Had never seen Joan Armatrading in concert (or in the grocery store or anywhere else for that matter) until dragging the very gallant hop-a-long guy with me to one of Richmond’s many cool, renovated old theaters, The National the other night. It was only a little distressing that I had been turned down by approximately 18 friends in the days before. In their defense–or mine–several of them were out of town or at board meetings or are creative excuse-makers. Some are just lame. (I’d say you know who you are, but you probably don’t–that’s part of your lameness that I find charming.)

I hadn’t paid any attention to Joan since the ’80’s when the album photos seemed to indicate she was fit and Afro-ed, so it was a surprise to me to see a dead ringer for a retired librarian walk onstage wearing comfort sandals and big tent pants and shirt–sort of a Communist China look. Her straightened hair covered too much of her smiling face. Her three-piece band of 3 guys smiled, too.  It could have been my Aunt Maria out there in front of her three sons (except it couldn’t have been for all sorts of reasons I will not go into) –until the music started. Man, that woman can play the guitar.  Wow. She’s near 60 and her voice is still very cool–high, low and everywhere in between–and her band was tight and pumping.

not Joan Armatrading's guitar--or mine for that matter

Still the whole thing was incongruous. I certainly don’t think every performer should have to look like Tina Turner or dress like Beyonce, so, once the music started it was actually refreshing to see somebody being comfortable being her talented self–wearing comfortable shoes.  I could have done without the overly long audience participation thing that proved that Joan is a control freak and that Richmonders are easily controlled. For the record, there is no need to repeat anything 60 times.  Her set ended with a rollicking  Me, Myself, I (I got gimpy out of there before the encore. It was the least I could do–really–the least.)

Musicians (and writers) are notoriously self-absorbed. Lucky for all of you, I don’t demand audience participation and I’ve (unselfishly, of course) decided to use my self-absorption for the greater good. How’s that working out?