Master Cook

Let me heap some unabashed praise on one of the great performing artists of our time. Barbara Cook, whose evening of songs is being performed at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre, continues to be one of the pre-eminent interpreters of American song.

This evening of tribute to Stephen Sondheim — in songs written by him and songs, she informs us, that he wishes he had written — is about as pure and simple a performance as one could hope for. Her characteristic clarity, coupled with her willingness to be vulnerable, is a perfect match for her song choices. Cook has the bravery to stand on a stage with simply a piano and a bass and she has the wisdom to know that no more than that is needed to fill a theatre.

Continue reading…

Joan Marches On

Last week, I went to see Joan Baez in concert at UCLA. I hadn’t seen her in thirty years and I will admit to being something of a fan but at the younger end of the fan base.So it came as quite a shock when I saw that the median age of her public, at least as represented by last week’s concert, was somewhere between 70 and death. I haven’t seen so many canes, walkers, colostomy bags and orthopedic shoes since my last visit to a nursing home. I was like friggin’ Lourdes, only without all the crutches lining the walls. I had no idea that a simple evening’s folk concert would get me in touch with my own mortality in such an all-enveloping way.

Introducing ‘Sweet Sir Galahad,’ Joan announced that she had recorded the song 42 years earlier. What she failed to mention was that she had been wearing the same skirt ever since.

Don’t get me wrong. We love you, Joan. You’re exactly who you are.

But there’s no doubt, in today’s world, this icon of the struggle against oppression and figurehead of the anti-war movement of the 60’s and 70’s is somewhat anachronistic in today’s world. You gotta love her, though, for still fighting the fight.