Joan Baez, Southbank Centre, gig review: Spellbinding and powerful

Baez's voice is as clear and distinctive as it ever was

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The years have been kind to Joan Baez in more ways than one; her voice is as clear and distinctive as it ever was and her ability to tell a story still as spellbinding as New York folklore would have it.

“My trademark is songs of misery,” she told her markedly excitable audience, launching into a catalogue of tracks about women who are lost and tormented by love.

Not to discredit her band, but Baez is at her best when at her purest – when just her clear voice and guitar do the talking, as demonstrated in “Farewell Angelina” and her cover of “Sweet Chariot”.

“Venganza” and “La Llorona”, sung in Spanish, had an intense melancholy that transcended any language barrier.

Her cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” was another highlight, because for Baez, a lifelong pacifist and activist, those words truly had meaning.

It’s hard to talk of Baez without mentioning her much-publicised relationship with Bob Dylan, a subject that has infiltrated her music.

She performed Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, although it was her own “Diamonds and Rust” that was most powerful.

Baez’s tales of heartbreak will always have resonance regardless of who they were written about.

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