There's a certain magic that comes from sitting around a campfire and singing songs with a guitar and a couple of friends.
The Majestic Theatre in Dallas hosted a similar type of gathering Sunday night with serious talent. Folk legends Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, Joan Baez, James McMurtry, Lila Downs and the Mastersons sat in a semi-circle on the stage, singing tunes that celebrate diversity — or more specifically, refugees.
The musicians joined forces this fall to perform a run of eight concert dates that began in the Pacific Northwest and traveled down the coast through California to Arizona, New Mexico and finally Texas. All along the way, the series, called Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees, raised awareness and funds to support education for refugees across the globe.
The tour was put on by the Jesuit Refugee Service and UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Service. Both organizations help refugees — specifically those fleeing North Africa, the Middle East and Asia through a little island off the coast of Southern Italy called Lampedusa (hence the concerts' name) — resettle by providing education, health and psychological services.
There was plenty to love aside from the feel-good nature of the show. Fans got to participate in an intimate evening of music made only by the acoustic instruments played and the feet that stomped on stage. All the artists sat on stage together and took turns performing a song, many times with the others providing backup on guitar, mandolin, violin, percussion and vocals.
Baez inspired a standing ovation from the crowd with her powerful acoustic version of Zoe Mulford's "The President Sang Amazing Grace." Earle earned laughs with his anecdotes before "Dixieland" and "City of Immigrants." And Downs lit up the venue with her Latin music-infused take on Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."
All the musicians adamantly expressed the evening was not about their music, but about those in need across the world.
"These days," Baez said on the brink of tears, "we really have to make up the deficit of empathy and compassion."