Concert Review: Joan Baez’s Farewell Tour Leaves ‘Em Wanting More

Joan Baez has sung a lot of putative protest music, or at least participated in more than her fair share of rallies, over the last six decades. But here’s something to protest, in 2018: the idea of Baez retiring. She’s currently on what’s being billed as her farewell tour, and when someone like Baez or Paul Simon announces that, unlike, say, Cher or KISS, you’re inclined to take them at their word, even if she didn’t say a thing about it when she played what might have been her final L.A. gig at Royce Hall Sunday. At 77, she’s earned the right to leave at her own chosen speed (to quote Joan quoting Bob). But Baez is still very much in fighting trim, and a sold-out crowd that was mostly of an age to see social parallels between then and now did not want to let her go gently into that good backstage.

It was reasonable to expect that Baez would at least briefly address her impending exit from the spotlight — as of now, her Fare Thee Well Tour is scheduled to end in New York in May — the way that Simon did for several minutes at tour stops like his recent Hollywood Bowl show. But the closest she came to acknowledging on stage that this might’ve been the end of the road for L.A. shows was opening with “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Maybe opening with a goodbye song was her sly way of acknowledging the retiring elephant in the room… or maybe she just opened with a Dylan song because there are so many of them in her set that the odds favor it. “I’m throwing in Dylan songs here because they’re the best we’ve got,” she remarked before playing “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” the second of four from his catalog (the remaining two: “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Forever Young”). Let’s hope that Dylan doesn’t look at his ex and get any ideas about ending the Never Ending Tour.