Joan Baez at the Palace

By Paul Moffett

A number of my friends were surprised when I told them I had seen Joan Baez at the Palace on February 2l. Apparently word hadn't been spread sufficiently.

It was their loss. The legendary singer from the Sixties is touring in support of her new album, Ring Them Bells, on Guardian Records, backed by a trio. Singer/songwriter Dar Williams is accompanying Baez on the tour.

Beginning with a cut off the new album, "Lilly of the West," which opens with the line "l went down to Louisville," a guaranteed applause-getter here in River City, Baez offered up a selection of tunes from her past recordings while not ignoring the current material.

Baez is the quintessential professional. In an era of ever-bigger, more remote flash-and-crash shows, she perched on the front edge of the Palace stage and let — no, insisted —~ that the audience be a part of the show. Immediately upon completing "Lilly," she made_the requisite stab at saying "Lou-ah-vull,'-' repeatedly eliciting the correct pronunciation from an audience member. .

Her voice has lost little of its power and none of its beauty and her guitar work was likewise exquisite. Her backup band, consisting of Paul Pesco, guitar, Mark Peterson, bass, and Carol Steele, percus- sion, played well behind her, letting that voice stand out. The tunes? "The Devil's Curse," about ritual sexual abuse; "You Ain't Going Nowhere"; "Isaac and Abraham"; the Indigo Girls' "Welcome Me to the City of Angels"; "Joe Hill," a repeated request; and her first hit, "There But for Fortune."

Baez's anti-war sentiments are still strong, as evidenced by "And the Band Played WaItzing Matilda," from the new album.

The whole group came together to do a splendid little a capella version of the Frankie Lymon hit "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" and Dar Williams joined Baez on the Williams-written tune "You're Aging Well."

"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" featured the audience on handclaps and Baez' s vocals and nothing else. The ghost of Bob Dylan was never far away, both as writer ("Don't Think Twice") and former lover ("Diamonds and Rust").

Her effort to do the Willie Nelson tune "On the Road Again" was funny for forgetting the lines.

She then insisted that they do Paul Simon's "The Boxer.""We can't end on that," she laughed.

They didn't, ending with an a capella version of "Amazing Grace."