Janis Ian takes just the slightest delight in knowing her shows are sellouts — that there are people outside the venue, dying for tickets.
“It’s kind of cruel, but it’s also really nice to know,” says Ian, a fixture in the 1960s and 1970s folk music scene, who plays Thursday April 30 at Tower Theatre. She makes it a priority to stay after her shows to meet with fans.
Ian just came off five sold-out shows in the Midwest, playing with Tom Paxton on a tour they call “Together at Last.”
The tour ends Sunday night with at Freight & Salvage in San Francisco. Her Fresno show is one of several solo dates, which includes an already sold out show in San Diego.
Paxton is himself a bit of a folk icon, mentioned alongside guys like Pete Seeger. He started his career in the early 1960s in the coffeehouses of New York’s Greenwich Village and was at Ian’s first show. She was 13 years old. They’ve been friends since.
“That’s a really long time,” Ian says.
Over the years, Paxton has helped nurture Ian’s career, although she stops short of calling him a mentor.
“You’re mentored by everybody you listen to,” she says.
Paxton is a generous performer, someone who is looking to put out the best show, even if it’s at the sake of his ego.
“Some artists spend time trying to look good,” Ian says. “Tom spends time trying to make the show good.”
The pair share the stage (and the songs) for the whole set, with Ian singing verses on some of Paxton’s songs, and vice versa.
“Tom does a tear-jerking version of my song ‘Through the Years,’ ” Ian says.