Review: Joan Baez ****

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Sheffield City Hall

JOAN Baez has inspired idolatory for more than 50 years, and a high percentage of this audience of veteran fans knew every lyric, even to songs on the grande dame of folk music’s new album Day After Tomorrow.

However, that didn’t excuse the woman in the row behind singing along in her not-so-tuneful voice. That annoyance aside, Baez proved that, at 71, she still has the poise and warmth as a performer that have kept the faithful so loyal for so long.

Nimble on acoustic guitar and accompanied on an array of instruments by Dirk Powell and her son Gabe Harris on percussion, the set ranged over original material and covers that have become Baez standards, including I Believe in Miracles, Catch the Wind, Joe Hill, House of the Rising Sun and Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word.

The audience lapped up snippets about Woodstock, Bob Dylan and the years of peace marches, civil rights and ballads telling tales of struggle.

Many songs have been rearranged to accommodate Baez’s changed voice, and the newer versions have a welcome extra dimension lent by lower tones and the odd ragged edge. We wished she wouldn’t actually try to reach for the odd high note, as the effort usually wasn’t rewarded. Diamonds and Rust, the bittersweet tribute to one-time-love Dylan, and Gracias a la Vida brought the house down, as did encores of Imagine, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Blowin’ in the Wind.

Yes, Joan still has amazing grace.