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Wally's Tour Report
My best friend Jim flew down from San Francisco to join Karl, simon and me for the final two shows of the tour.
Prior to the show, I used the "All Access" pass (which so far I'd underused) and went to the food catering tent where I met up with Julie Larson, my longtime friend and contact at Reprise. She's been so nice to me and it was a pleasure to finally meet her.
I sat in row 12, which was filled with Joni supporters and friends, including Julie and her mother Joyce; Gloria Boyce, Joni's former manager; and a group of Joni's male friends with whom she plays pool on the weekend. Julie introduced me to them all and some of them seemed to know who I was. Jim went with Karl into the photographers pit -- they lucked out and were able to stay and take photos through Joni's entire 80 minute set.
Joni's magnificent performing spirit resurrected itself last night in L.A. She came on just after 9 PM and played an amazing set to an audience of enthusiastic music lovers.
Joni's setlist was:
Night Ride Home
The Crazy Cries of Love
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Just Like This Train
Hejira ("I thought I heard ol' blue eyes crooning through the snowy trees...")
Big Yellow Taxi
The Magdalene Laundries
Moon at the Window
Celebrities seen in the audience were Graham Nash, comedian Stephen Wright, actor Steve Guttenberg, Gwen Stefani of the group No Doubt, Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers, and VH-1's John Fugelsang. I accosted John as he walked past our row and got him to reveal that negotiations are under way for Joni to tape a segment of "Storytellers." I also asked him about the "Classic Albums" series, which Joni was asked to do, and he told me that the ratings for that show were so low that they probably wouldn't be filming any more episodes.
After Joni's set, I followed Julie backstage. After a bit of wrangling, my friends and I were able to get into the area where Joni's friends were gathered, and I finally met Joni's art director, Robbie Cavolina. (He told me that Joni had asked him to work with me on offering the t-shirts and lithographs from the tour through the web. This is great news for all of you who couldn't make it any of the seven shows and who've written me asking if the concessions were available elsewhere. Soon you'll be able to order them here on JM.com.)
Joni came into the room after finishing a short post-concert interview and when she saw my friend, Jim, she said "I remember you! You're one of the apronheads." (She meant she had seen him in the photographers pit which is actually called the "apron.") She turned to me, smiled and I said "Hey, Joni." She then said "You guys probably snapped me in some weird angles." Karl said, "No, we throw the bad ones away. " I told her "Don't worry. I'm in charge and I'd never put any unflattering photos of you up on the web." Joni then asked if we'd seen the National Enquirer article with the headline "Joni Battles Polio." I said I had and she related how when she first saw the photo it had taken her awhile to figure out how they'd possibly caught her with such a weird facial expression. When she did recall, she said she remembered she'd been making light of all the facelifts in the audience at a birthday party for Milton Berle, and had been making a face imitating a Popeye type of character with a twisted mouth when someone had taken the shot. We all laughed at Joni's "Arr, matey!" pirate imitation.
Joni then went off with her friends to a small private party, leaving me and my friends thrilled and satisfied.
(I've enjoyed reading the reviews of the JM Internet Community. Keep 'em coming!)
(From:Johanson, Jim, JoniMessages@aol.com)-I'm a lucky guy -- my best pal just happens to be the esteemed Wally Breese. Besides the fact that he's a swell guy, this also means that I get to immerse myself up to my eyes and ears in Things Joni whenever I feel the inclination (which is often), and that I can often work on the JMHP as text and image editor. Very cool, to be sure, but what happened at Friday night's UCLA concert was definitely the frosting on the cake.
Joni, as usual, was up second in the lineup, following Dylan on this particular evening; I'd borrowed Breese's pass and headed up for the photographer's area, a cramped, uncomfortable space squeezed between the apron (the front edge of the stage) and a metal barrier in front of the first row, maybe ten feet away from Joni's microphone stand. But what a view! We were supposedly going to be allowed to stand there and take pictures during the first three songs, and I thought I was ready.
But there's an unexpected problem! The lights dimmed, and suddenly there she was, right in front of me after years of hopeful waiting, smiling brightly as an enthusiastic crowd roared its approval. I was totally captivated by the scene, alternately cheering, waving hello and gawking, while my camera dangled uselessly around my neck. Take pictures? Now?!? Listening to the music was my only concern at that moment; I momentarily forgot the camera was even there.
As the chords for "Night Ride Home" (a long-time favorite) rang out and the show got underway, the beauty of the music and a raft of memories produced by the song conspired to push a tear out of my eye. As it rolled down my cheek, I felt my face widen into an awed smile. God, I thought, I hope nobody sees me -- I must look idiotic. Then again, I couldn't possibly be the only person here having this reaction. Oh, hell with it.
Although Joni had a cold, forcing her to step out of the spotlight occasionally and blow her nose, she was in fine voice, and the only performer on the bill to talk to the audience at any length; interesting anecdotes to go with many of her songs were the order of the evening. No empty throw-away notes here -- every note she sang mattered. She occasionally left a word or two out, in an interesting and organic lyrical shorthand of sorts ("Amelia ... false alarm ..."), also changing lyrics or phrasing from time to time, such as the by now well known inflationary lyrical change to "25 bucks" for the admission charge to the "tree museum" in Big Yellow Taxi.
And the guitar! Oh, the guitar ... I love and sometimes (mostly on the older songs) missed the rhythmic definition produced by the metallic ring of an acoustic instrument, but her VG-8 sounded rich and full, with the unique tunings for which Joni is justly famous in full bloom (and much more easily adjustable, which I'm sure is a huge relief).
Joni's band was considerably smaller than the other two acts on the program, less than half the size of Van's band, but it didn't matter a bit. They spun a mesmerizing web of sound, sophisticated and atmospheric; I wondered if the complexities of the music would get lost in the vastness of the arena as they rolled through me on their way up to the nosebleed section. Brian Blade's understated drumming played an important part in the overall sound, as the percussive properties of the other instruments were smoother and less delineated. He cut through in all the right places, while never overpowering the rest of the band. Larry Klein demonstrated great musical empathy for Joni, while Greg Liesz produced a wide variety of sounds to fill in the picture, switching off between pedal steel, lap steel and electric six string guitars.
I was glad to see her get such a positive reaction from the crowd. I'd worried a little about that, as several of the conversations I'd overheard gave me the impression that a large portion of the audience was primed for the stadium-ready, straight ahead sounds of Dylan and Van (I still think Joni's intricate, intimate music is better suited to a smaller venue).
As the concert progressed, I realized that the three song limit had long since expired and nobody had tossed us out of the photographer's area; I got to watch the whole show from the stage apron. What an impossibly lucky treat! I did manage to come back down to earth in time to shoot a few rolls of film, but I'm sure I would have taken better pictures if I hadn't been so dazzled by her music.
Hoping to gain admittance to the performers' reception area after the set ended so we could congratulate Joni on her performance, we waited for some time backstage just outside the door looking for someone we knew (I was cowering behind Breese and Karl, who were wearing their legitimacy badges). We didn't see any of Joni's people around -- members of Van's band were getting ready to go on stage, blowing short bursts of bluesy riffs on their horns; roadies milled about as assorted LA glitterati drifted by. Then a face we recognized appeared and they waved us in; Ohmygod, I might actually get to meet Joni Mitchell!!
The room we were escorted into was a smallish affair: couches along two walls, a table holding hors d'oeuvres and drinks along the wall across from me, a locker pushed into a far corner. There were maybe 15 or so people there, folks from Joni's management team, a few people from Reprise, a number of friends, and of course, the JMHP gang.
Joni entered after about ten minutes, cheerful and relaxed, greeted by compliments from all and by long, warm hugs from friends. "She's a great hugger," I thought to myself. I didn't want to intrude -- I was happy to see everything coming off so well. I stood to the side, hoping to eventually be introduced, but I was in for a surprise. As she walked in my direction, she saw me and said "Oh, I remember you!" Delighted that she recognized me (and simultaneously horrified that what she remembered was probably my gawking during the show, oh well, she's seen it before, I'm sure), I told her that "I was trying to take pictures, but got carried away by your performance. It was really wonderful."
"Yes, you're one of the apronheads!" said Joni, explaining to us that she can see only the heads of people who are up against the stage apron. "I hope you won't print any of the bad pictures," she kidded. "Oh, we throw all the bad ones away," Karl kidded back. Breese put an end to any speculation: "Don't worry, I'm in charge." (And he is.) "I don't know why anybody would ever print a bad picture of somebody," I told her. Duh, wait a minute, I thought, of course I know. They're scumbags.
Joni recreated a pose she struck at a birthday party for Milton Berle where she'd been joking about someone whose face was contorted by multiple facelifts: "Ay, matey," she croaked, comically peg-legging her way a few steps across the room with one eye half-closed. "Somebody took a picture of that," she told us -- and the picture ended up on the front page of the Enquirer with a headline that screamed "JONI MITCHELL DYING OF POLIO! HER DESPERATE FINAL DAYS!!" (or something like that.) I can't imagine what life would be like if every move I made had that much potential for public misinterpretations. It's all a little scary.
My opinion of Joni took on an added dimension over those five minutes. While I still have the utmost respect for her as an artist, I found her approachable and friendly to the point where I wanted to say "Hey! Let's go have a beer someplace and hang out!"
Alas, I'm sure there are plenty of other people who also feel that way. Joni was on her way out now, saying her goodbyes and making plans for her next stop of the evening. "We'll be over soon ... can't stay too long, though ..." With that, she was out the door.
Back at our hotel, after everyone else went to sleep, I wandered around outside in the warm night air, smoking cigarettes and thinking about the events of the evening. My mind kept wandering back to the latest music video product I'd just heard on TV before leaving the room, and to a less than flattering review I'd read earlier in the day on Joni's concert. I just don't understand it. Joni's music is alive. It changes. It grows. It challenges. It disregards the corporate decision-by-committee way of doing things. Isn't this the way music should be? What's the matter here? I for one am glad Joni can't be categorized. I'm glad she didn't just do a string of oldies. Why don't these people keep up with her? Why don't radio stations support this music? No, I just don't understand this at all.
Then again, one of the reviews I read was by someone who up until now had only thought of Bob Dylan as Jakob Dylan's father. Now, there's somebody with a far-reaching sense of perspective -- reviewing concerts for a major metropolitan newspaper!
Hmmm, there's a tuning I always told myself I'd ask Joni about if I ever got to meet her; I completely forgot about it until just now. Who knows -- maybe I'll get a chance to ask her some other time. Whether I do or not, I'm a pretty lucky guy, don't you think?
(From:Daugherty, Stephen, SDAUGHERTY@coral-energy.com)-High school in 75. College tunes in 80. Woven into the days and years (not EVERY one) has Joni's music touched me. And just as my life of starkness, enrichment slowly occurring through the years, her music has done the same. It might be fair to say she has tracked my own life's progressions. Is that some sense of the things I have heard from all JMDL'ers?
Bought the two tickets after Wonderful Wally clued me into the show. NetMinus, I would never have known, OR gone. The SECOND I saw the posting, I called and got fair tickets. Checked San Jose, Anaheim, and L.A. (All serviced by good ole' Southwest Airlines.) Nailed two seats in Sec. 204 in L.A., fair seats.
Then I had to find a friend. Brother-in-law (Roger) in San Diego jumped in on the deal (he is a Van Morrison man). Flew in Thurs. nite to San Diego so we could get an early start on the next day, plus lay in some golf. Rog. got us an excellent walk on arrangement at Rancho Hills. In a note of bizarreness, O.J. Simpson was on the putting green when we walked out to practice putting. A muni course at $17.50 for a round, suppose he can afford that.
We FINALLY finished the round at 6:15 and bolted to our hotel, the otherworldly Beverly Hills Reeves. Not recommended.
Showered, sprinted to the car, heavy traffic, now 7:15. UCLA/Westwood is madness, and I am PANICKING! Asked a woman "is Pauly close to here?", she said "just at the end of this road".
"Park ANYwhere" I say. We finally race into a covered lot that has reserved and visitors parking. In our rush, we fail to notice that it CLOSES at 10:30. That however, did not dampen the incredible night.
Jogging along the path toward Pauley, I knew we had to be there by 7:30. >From all the posts, I discerned (1) the show would begin on time (2) Dylan would probably lead off. He and Van were alternating. The JMDL'ers led me right in both those thoughts.
Outside with the eclectic range of personalities, Rog and I grabbed some food and looked at our watches. 7:29. Went to the gate and asked, is the show on-time? "No, it is delayed till 8:00" the gatekeeper said. We stepped back and took a few bites. BAM, Dylan hits the stage. Inside we run, to a show that was already rockin.
Never dreamed that Bob Dylan could carry such great tunes, in such a tight set, with focus and fun. He cracked me up. Never catering or "positing" himself as so many performers tend to do, he just got off his feet and JAMMED. The bassist was the most animated, active on stage. But Bob commanded all, and the forging of strong guitar sounds pumped my soul up for Joni.
Bob closed at 8:47, and I figured it would be tight and close to Joni. We were back in in 8 minutes, and she walked on at 9:00. The crowd went wild. Every seat was taken, all floor seats were filled and it seemed as if every person was leaning forward. I feared greatly that the length of the tour, plus cold would take a great toll on her vocals. Wrong. Clear, steady, focused. How can you do that when your nose is running badly and you probably are heavy on medicine? Her passion in dancing showed up over and over. Hip swaying? More than that. Her entire body seemed to float and move in an aura of passionate dance, tandem with the tone and rhythm. Never seen that before. The VG8 seemed to work very well, but I would agree in an earlier comment that one or two acoustic bents would have been a fine alternative.
Larry Klein matches her in uncompromised ability. The best bassist accompaniment I have ever seen. He leans over the bass so far, his back is almost parallel to the floor. And as he plays, his body moves fluid to the tune, and inflects the tone and power coming from his instrument. Really fascinating to watch.
Joni was happy. Facial expressions displayed a casual happiness. She was very comfortable with her play. Confident with the songs she was playing. NOT ONE heckler in this crowd. Good crowd response from all songs, not just BYT. The crowd was hip with her show, appreciative, and the night was magical, as I thought it would be.
Recognized Kakki and Marsha from the group and their posted photos. Said HI but was too pooped to make their Bel Air party. As for Van Morrison, I know Kakki has a crush on him since she got to "pahty" with him!!! Way to go Kakki!!
Even though I love Joni's music much more than the other two players, I would rate Bob's show as the best. Joni's close second, and Van was third. He had an excellent entourage of players that backed him up and played along. Good job Van!!
Joni baby!! Don't just look at the West OR the East coast!! Remember that all of us Midwesterner's have great traditions and love of folk that should not go unnoticed!! Come see us!! (Or at least through Dallas, that's close enough!)
Wally, my congrats and big thanks on all you did to bring this show and its effects on all people that care about her. Good job!! You are going to be one of the "in" crowd with her soon! Get your pool cue sharpened for the invite!!
(From: C. S. Blue )-I have been waiting sooo.... long to see Joni. I Have been a fan since day one (or should I say album #1).
Her set on Friday night was so good. And coming on after Bob Dylan somehow seemed like such a natural progression. Joni has such a command of everything: her band, her voice, guitar and, of course, us- her fans. Her unique style radiated throughout Pauley Pavilion and her punctuations set me reeling. She swayed so casually, she made it look easy. But it was obvious in both her vocals and her improvisational instramental interludes that she is a master of her craft.
Many have been influenced by her style, but it was also so apparent at this performance, that she is in a class of her own. There is just no other artist like her. Her style is sooo.... flowing, jazzy, bluesy, folksy, siren torchey... I don't know what. But it is certainly beautiful, touching and inspired. And all of that is ever so clear when hearing her play it live.
Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she really has a way of including the audience in her artistic processes: whether it be revealing stories about her songs and poetry while introducing them at the mike, or including us as patrons for her brilliant artwork. I'm talking about the lithographs and t-shirts available with her artistic signatures (literally).
But back to the show. I was mesmerized at how seeringly beautiful her voice is live, and when she sang "Sex Kills," it was convincingly committed. Wow! It cut to the bone!
I would have given anything to hear..."I Am Lakota"...but then we all have our favorites. All I can say is, "Thank you, Joni, for giving me the opportunity to finally visually experience your music live. I cherish it...
A loving fan and fellow poet,
C. S. Blue.
(From: Geeb3 )-Joni performed after Bob Dylan, at Friday night"s concert at the Pauly Pavillion on the U.C.L.A. campus, and was inspiring to say the least. There was a standing ovation as she appeared on stage. She was radiantly beautiful, of course, and opened with a lovely rendition of the romantic, "Night Ride Home". Couples all around reached for their lover's hands or slipped an arm around them instinctively. It was the same reaction to the song five years ago when Joni performed it at U.C.L.A.'s Troubadors of Folk concert, where she previewed songs from Turbulent Indigo (a very special performance, as well).
Her band was very tight and sounded great on a rockin' rendition of Black Crow, where I thought I heard her change the words from, "In search of love and music, my whole life has been..." to "In search of truth and beauty my whole life has been..." which I thought was cool, and a claim that not many other recording artists could legitimately make. After all, "Joni Mitchell never lies!"
The most courageous and wonderful aspect of the concert was seeing Joni up there talking about the genesis of her songs and songwriting. Sex Kills, for example. Talking seriously about the nature of Justice in our society to a huge crowd of people who perhaps weren't expecting to be challenged intellectually, but should be. Magdelane Launderies ... Slouching Towards Bethlehem ... Hejeira ... Big Yellow Taxi. I started to think about how significantly Joni Mitchell's music has helped to shape my value system over the past 27 years, and those of my friends who appreciate her work.
The values of fairness and equity for all; friendship, kindness, and trust; respect and tolerance for others; gratitude for what you have and what God's given us; hope...and of course, love.
This aspect of her work is one of many reasons why it will live on forever.
God bless you always, Joni!
(From: Dennis Reader, firstname.lastname@example.org)- I own a small independent record store in Denver, Colorado and when we had a customer come in to inquire about tickets to the concert in L.A. we were surprised to get tenth row seats. The only problem was the show was in L.A. but we decided to go for it since we knew it would be a once in a life-time event. I have seen Joni at Red Rocks but my friend, Carolyn has been a fan for a long, long time and had never been to see her. The show was awesome. Dylan rocked the house and not once did anyone mention it was his birthday- May 22nd. Joni looked and sounded as good as ever . We loved the way she explained each song to let us know how she came about writing the lyrics. We could see that same beauty and youth that she has always had and she carries herself so gracefully. If it had not been for Joni none would have said anything. Van was terrific even if he looked excatly like Dennis Franz. We could not hear the name of the kid that sang with Van but he was fantastic- let us know if anyone knows his name. The show was well worth the distance to get there. I would have loved a Circle Game or a Blue or a All I Want but Joni can do whatever she wants in my mind. That would be great to be able to get the shirts for the tour since we were indecisive as to which to purchase. The show will always rank up there as one of my favorite. We went to the virgin record store in West Hollywood and on the screen they were playing Joni at Isle of Wright Concert. We heard Woodstock twice in the week-end. What a BLAST. The only disappointment was they should have all come out to sing just one little ditty. That would have been perfect. Keep up the good work on the website.
House lights down.
The first 6 notes of "Night Ride Home" chime through Pauley Pavilion "and so, with a touch of her fingers/Oh, she could make our circuitry explode."
I didn't travel from Kentucky to California to worry about the audience or the critics; I came to hear Joni play live. Through three nights, my anticipation never waned, even though I knew the setlist in advance. For me, each performance of each song is unique and in its moment. The fact that Joni customized the introductions each evening without repetition highlighted that point even more.
Joni's song selection was astute. I'm glad she tried to please herself since this ardent admirer would rather see her pick challenging or more obscure numbers. I've seen Neil Young many times and dread "Heart of Gold" and "The Needle and the Damage Done". Been there, done that, Neil. Do "Opera Star" or "For the Turnstiles", please.
I agreed with Julius as we discussed that the three Hejira tracks, "Black Crow", "Amelia" and "Hejira" formed the thematic nucleus of the show. "Black Crow" and "Sex Kills" shot into the stratosphere propelled not only by Brian Blade's sublime efforts but also Greg L.'s tasty, driving pedal steel playing. These two songs simply rocked in elegant fashion. At Anaheim, my seat afforded me a view of Blade's backlit drumkit during "Black Crow" and I found my hack-drumming self watching his FEET work the high-hat and bass drum for most of the song. Yikes!
Is it any wonder that "Amelia" and "Hejira" are road songs that should be performed live, on the road, that is? These songs connote motion and Joni rendered them with genuine emotional gusto. Anyone unmoved by this pair would have had to have been taking a restroom break.
"Harry's House" was delivered so earnestly that even this track gathered new meaning. Joni seemed so deliberate in its presentation. My favorite new track was "Happiness is the Best Facelift" which I had not heard until these performances. It has a fine guitar part and nice melody.
The highlight was "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" which was beautiful and poignant. We were so fortunate Joni chose to bring this to life. The band lifted this to its potential. On Thursday after this song, I spontaneously jumped to a standing ovation and suddenly fearing I blocked Barbara and Patrick, turned to find them joining me, of course!
While I found "Big Yellow Taxi" amiable, it seemed perfunctory and obligatory. "Woodstock" too, seemed labored and offered no new interpretations. If Joni tours, it would be nice to see her save her solo spots for piano songs.
I found the sound to be more than adequate every night, even in the capacious Pond. Van and Dylan were excellent appetizers and dessert. The entree was worth every sacrifice made to be there three nights in a row. Rather than take up bandwidth sounding like an acceptance speech, let me thank everyone who helped me there with tickets, rides, photos, CD's, tapes, dinner arrangements, etc. It was so fun seeing old and meeting new JMDL'ers.
As Phil and I exited Friday, two youngsters spotted our JMDL T-shirts and said, "Wasn't Joni rad, dudes?". With that comment, I realized two things. One, I was in southern California. Two, there is indeed a younger generation that can discover what we, on the list, have known for years: Joni is indeed a treasure. In fact, SIQUOMB.
(From: email@example.com)-Fresh Memories By Ann Marie Stillion
The sound of Dylan's band pounded loudly against the steel girders on the May 22 evening of the tour which presented Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. I found myself enduring Dylan's set and , later, we didn't stay for Morrison. My girlfriend and I, who do a mean acapella version of "A Case of You" had rolled out of our high mountain town in the Southwest for the big, belching city of L.A. with one goal in mind--to see Joni.
Sitting there, I prayed that Joni Mitchell's music would not be lost in the cavernous basketball stadium which had all the acoustic finesse of a large tin can. Then I remembered the times that I'd read she just wanted to be one of the boys, and in fact, had been a man for many lifetimes. If anyone could transform the hard edges of this oversize garage, it would be the woman who had spent a lifetime coaxing the world of rock and roll to work for her intimate and original sound.
Our first clue that Mitchell would be next on the bill that night was the mounting of a large multi-paneled screen with the image of a dark figure silhouetted against the warm tones of a setting sun or an early dawn. She or he is on a high cliff above a large body of water. The stagehands kept fussing with the drape like it was some giant skirt. I had heard on the website that one of her paintings accompanied her on stage. I wondered if she had put that painting there to tell us if she was just beginning or watching it all end, or something in between.
Next we noticed that the drum set was sitting in a peculiar position, not in the back of the stage, but at the side and in line with whoever would be on next. Having read that the drummer, Brian Blade, was kind a of collaborator, I figured it must be her. Except there was no piano.
The musician once roamed from piano to acoustic guitar to dulcimer to electric guitar. Now she strode to the center of the stage with such a deliberate motion that the audience simply stopped moving and maybe even breathing for a few moments as she joined Larry Klein on bass, Brian Blade on drums and Greg Liesz on pedal steel guitar for this evening's version of "Night Ride Home"--the first song of the set.
I really think of the Roland V-8, her programmable guitar, as being one of the players that evening. The Roland's ability to hold in memory the musician's array of tunings created an ease which allowed Joni Mitchell to murmur as well as rock as she did in "Hejira" or "Just Like This Train"--and with the barest of accompaniment. Though one of my friends complained that it all sounded the same due perhaps to the instrument's ability to synthesize, I heard new versions to old tunes as in "Big Yellow Taxi."
And then there's the singer's voice. I recall she has said her voice didn't match the irony and wit of her lyrics when she first started out. The girl who sang about the bitterness of war had a voice like an angel, and she felt at least sometimes, that it worked against the audience's understanding and relationship to the artist and to the meaning of the song.
The woman's voice is broad and rich and deep. I, for one, didn't miss the soprano and found myself listening more carefully for the story, emotion and color in a singer whose voice holds the texture of a jazz singer and the immediacy of a good street poet. When she struck out through an old song like "Amelia", love and loss flowed over us like a dark syrup. The hall suddenly seemed like a little club somewhere and the rattling girders of the sports arena faded.
Rooted on the Roland, the instinct for the music rolled up from her feet.There was steady, slow dance which accompanied every song. Sometimes the movement was against the beat, sometimes it was on it as if the composer were a part of music and separate from it too. Like a mermaid or a great feathered bird, her motion had the appearance of walking slowly through a wide, shallow sea.
Ann Marie Stillion
First Set: Bob Dylan
Second Set: Joni Mitchell
Third Set: Van Morrison
Joni's always said that sequencing is very important. This was my favorite
night for two major reasons. One is that Dylan went first, making the energy
flow better. After the loud, raucous Dylan show, I think the audience was
happy to relax with Joni. The audience was quieter and more focused for her
set. Plus, Van got to go all the way at the end. It was his best show of the
three nights. The other reason is the way I saw the show. When we got there,
it turned out that our seats had vanished. We were supposed to be sitting
right next to the sound board, but the equipment had taken more space than
planned. The ushers didn't quite know what to do with us. They kept putting
us in seats on the floor where within 5 minutes, someone would show up with
the tickets for those seats and we'd be bumped. After the third time, my
friend put up a fuss and we ended up in the concierges' rest seats - uncomfy
little things WAY up front. We were seated about 10 rows in front of Rob
Reiner, at the very bottom of the bleachers - first row of them right next to
the stage. It was like being in 3rd row off to the side with no one in front
of you. I can't tell you what a difference it made in really being able to
see Joni's every facial expression. I was grinning ear to ear the entire
I didn't really take in the Dylan show that night. We were too busy being
moved around. Joni was much more confident and in better voice. Our seats
were somewhat distracting because we were right next to the backstage gate,
and there was always something going on, but I was transfixed. I was so damn
happy the whole night. Part of it goes back to sequencing. It seemed I was
more excited every night. You'd think once you saw it, it'd be the opposite,
but I was anticipating the whole thing with more unbridled joy by the day. I
think this is also true of who goes on last. The first night, people mostly
sat through Van's show and went absolutely wild for Dylan. The second night,
it was the opposite (though clearly there were more Dylan fans than not, so it
wasn't in complete equal balance).
Another great thing about my perspective that night was that right in my line
of view, behind and above Joni, was the silhouette of a spinner. By that, I
mean one of those DeadHeads that spends most of a concert spinning. She was
doing a lovely spin dance thru Joni's entire set, moving her arms eloquently
to the music. She was dancing backlit in one of the entranceways, on an upper
deck. It made a nice addition to my visuals, the only drawback of which was
that I could only see a little bit of Brian. "Hejira" stands out as something
particularly wonderful that night. I could have flown away during "Black
Crow" - it was rocking, it was jazzy, it was flying. There was incredible
energy in that groove.
Van just blew the roof off that night. He did "Summertime in England" (hi
Rob), something I'd have never guessed as a possibility. I could have died
right there and then a happy woman. Everything he did that night was totally
inspired, with the band as inseparable from him as his shadow.
Van was soulful and spirited, and the horn section excelled-
The burning ground was the highlight for me, as well backup
singer Brian Kennedy's enthusiastic intros, great show.
And then (goosebumps here)- Ladies and Gentlemen,
Joni Mitchell! I won't go into repetitious detail describing
how absolutely stunning and etherial she looked or the
gentle, seductive swaying as she played (but she did look
Here are some standout thoughts:
The highlight on Thursday night was Slouching, oh so
powerful. I have a new appreciation for this song -
her voice was strong and right on target, and Brian's
drumming added an urgency to the delivery that
made this my current favorite.
Harry's House was another favorite of mine, and I found
her delivery of the lines "High fashioned girls," and
"Paper minded males" had a strong, biting edge. Nice to
hear something from Hissing, and the intro about Diary
of a Mad Housewife was fun.
Night Ride Home- Sort of jazzy, I found this to be
a nice introductory song, great to start out the evening
hearing "Once in a while, in a big blue moon, there comes
a night like this..." To set the magical tone for the rest
of the night. Larry was swaying playfully with the bass.
The Hejira triple bill-
Black Crow rocked - I was thrilled that she pulled this
one out, a real treat!
Amelia - got me and just about everyone else I spoke with
really choked up. The pedal steel weaving in and out
as Joni takes us through a trip into a meloncholy sky. Stunning
versions on both nights.
Hejira - loved the intro Friday night "Okay, were still
traveling. But now we're thinking, we're thinking..."
Beautiful and haunting.
Sex Kills - better than I have ever heard it! Brian's drumming
gave this song a wonderful edge.
Paprika Plains - this was another wonderful song,
with an out of this world piano and string section,
but she didn't play it and I am just testing to see if anyone
is really reading yet another review of the concerts.
Anyway- a great time was had, and I really think she
is just warming up for a solo tour (she probably has
not announced it yet because they are still working
with Celine Dion's people about featuring her as
the opening act...)
Joni was great last night for the second Los Angeles show
with Dylan going first in the rotating order with Van M.
I knew she was the consumate performer when she grabbed
tissues in between songs and sneezed hard...she is overcoming
some sort of sinus problem (allergies) without sacrificing
her glorious sound. There seems to be a bit of huskiness to
her voice, but it continues to be strong and clear.
She said the Hejira songs still hold up for her, and we
were so glad she expressed this!
She did the same set as the previous night. I would say
the crowd was more enthusiastic and effusive with our
appreciation of her and ALL her songs.
I'm back home to reality in Mississippi now. What a wonderful concert
it was. Our seats were very near and slightly behind stage right. Had
a very intimate view of the goings on behind the scenes. The sound was
not that great for us because we were behind the speakers but you
could really see and appreciate Joni's guitar playing. She seemed
really relaxed and confident. She is quite a dresser. The setlist was
similar to what she played at NO Jazzfest two years ago. "Slouching"
was a surprise. It really happens live with accompanyment. To me her
voice sounded more like it did ten years ago. Higher and stronger than
the last two albums. She seemed very atuned to the persons in the
audience who appreciate her music. I could swear that she tured to me
and acknowledged my applause and wolf whistle at the end of Hejira as
she blew her nose. A strange thing happpened. I haven't cried in years
but I found myself choking back the tears during Amelia. My 62 year
old aunt who was unfamiliar with her music kept turning to me and
saying, "Isn't her music beautiful." During Dylan's concert she kept
saying in her strong southern accent and loud voice, "Medric, what in
the Kingdom is he saying?" I'm sure this delighted all the strong
Dylan fans around us who kept talking during Joni's set. I'm really
envious of those who had the pleasure attending the tapings and I look
forward to seeing them on PPV.
Well, I made it down to Lah for the 2nd show at Pauley, and was completely
blown away by JM. She looked fabulous, was in good voice (problems with
sinus left over from the Gorge shows were apparently gone) and the band was
very tight. Her set choices were great, if a little difficult for someone
who doesn't know the work well.
My lover's friend is a songwriter and singer and he was completely taken by
"Amelia." When it was over, he turned to me and said "that's a gorgeous
song." The next day I bought him a copy of "Hejira" as a present.
My biggest complaint about the show was that people wouldn't sit still and
shut up, but that's pretty minor.
Now for my main point:
WILL SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN BOB DYLAN'S APPEAL TO ME? It's clear that the
man is a massively talented musician and songwriter, but when he sings, he's
a parody of a parody of himself. I truly couldn't understand ONE WORD of
most of the songs. I don't know his stuff very well (Sam does, and even he
couldn't understand his singing). Clearly others in the audience couldn't
understand him either, since one guy screamed out "play 'Maggie's Farm'"
right after he had played it. Duh. Listening to someone scream with a mouth
full of mashed potatoes for 90 minutes is not what I call music.