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The freewheelin' Joan Osborne

Bringing a little Pavarotti and Bob Dylan to the Pantages

Photo courtesy JoanOsborne.com

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For most people, the name "Joan Osborne" immediately brings to mind the smash hit "One of Us," which reached the Billboard top five in February 1996. If that's all you know about Joan Osborne, though, you're missing a voice that shifts from blues to folk to pop without missing a beat. "It's strange to say," she noted, "but I've been doing a little bit of opera-style singing. I'm working on my voice, and I have to say it's really fun to do." Perhaps that enjoyment is enhanced by the fact that - among other mega-talents with whom Osborne has shared a stage - she's trod the boards with Pavarotti.

If that doesn't impress you, wait for her Bob Dylan story: I got to sing a duet with him, of his song ‘Chimes of Freedom.' There was a TV special about the 1960s ... and they wanted to have him rerecord one of his classic '60s songs with a contemporary artist. I was fortunate enough that he chose me. ...  Even though my back was turned to the door, I could instantly tell when Bob came in the room, because the atmosphere of the room changed and everyone, without turning their heads, without making any outward show of it, they all shifted their attention to where he was. ... I thought he was very funny and charming. And we got to use the same microphone when we were recording it, so we were singing it at the same time on the same mic, so I was just inches away from his face. And because he was using a completely different phrasing than the recorded version, ... I really had to stay in this kind of locked-in place, watching his lips move so that I could try to match what he was doing with my harmonies. I think that was probably a good thing, for me to have to concentrate so completely, because otherwise I probably would've gotten really nervous."

That story is relevant to Osborne's current tour, in which her own songs have been mixed with compositions from across Dylan's two-generation-spanning career. Her album Songs of Bob Dylan hits shelves this fall. "I have a great time doing some of his more recent stuff," Osborne said, citing "High Water (for Charley Patton)" from Love and Theft. "For a singer to have those kind of lyrics to work with is really wonderful. ... There are a lot more songs we could've done than we had room for."

"I know that the success of (‘One of Us') has helped me to have the kind of long career that I've always wanted to have," Osborne mused. "I've just been so fortunate to be able to work with so many different people, ... to still be doing this and to have been welcomed into so many different musical worlds."

Joan Osborne: the Songs of Bob Dylan, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 3, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, $39-$59, 253.591.5890, broadwaycenter.org

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