A CHRONOLOGY OF APPEARANCES
Compiled by Simon Montgomery, © 2001
 

1969.04.25  Fillmore East  New York, NY

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Taj Mahal & Joni Mitchell

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John Gurvitch writes:
Well, this was a magical night in many ways. The Fillmore East was a very special place, and I got to go a few times. For a boy from western MA this was unusual in my crowd. Triple bills were the norm.

Taj had moved to Springfield, MA, my home town as a younger man, with his family. Both of his sisters went to my high school, and while he attended UMass - Amherst, he played with a fellow I knew from Springfield. He was known in these parts a bit earlier than the rest of the world. James Cotton was a legend and although aging was still traveling with a great, and large band. It seemed a bit odd to me to have Joni at the top of such a bill.

Taj opened and literally ripped the roof off the place. Can't recall if he had much of a band or not, but many in the audience that night knew him and liked him, and had heard his first two albums, (or had only one been out by then?) and were crazy appreciative of his wonderful performance. They cheered loudly and long. When James' set began, the band was out first for a warm up song, and he was then introduced by his band "leader" for a special entrance (a la James Brown, a little) well, I suspect the James Cotton folks were unaware of Taj's rising star, and the leader took umbrage with the crowd for not responding energetically "enough" to his intro, and the impending arrival of James. He chastised us! James arrived and the set was fantastic too! I believe there was some old school testosterone of the chicago black/blues variety flying, in the spririt of a "cutting" session, and the Cotton band wanted to "outshine" Taj in performance and eventually crowd approval. At one point James jumped off the stage into the audience and broke his ankle!! He finished the set, but it was a unique energy/scene/mood.

So, these two HIGH ENERGY, HIGH VOLUME acts are done. The stage must be cleared of the band's equip., and house lights were dimmed for this. All that Joni needed was a piano, and a stool center stage, and appropriate mic's. The stage was dark, a single spot light was lit, and this vision in a long white dress came out, just short of skipping. The sweat, heat and energy of the preceding acts hung in the air. She simply walked to the center stage mike and said softly, "Hi", and the mood was immediately changed and there was no one other than Joni in the house. She played and sang an incredible set. Another remarkable achievement of Bill Graham! A good time was had by all, except James Cotton's ankle. I still feel the void left by Bill's passing.