Barbara Dane at Yoshi's, Oakland by Ria Burman
Barbara Dane (photo: Ria Burman)

Photos and words by Ria Burman

Barbara Dane’s sold out show at Yoshi’s in Oakland was priceless. The crowd, sprinkle-showered in grey hairs, whooped and cheered as the comical-lyrical Ms. Dane opened with a rendition of Memphis Minnie’s “I’m Selling My Porkchops.”

Not long into the set, Ms Dane is accompanied by a tap dancer on stage, whose motto at 83 is “I risk, therefore I am.” Later, the molasses~vocaled Lady Dane is joined by her son on Blues Harmonica for “Blues Over Bodega” and “The Salmon Song,” where Ms. Dane describes the piano and harmonica in the latter, as the sea and the salmon, a beautiful simile for the entwined sound. Accompanied later by Richard Hadlock on clarinet for a ‘recapturing’ (as Ms. Dane words it) of Ellington’s “All Too Soon,” the soulful blues jazz singer shuffles the original lyrics around and adds her own, thus evolving art.

The spirit of the show is high and positive with Ms Dane, forever theatrical, using actions to represent lyrical feeling. With lines like “What you have no one can take,” leading the crowd into song with timeless stories and great statements like “Never underestimate the old lady power” and “Go Lady Power!” it’s hard not to feel like flying.  With the crowd’s standing ovation honoring the end of the show, I would guess my sentiments were shared.

If you’re new to the sounds of Barbara Dane, check out the Jazz Blues lyrical poetry prose fusion “Unemployment Compensation Blues” and for some good ol’ strong woman blues give “Truck Driving Woman” a whirl.