When legendary singer-songwriter Janis Ian took the stage as “the opener” for a double-bill with Karla Bonoff, there were quite a few raised eyebrows in The Egg’s acoustically wonderful Swyer Theatre. Some may have thought they were stuck in a “Twilight Zone” episode, asking themselves in what alternate universe would Janis Ian open up for Karla Bonoff?
Ian laid the question to rest by stating that it was her choice. After the sold-out audience’s collective sigh of relief, she launched into a spectacular set full of warmth and passion. All of the hits that Ian is best known for were beautifully performed – “Society’s Child,” “At Seventeen” and “Jesse,” her heart-felt encore vehicle that took her off the stage to a standing ovation.
Her lived-a-bit-of-life stories introduced songs that triggered for many memories of a time not long ago filled with prejudice, protests and social change. Ian was right in the thick of it all back then. Not bad for a woman who stated out-loud in a tongue-in-cheek fashion that she “wrote her first song at 13, published it at 14 and became a has-been at 16,” adding with a smile, “From there everything was only up.”
Bonoff’s set was less intimate, but no less impassioned as she alternated between the grand piano and acoustic guitar on a slew of songs spanning her 30-plus year career.
Joining her on stage were electric guitarist Nina Gerber and Bonoff’s old Bryndle bandmate Kenny Edwards on bass, vocals and acoustic guitar. Her first hit single “I Can’t Hold On” started things off, but it was her 1990 Grammy-winning tune, “All My Life,” which garnered the loudest applause.
Ian joined Bonoff to close the concert with the old traditional nugget, “The Water Is Wide.”
KARLA BONOFF SET LIST
I Can’t Hold On
Isn’t It Always Love
All The Way Gone
Please Be the One
Tell Me Why
All My Life
Someone To Lay Down Beside Me
The Water Is Wide (with Janis Ian)
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk.