November 21, 2011

Concerts #425, 477 - Janis Ian at McCabe's Guitar Shop ( November 10, 2006 - September 21, 2008

Janis Ian is an artist I have known for ages, but started paying closer attention to only after her McCabe's engagement was announced in September 2006. Her new album, "Folk Is The New Black", had just been released, I gave it a good listen and discovered that Janis had written a lot more great music than just "At Seventeen", her only song I could name at that time.

I went to the concert with friend and coworker K, sat in the front row and witnessed a performance that was a delight from the very first song to the final bow, a choice of words not meant to be just a figure of speech - after her last song, Janis stepped up to the edge of the stage and took a deep and long bow, the supreme way of thanking her audience for their being there. Now that's a sign of true class and so was her permission for her fans to take pictures during the concert, between songs.

Janis proved to be a seasoned performer, with one great song after another and fun stories that weren't too long. After her self-introduction - "Folk singer, short, lesbian, Jewish" - Janis went on to sing a few of her best songs from "Folk Is The New Black", among them "Danger, Danger" and "My Autobiography". She also sang "At Seventeen" and a few more of her own oldies. Janis reminisced about the good old sixties, when on one occasion, she remained defiantly on stage in spite of being booed while singing "Society's Child", her song about inter-racial love. Needless to say, her delivery of the same song at McCabe's drew a diametrically opposed response.

Janis is not at all foreign to controversial subjects, so quite fittingly, she sang the self-written "Married In London", a song about the inconsistent ways same-sex marriage is treated in different countries. Based on the crowd's loud applause, I don't think there were too many folks there who disagreed with Janis' point of view.

I was totally taken by Janis Ian's performance. Performing without any supporting cast and armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, Janis kept me mesmerized from start to finish. After the concert, I immediately started looking up her older music and that's how I discovered true gems such as "Here Comes The Night", "Dance With Me", "In The Winter" and "When The Party Is Over", songs I would have otherwise never heard, I'm pretty sure about that.

Janis Ian at McCabe's (2008)

Two years later, on September 21, 2008, I went back to McCabe's to relive my first encounter with Janis Ian. Just like the first time, what she lacked in stature, Janis more than made up with her music, stories and humor. The two concerts were quite similar, with one difference: the second time I knew exactly what to expect, hence the somewhat smaller impact of the second show. Without a new album, Janis reached into her back catalog, so I once again got to hear her two signature songs, "Society's Child" and "At Seventeen", as well as "All Those Promises" from "Folk Is The New Black".

Janis Ian at McCabe's (2008)
As I was browsing the many YouTube videos showing Janis Ian at different stages of her career, I noticed that words like "class" and "classy" appeared frequently in the "Comments" section. Clearly, I wasn't the only one who noticed.

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