By Maureen Daye –
Monroe, N.J.- Old radical friends, Tom Paxton and Janis Ian gave an illuminating folk music performance at the jam-packed Richard P. Marasco Center for the Performing Arts on March 8th. We highly recommend that you catch a show on what has been announced as Paxton’s last tour.
The audience was primarily made of up of baby boomer fans, who intently listened to each song, before erupting into applause. A minute into taking photographs for this blog even without a flash, and a fan tapped my shoulder firmly, asking ‘please don’t.’ My Aftershow Pass blog partner, Franco Pietoso was able to film during the encores to provide us with the sound and visuals.
For nearly two straight hours, these folk icons proved that time has not faded their fearless attitudes toward tackling controversial issues, and in fact, their rich music experiences for more than five decades has ripened the sweet nectar of the show. They had funny stories, meaningful ones, and the songs from their solo music books are timeless.
They each emerged on the Greenwich Village folk scene when there was a belief that the power of any kind of folk song could express the ills of the world, and even change it. That hope is evident in even their new songs.
Paxton is about a generation older than Ian, but they have a spark together that might come from a plethora of shared musical influences as the legends of folk, a lofty list that would include Pete Seeger, Odetta, etc.
They were accompanied by internationally renowned multi-instrumentalist, Robin Bullock. He performed a gorgeous guitar solo of Shenandoah that simply mesmerized.
There was only one minor hindrance due to some technical problems involving inadequate volume on vocals, but this was fixed within the first 15 minutes or so. Thanks to the audience’s urging, Ian and Paxton called on the house to add more vocals, and voila!
We were rewarded with the increased clarity of Janis’ expressive voice, and Tom’s soft vocals. Their harmonies together were a natural beauty that magically transformed the room.
Ian told some topical stories surrounding her music. One was about getting married to her lesbian partner Pat in Canada, and then returning home only to get stopped by a border patrolman who informed that the marriage is not recognized here. In response, she wrote a song in the early 2000s about the incident, and she continually updates the changes regarding gay marriage in the world as time marches on. Ian has a wonderful sense of humor, and is entertaining while sharing her views.
The news that was swirling about the lobby prior to the show is that Paxton will retire from touring after “Together at Last.” Seems like sheer folk poetry that Paxton joined up with Janis for a last tour hurrah.
According to the Paxton & Ian tour poster, Paxton was at Janis’ first performance at the famous Village Gate when she was only 13. At that time, Janis had received a standing ovation, but didn’t realize that it called for her to sing another song. Tom urged her to “Go back kid…”
Now, Paxton and Ian invited the audience into their world, a place of warmth, closeness, honesty and hope. They not only sing together, but also apart. My favorite moments were when they accompanied one another, and it was nice to see them share the stage together throughout most of the show.
They delighted the crowd by bringing out their best songs.
Armed only with his acoustic guitar, Paxton performed some of his often covered tunes including “Bottle of Wine’, “Ramblin’ Boy’ and “The Last Thing on My Mind.” The crowd responded with enthusiastic applause each time.
Ian sang a relatively newer song about a mouse for children that could have rivaled the catchiness and simplicity of Froggie Went A’ Courtin. Bravo!
During the beginning of the show, Ian shared an old chestnut, “Society’s Child.” She was a young teen when she had a major pop hit with the taboo busting song about an interracial romance.
As another deep crowd pleaser, Ian also sang her biggest hit of all-time, “At Seventeen.” She won a Grammy in the mid – ’70s for that reflective song about the counter experience of popular girls, debutants and cheerleaders.
The poster that Paxton & Ian put out together on this tour is just perfect with a serendipitous close-up of their faces. It states that, “Together at Last” is a special concert collaboration between two old friends and folk singer/songwriter legends who are living proof that ‘The sum is greater than the parts.'”
The crowd seemed to agree wholeheartedly, as evidenced by a standing ovation.
It tickled me that Paxton and Ian would give a surprise first encore featuring a cover of “I’ve Got You Babe,” a ’70s major hit by pop culture’s lightweights, Sonny & Cher. “I got you babe,” they sang.
We chuckled. Paxton and Ian certainly had one another, plus as they looked out at their audience it was obvious that they had us too.
I give them 4.5 stars, and think that every generation should catch a show from the “Together at Last” tour. Here is a link for the 2015 tour schedule: http://www.tompaxton.com/tom-paxton-janis-ian-spring-2015-tour-dates/