Life in Music inspired by Joe Henry

dinsdag 15 november 2016

Shine a light : Portsmouth, November 12, 2016

Joe Henry and Billy Bragg are on the road, bringing their version of American folk standards which address the railroad. They recorded these songs during a train journey they made together and bundled them on an album Shine a light. During the show Joe suggested to listen to the original, and other memorable versions of these songs through history, and find out the need for such songs in every generation. I assembled for you a playlist to begin with

Portsmouth, Why we build that wall ?

Just before our departure, news of the passing of Leonard Cohen reached us. Although we knew it was coming, it still felt as a shock hearing this news. With that we started our journey in a sad mood. 1 day later, in Portsmouth, Joe would dedicate ‘All Blues Hail Mary’ as a memory to Leonard Cohen.
From the mountain comes a soul
And the stones grow up like trees
Leonard Cohen : A giant of humankind, beauty and art has passed away…
I found it almost symbolic after the victory of Donald Trump that Mister L. Cohen died. Wednesday morning I woke up and heard the news of Trump’s triumph. I think, for the first time I couldn’t honestly comfort my children by saying that everything would be all right. We are facing uncertain times, and it comes as no surprise that politics was a subject that had to be addressed during Billy and Joe’s concert. Maybe today even more than ever. We had an evening full of emotion, and so many songs (if not all) had a relevance concerning today’s society.
(In the heat of writing this review, I wrote my view on it all, the words kept coming. I hope you are willing to read them at this link)

Joe and Billy performed only with their guitar and voice. The concert had the following structure :

Joe and Billy together - Joe's Solo set
- Intermission
Billy's Solo set - Joe and Billy together

In the reality of today’s world we saw 2 very emotional, and even more powerful artists on stage. This is absolutely the concert that people need to hear. A touring statement for more warmth in our society. The message of these people, of this tour is so important! A wake-up call for what’s happening these days. A reminder that we have to stop making the same mistakes as in the past.
That is the most important thing I can tell you about this concert. They played off course wonderful together, and there was also lots of time for good laughing. Their voices filled each other wonderfully, but the magic of that evening, was the emotion in all of it.

Since I am hosting a blog dedicated to Joe Henry; here's for the record :  Joe’s soloset consisted of Trampoline, After the war, Lead me on, All Blues Hail Mary, and freedom for the stallion. That last one, off course, in memory of the late Allen Toussaint, who died 1 year ago.
Freedom for the stallion
Freedom for the mare and her colt
Freedom for the baby child
Who has not grown old enough to vote.
Lord, have mercy, what you gonna do about the people who are praying to you?
They got men making laws that destroy other men,
They've made money "God"
It's a doggone sin,
Oh, Lord, you got to help us find the way.
After the intermission it was Billy’s set, and from the first notes, my wife and I looked at each other overwhelmed with the amazing reaction of the crowd. The energy that was in the room ! Wow ! An entire auditorium ferociously singing these protest songs. It was with Anais Mitchell’s ‘why we build that wall’ Billy slammed everyone to silence with (again) the relevant questions that these lyrics ask us. That was a very strong moment.
After that, came the last song of his soloset,’There is power in a union’.  people not only sang loud with him, but some of them also raised there arm and clenched their fists ! Yes, there really is power in a union. That energy was really contagious, and I figured : “Let him go on a little longer, and we all will go out and start a protest march through the streets for tolerance.” That powerful music can be, 1 man, 1 guitar and a message so important !
Who do we call the enemy?
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free
That's why we build the wall
We build the wall to keep us free
An amusing moment came when Joe came back on stage, almost on his socks and shyly he mentioned :” Well, euhm…. I don’t have songs like that.” That was a very funny moment. It’s true I think, that Joe has different kind of songs, but that don’t make them any less strong. With his songs and words, he reflected warmth, beauty and compassion to everyone, and I’m quite sure, that everyone will take that warmth home, and spread it towards their family, and that’s something we can build on. That’s why it is so important you must witness this show. During the concert the warmth was already working both ways. The applause Joe got for his songs and words must have been very comforting to him also.
The set continued with songs from the ‘shine a light album’. I don’t think I can give you an accurate setlist of the entire show. The entirety of the evening had more power then it’s units apart. Now how’s that for symbolism...

Oh, and afterwards, there was the moment me and my wife ended up in a 'Billy-Bragg-Fanclub-Group picture'. I must admit, that felt a bit weird, but it was nice to be around such lovely people. And hey, Joe ended up in that same picture.

Time to go home, and be with our kids,

P.S. I had songs in my mind, writing all this. So here is the accompanying soundtrack.

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