Joan Baez is a myth who became a reality yesterday for the 44,000 people who gathered on the Zurriola Beach, before the Green Stage, to hear the great dame of folk. A legend who joins others who have preceded her in the same setting, such as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and B.B. King. It was also the last chance to see her: as she herself has announced, at the end of this “Fare Thee Well Tour”, she will no longer give concerts in big venues. The memory she leaves is excellent. Added to her timeless repertoire were nods to the local public, with songs like Mikel Laboa’s Txoria Txori and the hymn No nos moverán. She bid us adieu with Fare Thee Well.
Jamie Cullum’s not a myth, not yet. He’s too young to be one; but if he continues in this impeccable direction, he’ll be one in thirty years. He’s already an idol in San Sebastian. All of his concerts in our city have been magnificent, without fail. That’s why yesterday’s gig was unlikely to be any different, and it didn’t let us down. He attracted a crowd of 53,000 people, and had them in the palm of his hand from the very first minute, continuing to enthral them for another two hours. He ended on an emotional note, improvising a love song to Donostia tied in with I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
The best part of the Festival’s opening celebration with the Jazz Band Ball was the audience. As usual. With its continual to-and-fro between the four stages set up around the Kursaal Centre, the audience gave yet another lesson on how to conduct themselves and have fun.
As an example, their enthusiastic reaction to Love & Revenge: Music and Cinema from the Arab World, combining images from old Egyptian films with cutting-edge music taking its inspiration from Arab instruments. Undoubtedly unique, this is a performance requiring an open cultural sensitivity for the appreciation of its full intensity.
Its variety of styles is part and parcel of the Jazz Band Ball. The most traditional of jazz styles were brought to us by two North American bands: Dan Barrett Classic Jazz All Stars and Saxophone Con-Clave. The modern counterpoint was provided by Elkano Browning Cream, a multinational trio fronted by San Sebastian’s Mikel Azpiroz with an easy-going groove.
And for easy-going we have the Japanese guitarist and singer, Rei. With a fresh, young image, the world is her oyster for this new figure of Nippon blues-pop since having been signed by a major record label. With a cheeky stage approach, great guitar playing and a naturally engaging character, Rei has great future ahead of her.
Another person to have left his mark on the opening fest is the Anglo-Nigerian singer Ola Onabulé, a real gentleman of soul, who delivered his songs with vocal virtuosity and profound emotional intensity.