REVIEW: Joan Baez, Sheffield City Hall

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SHE came on dressed simply in boots, jeans and a long red scarf, picked up her guitar and took her audience back to when they were a great deal younger.

The hair, cut short, is now grey but she’s still slim and we all thought, ‘doesn’t she look good at 71?’

If you can remember the Sixties – and most of those at the City Hall could – Joan Baez was part of the musical backdrop. Her albums were the ones put on as smoke-filled parties mellowed.

The crystalline voice , as clear as a bell, has become deeper, smoky even, but every so often, helped by her sipping “throat tea,” snatches of it came back, as good as new, in a line or verse.

Baez was an album artiste covering other people’s songs as well as traditional melodies, but in a set which lasted for 100 minutes non-stop we had the chart hits – Diamonds & Rust, which she penned herself about her former lover Bob Dylan, There But For Fortune and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – as well as the album favourites.

Accompanied by her “megaband” of guitarist Dirk Powell and her percussionist son Gabriel Harris, she chatted in between songs such as Blowing In The Wind, With God On Our Side and Joe Hill. She recalled sitting in Joe Cocker’s van at Woodstock, offering tea to an acid-dropping Janis Joplin.

There was no We Shall Overcome but the audience were: they gave her four standing ovations.