John Oates, one half of the most successful music duo of all time, Hall & Oates, just released a new solo album entitled Arkansas. According to Oates, “It’s like Dixieland, dipped in bluegrass, and salted with Delta blues.” Just a couple days after the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl, this mustachioed master of music brought his new tunes to the City of Brotherly Love, delivering an impassioned performance that resulted in the majority of the crowd buying copies of Arkansas.
Last week I attended a Janis Ian concert at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, Delaware. The venue, a renovated vaudeville theater, was beautiful. There was a bar on the far end of the vast room, and in between it and the stage were tables of six to eight people. This communal atmosphere made for a great, conversational environment. Within minutes of arriving, I got to know my neighbors and what brought them to the show. Some had seen Janis many times, while others, like myself, were newbies.
Prior to the music starting, the attentive and polite wait staff took drink and food orders. Just as my salad arrived, Diana Jones, the opening act, took the stage. With a guitar in hand, she told us how grateful she was to be touring with Janis and the story behind her first song, which escapes me. What struck me was her unique voice and interesting lyrics. If you’re into folk/country music, she’s worth checking out.
As Dina’s set came to a close, she introduced Janis Ian and provided backup vocals on her opening song. After striking the final chord, Janis welcomed the crowd and launched into “From Me to You,” a track off her best-known album, Between the Lines. This fiery number was deftly sung by Janis, who brought the song’s complex vocal arrangement to life with her still-magnificent voice.
Janis weaved in humorous and insightful stories in between the songs that kept the crowd’s rapt attention. She talked and sung about her autobiography, for which she recently won her second Grammy, and her displeasure with the United States dragging its feet when it comes to granting equal marriages rights to homosexuals. Janis married her long-time partner, Pat, in 2003 and wrote the song “Married in London” to talk about this sensitive issue. One of the lyrics that set the crowd into a fit of laughter was, ” We wed in Toronto, the judge said ‘Amen,’ and when we got home we were single again.”
As expected, Janis performed her biggest hits, including “At Seventeen” and “Society’s Child.” She also brought Diana Jones back onstage to perform a wonderful, new song, “I’m Still Standing Here.” For your enjoyment, I’ve included a video of this performance. Janis ended the show by sitting on a stool with her guitar and singing, without a microphone, “Jesse.” Her voice was in rare form as it effortlessly bent notes and conveyed the raw emotion contained within the song’s poignant lyrics. As her final guitar chords reverberated throughout the silent theater, the crowd rose to its feet and met her with a well-deserved standing ovation.
After the show, Janis took the time to meet a long line of fans and sign memorabilia. When I approached her, I told Janis how I recently discovered her music and that “Take Me Walking in the Rain” was my favorite song of hers. We also spoke about me being a writer and the novel I’m working on. After taking a photo with her, Janis said to me, “Send me your first novel when it’s done.” I beamed as I walked out the door, realizing what a grateful and positive person she is. Despite the great fame and success she’s achieved, Janis values her fans and gives them her all. After meeting her, I have more respect for what she does and who she is. Like the songs she’s sung, Janis Ian’s not done. This train still runs.