This is the age of badass women. You can find them everywhere: marching in pink hats, fighting for democracy on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and portraying superheroes in your summer blockbuster. But this week, four badass women were singing in Raleigh, NC, for a rescheduled (and sold out) midweek show, Four Voices: Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, & Indigo Girls Amy Ray & Emily Saliers, presented by Cat’s Cradle of Carrboro, NC, in the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park at the N.C. Museum of Art.
The supergroup, Four Voices, is even greater than the sum of its already ridiculously great parts. It is made up of recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree, Joan Baez, and fellow Grammy® winners Mary Chapin Carpenter and Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Before the word “awesome” was used to describe ordinary things like bagels and binge-worthy TV shows, it was reserved for things that inspired a sense of awe and wonder. It was reserved for things like this show and these women.
The group opened the set with the Bob Dylan song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Baez, who really knows how to work a crowd, did a cheeky little imitation of Dylan’s signature vocal schemata at the end of the song, eliciting cheerful “knowing” laughter from an audience delighted to be in on the joke.
Longtime friends Baez, Carpenter, Saliers, and Ray are, and have been, political activists throughout their careers; but it is Baez who is the matriarch of the movement. “We are re-discovering all of these songs we thought were out-of-date … but now we need them again,” said Baez.
The Four Voices show is an auditory feast for those who love a stripped-down, acoustic sound. Each singer slips seamlessly from lead to backup and harmony. Amy Ray on the mandolin is a special treat, but you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Joan Baez and Mary Chapin Carpenter playing a kazoo accompaniment. This show is a beautiful collaboration that seems as fun for the performers as it is for the audience.
With more hit songs between them than can reasonably be sung in an evening, the show features favorites and new material from everyone. Some of the lyrics were changed to send an updated message. Carpenter’s “Stones in the Road,” a song about forgotten idealism, gets an update replacing, “We doctor the receipt,” with “We post another tweet.”
During some unexpected downtime for guitar tuning, Emily Saliers — in an effort to fill the empty air, joked, “Two Lesbians walk into a bar….” Saliers tells the crowd that she doesn’t really have any jokes, but Joan Baez does. “But all of Joan’s jokes are bawdy and inappropriate,” she adds.
After some encouragement from the crowd, Baez stood up to tell her joke about two proper Southern ladies who are talking to one another. One is bragging about all of the fine things that her husband buys her piece by piece and how that proves his love. After each brag, her friend says, “That’s nice,” in a sweet Southern drawl. “He got me this diamond bracelet.” “That’s nice.” “He got me these beautiful clothes.” “That’s nice.”
The first lady turns to her friend and says, “Well, what has your husband ever done for you?” The friend answers, “He sent me to charm school.” “He sent you to charm school? Why would he do a thing like that?” Her friend replies, “Well, I used to say, ‘F*ck you,’ all the time but now I just say, ‘That’s nice.'”
Joan Baez honored the Rev. William Barber II, who was in attendance; and after the crowd gave him a standing ovation, the Four Voices dedicated, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” to him. On the last verse, Baez sang, “Coming for to carry, me, you, us, them, and Donald — yes even Donald — home.”
Baez, who is very charitable, is not a fan of our current president. “I don’t write songs much anymore,” she said, “but the current state of the world energized me to write a song about a nasty man gone wrong while building up his nasty empire.” The crowd in perfect agreement with Baez sang along with and thought collectively, “That’s nice!”
FOUR VOICES: JOAN BAEZ, MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, & INDIGO GIRLS AMY RAY & EMILY SALIERS (Cat’s Cradle, June 7 in the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater in the Museum Park at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC).
SHOW: http://catscradle.com/event/four-voices-joan-baez-mary-chapin-carpenter-indigo-girls-amy-ray-emily-saliers/, http://ncartmuseum.org/calendar/event/2017/06/05/four_voices_joan_baez_mary_chapin_carpenter_indigo_girls_amy_ray_emily_sali/2000, and https://www.facebook.com/events/212543202553690/.
NCMA’S 20TH ANNIVERSARY SUMMER CONCERT SERIES: http://ncartmuseum.org/calendar/series_parent/summer_concerts.
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manager. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.