Levinson
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Paul Levinson

Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code (winner Locus Award, Best 1st Science Fiction Novel of 1999) & The Plot To Save Socrates. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context has been translated into 15 languages.

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