Joan Baez in Concert
Over the past few months, Joan Baez has been saying she wants to be more playful, more humorous, more relaxed. She seems to have decided to throw off the crushing burden of the liberal politics that have made her career a noble but oppressive drag.
Well, as you can imagine, I was front and center for Joan Baez in Concert, taped in December in Ventura, Calif. I fully expected Joanie to make her entrance in Tina Turner miniskirt and spike heels, and to shake her newfound groove thing through a funk version of ”This Land Is Your Land.”
Not a chance, as it turns out. Baez smiles a bit more these days, and her between-song patter is as likely to contain a few nice self-deprecating jokes as it is a manifesto about Third World exploitation, but it’s still the same Baez, trilling folk music in that technically perfect, emotionally chilly voice of hers.
Baez runs through her best-known songs, including ”Diamonds and Rust” and her stately interpretations of ”Forever Young” and ”The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” but she loosens up only once, when ”special guest star” Jackson Browne lopes onstage to sing ”Before the Deluge” and ”El Salvador” with her. Don’t get me wrong — Browne is no Jerry Lee Lewis wild-man either, but his relaxed bearing and conversational phrasing compel Baez to momentarily abandon her usually grave, dignified approach. B-