Fes Festival Final Concert - Joan Baez
Fes Festival Final Concert - Joan Baez
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Tonight at Bab Makina, the Fes Festival experienced something very special. Joan Baez produced a concert that was a celebration of music, spirituality and political bravery. It could have simply been a nostalgic look back at an illustrious career. But Joan Baez made certain that it was not the case.
In a two hour set, Baez showed why she is worthy of being the world's best known female folk singer. Dressed simply but elegantly, with a dramatic flowing red scarf, Baez looked to be in fine form; slim, her silver hair cropped. There was no great show-biz flare, no dramatics, but rather a set of music that was as skilfully crafted as it was delivered.
The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music aspires to deliver what its name says; sacred music. Baez was right on song with her first offering; Steve Earle's reflective God is God. The audience were rapt. This was Joan Baez and she had lost none of her distinctive vocal purity. If anything her voice had, like matured wine, grown more interesting. Her guitar playing was as good as it has always been.
Two favourites followed. Baez gave a heartfelt rendition of Christopher Logue's song about mortality, Be Not to Hard, and Dylan's Farewell Angelina before her "little band" joined her on stage. The two member band comprised her son, Gabriel Harris, on percussion and cajon box drum and the very talented multi-instrumentalist, Dirk Powell. During the evening Powell switched between, accordion, banjo, mandolin, and keyboards.
The first traditional song of the evening, Lily of the West, was accompanied by drums and banjo.
At this point there came a subtle change in the texture of the evening. The songs became more consciously political. "The most beautiful anti-war song I know, plus belle" Baez said and launched into Dylan's God On Our Side with Dirk Powell on accordion.
So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.
Another Dylan, Don't think Twice it's Alright, was followed by a powerful and moving rendition of Richard Shindell's risky Ballad of Mary Magdalene. The audience lapped it up.
However, it was the next song that won over the crowd completely. There was an audible gasp as Baez launched into Steve Earle's Jerusalem.
But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem
And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls
And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem
The next song was a surprising inclusion; Hard Times Come Again No More, written by Stephen Foster and first published in 1854.
Then it was back to familiar territory with Donovan's Catch the Wind, beautifully delivered with harmony vocals from Dirk Powell.
Baez paused to dedicate the next song to people who take risks. "Can music change the world?" she asked. Yes, was her answer, by taking risks. She then recounted the story of being sent a song from a church during the 1960's civil rights movement. The song was Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
Heading back into turbulent political waters, Baez announced she would sing a song she has been singing for forty years. The song, Le Déserteur (The Deserter) written by Boris Vian and Harold Berg is another anti-war classic. The crowd loved it.
refusez de la faire,
n'allez pas à la guerre,
refusez de partir.
S'il faut donner son sang,
allez donner le vôtre,
vous êtes bon apôtre,
monsieur le Président.
Si vous me poursuivez
prévenez vos gendarmes
que je n'aurai pas d'armes
et qu'ils pourront tirer.
After the applause finally died down, Baez was joined on stage by a young singer, Marianne and together they sung a duet, before the young woman vocally reproduced the sound of a trumpet and launched into an up-tempo Spanish number. Baez danced and the crowd went wild.
The concert was full of light and shade, but nothing surprised the crowd more than Baez switching to Arabic and doing a song from Lebanon.
The music kept coming; House of the Rising Sun, her historic Woodstock song; Joe Hill and Cohen's masterpiece, Suzanne which she interpreted in in own inimitable way - perfect.
There is always a catch in Joan Baez's throat when she introduces the song about her relationship with Bob Dylan. "Check this out ... 50 years ago I bought you some cufflinks." The emotion she displayed sugests that time does not heal all wounds. The song, Diamonds and Rust, brought the crowd to their feet.
The concert was supposedly over, but the crowd would not let her go. The encores built one upon the other as the people surged forward, some even dancing on stage.
Gracias a la Vida, We shall Overcome, John Lennon's Imagine and The Answer is Blowing in the Wind all became mass anthems.
What was so refreshing was that tonight, security let it happen. The crowd, including Festival Director Faouzi Skali, came forward and celebrated. It was a magic evening and Joan Baez is to be thanked for putting the "festive" back in "Festival".
FÈS FESTIVAL QUICK LIST
Festival in the City
Festival Eating Guide
Art during the Festival #1
Art during the Festival #2
The Enchanted Gardens of Fez
Last Minute Accommodation
Reporting: Sandy McCutcheon and Vanessa Bonnin
The View from Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music
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