One of the big themes of the night was how folk singers take the songs of the past and reinvent them for today. Up-and-coming groups like the Milk Carton Boys and Secret Sisters pointed the way to where folk music might be evolving, but it was the masters of the craft who showed how well-worn songs can sound brand new with the right arrangements and with the singer’s unique perspective on the lyrics.
Early on in the night, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings invigorated “This Land Is Your Land” to such a degree that it ceased to be a hokey old song from my childhood years and later, Joan Baez sang one of the most haunting versions of “The House of the Rising Sun” I’ve ever heard.9) Be They Ever So Humble
Even though the concert was stuffed to the brim with celebrities on and off stage, humility was the theme of the night.
All the artists seemed so grateful and so exuberant to be performing together and in an entertainment industry where stars seem more bent on outshining each other, it was a refreshing sight to see.
Patti Smith fangirled out over Joan Baez and called her a “humble goddess” in rapturous tones. Joan Baez, in turn, marveled that her “cool factor” went up because she shared the stage with Elvis Costello and later Marcus Mumford. And the circle went ironically unbroken, when Marcus Mumford allowed himself an “OMG” moment by telling the audience, “That’s Joan F*CKING Baez.”
The acts weren’t just humbled to be in the presence of one another; they were undone a bit by the response they got for themselves. Rhiannon Giddons just about blushed all over her body when an audience member whistled before her transcendent set (whether that whistle was due because the gentleman knew what was coming musically or because she looked glorious in a figure-hugging red lace gown is unknown). Most of the acts spent their time on stage grinning with gleeful disbelief that they were even there. Oscar Isaac may have stated it best when he addressed the audience for the first time and said, “I’m just so humble to be at this table.”10) Fare Thee Well
The night was full of incredible performances (I haven’t even had a chance to mention how the Avett Brothers brought the house down or how Jack White killed and then seemingly mysteriously disappeared into the ether the way you want Jack White to mysteriously disappear) and everything felt like it was getting bigger and better as the night went on.
It all led to the final two performances: the first was Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac joining forces on the recently released track, “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song),” and the second was Mumford & the Punch Brothers bringing a new take on Bob Dylan‘s “Farewell.”
And that was it. It was a deliriously packed and almost overwhelming night. Oh, and you’ll be able to see it on Showtime on December 13 at 9 PM. Inside Llewyn Davis opens in cinemas on December 6.