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From JM.com's Official Reporter - Laura Oppermann
October 1998 is a special month for Chicago as there are two famous artists appearing here: American Painter Mary Cassatt at the Art Institue, and Canadian Artist Joni Mitchell at the United Center!! Sunday was a beautiful night for her concert. My husband, Mark and I headed down the expressway toward the United Center with my newly purchased copy of Taming The Tiger in the CD player. We arrived at the United Center about an hour and 15 minutes before show time. Went to the Will Call window to pick-up the photo pass as I had volunteered to take photographs for JoniMitchell.com. We wound up in the administrative offices and were told that someone was on their way up to give us the passes and tickets. In the meantime, a reporter came in and sat down next to me and we started talking. He was reporting for a music newspaper called "Showcase" that's free and found in record stores such as Tower. I asked him if he was there to report on Joni too and he said "No, mostly for Bob." but that he may put something about Joni in it if he got to see her, as he was going to leave after Dave Alvin's set and cover a Liz Phair concert going on in the City at the same time, then running back here again for Dylan's concert. He asked if I knew who was in Joni's band. When I said "Brian Blade on drums" he was VERY excited and said he had followed him for a long time and thought he was a GREAT drummer. Now he wanted to stay for Joni's set. I'll look for his review to see if he did get to see Joni.
A big, tall man who was sitting in a chair next to me got up and went over to talk to the security guard and was explaining that he had his family here and was shorted a ticket at Will Call. Another man with long hair and a beard walked in with his wife, stopped dead in his tracks, and said, "Aren't you the famous guitar player, David Bromberg?" The tall, big guy answered, "Yes, I am". And the bearded-man asked him if he could shake his hand, to which David said, "Sure." I'm not familiar with David Bromberg, but piano man Fred Simon informed me that besides his own albums, he appears on at least one Bob Dylan album, New Morning, and has also recorded with John Prine.
Our photo pass then arrived and we went down to see our seats. They were great and I was so glad they were on the end of the row. Some of the Listers were already there, Brad & Kim, Marsha, Kingpin Bob, Doug, Diana and Fred. It was so nice to see them again after enjoying their company the night before at the Chicago Sheridan Hotel where we all met, and as a bonus got to hear Fred's wonderful piano playing. Jodi & Scott were there too, but we didn't get to see them as they were sitting in a different section than we were. Mark and I went down to talk to a specific security guard who we were told to talk to in order to get to take Joni's picture. He called for someone else, a very business like woman who let me know I could only take pics during songs # 2,3,4 and that I'd have access to the whole area in front of the stage right below Joni! I asked her if I could take backstage photos to which she said ñNo.î After the 3 songs I was to go back to my seat and put my camera away. If they saw me taking pictures at my seat my camera would be confiscated. After she left I asked the security guard (who was, by the way, very friendly and helpful) if he would give Joni a little package I had brought (Frango mints....a Chicago favorite chocolate and Frango Breath Mints, similar to Altoids, that Joni and Rosie O'Donnell were sharing on Rosie's show. I had put a little note on the Altoids that "these were to keep her beautiful vocals cool!" and attached a little note on the Frangos (a round hunter green tin box with a handle) that "You can't be in Chicago without having these mints.....enjoy & thank you for coming to Chicago" and signed my name. I wanted Joni to know that she was welcome & wanted here in Chicago and hoped that if she were to get them before the concert, it would give her a good feeling before she stepped out on stage. The security guard said there was no guarantee that Joni would get it but I gave it to him anyway. There were about 4 other security guards watching and listening. One asked me if I was giving her food. I hesitated to answer because I know the rules about bringing food and drink in the United Center. I sheepishly answered yes. And he said, "Good, I'm hungry". I told him he wasn't to dare touch that tin and told him to wait there and I'd be right back. Thank God I had also brought 2 little boxes of the mints to give to any other out-of-town listers that I met. I quickly brought them back to the hungry guards and said, "Eat these. These are for you!" They looked really guilty now (It worked!!) and they refused.....at first but then they took them! But I told them, "Now look, this isn't a bribe....but you must stay out of Joni's tin". They laughed, thanked me and I quickly walked away as I needed to go over my camera one more time.
The lights went down, the concert started, and Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men took the stage. What I heard of it sounded good but I wasn't crazy about them. I'm not familar with his band. I have to say I was so nervous/excited and thrilled to be taking pictures so CLOSE to Joni that although I heard the music, I didn't hear the music. I couldn't concentrate on anything but my camera and telling myself over and over that I must calm down, I must not shake, I can't blur the pictures. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. Okay, I'm only human. It was so emotional for me to just SEE Joni from afar. I'd have to keep all my emotions in check, detatch myself and focus on the pictures.
The last time I had seen Joni was at Alpine Valley in 1979, and then we only saw her about 35 minutes as the concert was closed due to heavy rains and fear of electrocution. I've listened to her since I was 16 years old and "discovered" FM radio. I listened to Court & Spark constantly on my headphones, my ears often hearing something new in the same old songs. New harmony, new meaning to lyrics, new revelations....like that musical instrument is actually Joni's voice, etc, etc! My senior year term paper was on Joni. I spent all day at the Chicago public library researching every article ever written, copying it off of microfiche, and incorporating EVERY article into my paper. I wrote a masterpiece full of Joni info and all my thoughts and feelings. I got an A+. The teacher loved it and asked to keep it. I was thrilled he wanted it (never thought of copying anything back then. I don't know if we even had a copier at the school) and then kicked myself as soon as I got home because I really wanted it myself. Mr Granner of Stevenson High- if you're reading this, I WANT MY REPORT BACK!!! I lived and breathed Joni for years and years and only got distracted during the disco area!!! Around the time Mingus came out. I know.. DISCO!? But, Joni likes to dance, too!! This concert is what I've been dreaming of for years! I really never believed she'd ever come near Chicago again! What a thrill and honor to take pics for Joni's Website!
After Dave Alvin's set was over, the lights came on for a 15 minute break. I checked out the tables of concert memorabilia. Two different JM t-shirts were being sold and 2 lithographs, signed or unsigned. Tons of Bob Dylan stuff!! Not fair! Not fair! Also, the lithographs came as is. No box or hard cardboard to carry them in. We were allowed to buy them and then pick them up after the show. But you had to ask. They weren't volunteering that info.
Chicago Radio station WXRT was sponsoring this concert and their DJ Johnny Mars came on to introduce Joni. The crowd roared and stood up. I couldn't see!! I went into the aisle to see the stage. And there she was, solo, on stage. What a feeling went through me to see her after 20 years. Chills! My stomach had butterflies!! Flip-flops! I felt like a kid wanting to jump up and down! And to be so close! We had better seats then I ever imagined, and had remembered to bring binoculars! Joni smiled from the get-go and the audience was very receptive. She began with the very familiar, "Big Yellow Taxi," interjecting a little nasally impression of Bob Dylan and including Janet Jacksons version with the line, "Now why'd ya want to go and do that." The audience loved it and responded. The song ended.
It was still dark as I made my way to the front of the stage. The security guards were very helpful (I'm sure having gourged themselves on 2 boxes of Frangos helped!) and told me I had the whole area in the front of the stage to myself. There were no other photographers. There I was right below Joni!!! I was still off to the left side of her so I snapped some pictures. People in the front row were sitting directly behind me. A small guard rail was separating me from the people and the stage. A very narrrow area. I inched to the front of the stage while taking these pictures. I was looking straight up into Joni's face. I wanted to throw myself on stage in front of her and prostrate myself. But darn! I had this camera in my hands and I had to take pictures. Well, a calm fell over me. I should have been shaking like a leaf but to my surprise, I was steady! The band came out- Brian Blade on drums, Larry Klein on bass (I had to look a little longer at Larry since he had actually been married to Joni!!!), Chris Botti, trumpet player, and Greg Liesz on pedal steel guitar. Joni looked relaxed and really into her music, almost trance-like at times. She started to sing "Just Like This Train". Yeah, she knew I was there as I saw her glance down, but I didn't want to make eye contact. Not now. I didn't want to disturb her and/or lose my concentration. I wanted some decent pictures. Not easy when there is so little time and Joni is just a couple feet away!!!. So, I realized that I wasn't nervous anymore. I'm really into this. She looks beautiful and relaxed. Her blond hair, shoulder-length, the static making strands of her hair stand-up and form a circle around her head as if in a halo as she sings. She wore a rust colored skirt and tunic top with tiny buttons down the front. Good thing someone else was keeping track of the songs as I couldn't tell you what she sang without the assistance!
I lost count of the songs and as I was changing film, the guard nearest me said my time was up. Time had flown by! Back at my seat I watched Joni through binoculars. At the end of most songs she would turn to Larry and smile. I've always liked "Harry's House" and was excited to hear her sing it. Joni's voice was strong and the song sounded great! "Black Crow" was really a rocking number. I cannot say enough good things about "Amelia" ( very moving!) and "Hejira" as I was still in a state of disbelief getting to be so close to Joni. I switched gears and tried to take notes in the dark, so my memory wouldn't fail me. I'm so glad others are sharing their thoughts, too.
Joni introduced "Happiness is the Best Facelift" as a "Christmas Song for all mothers". Obviously quite pleased that she recently found her daughter and grandson. As she sang the chorous at one point, she held her head high as if to say, "check out my facelift". Her happiness was showing!
She introduced "Sex Kills" with the statement: "This song has taken on a whole new meaning since (Bill) Clinton started poking his cigars around," surprizing the audience.
She introduced "The Magdalene Laundries" with an explanation of their crimes and twice reminded us that it closed as recently as 1972. Sung with much feeling, her voice emphasized the disgust, anger, sadness and helplessness of these women as her song told the story of the horror. Someone from the audience yelled something out and Joni's fast comback was, "Just a minute. I have the floor!" And then, in good humor, she asked the audience, "Can you hear me?" She started into "Moon at the Window" but then stopped on about the 3rd line and said , "I'm going to stop this one," and laughing, she said that she had talked enough and had to keep her set moving. She pulled off her guitar and really got into her next number, Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man." I loved it!
Joni finished in a cloud of her own smoke (literally as she stepped toward the back of the stage and lit a cigarette) and started swayin' and crooning, "Nothing can be done" from Billie Holiday's, "Comes Love". She had no guitar and was snapping her fingers, her body swaying to the music, while Chris Botti's horn filled the air. Joni was HOT on this one! What a finish. How could we not want more! She left the stage holding Larry's hand with her face lit-up with the biggest smile. There was no doubt that she had given a great performance, and Chicago loved her and wanted more! We got "Woodstock" as an encore.
Personally, I thought the music and Joni sounded incredible!! She looked happy and into her music. She also was witty with her comments to the audience. The dream had come true for me and it was better then I could have imagined!
During the break, Joni's trumpeter, Chris Botti, was walking around in the audience. Marsha and I recognized him, she struck up a conversation and, of course, got a picture taken with him. Later I went up to the guard and asked if there was anyway I could get Joni to sign my '79 concert t-shirt. He told me, "No way. Not in a million years." As I turned to walk away he said, "Oh, by the way. Joni PERSONALLY got your gift. We were able to hand it directly to her." I was thrilled!!!! While I was there, Chris Botti was also talking to the guards and concerned that his friends couldn't get in to the concert because there were no tickets for them at the Will Call window and they were supposed to be there. So, we weren't the only ones with problems with the Will Call window! Even Joni's musician!
I had never seen Bob Dylan in concert before and I really had fun with his music, watching him through the binoculars. It appeared like he was looking at the audience but really his eyes were moving to each of the musicians. He was anticipating their parts. He charmed me! Each time smoke poured out of the stage, so did the smell of marijuana. I figured "everybody must get stoned" at his concerts. But how could they get away with it??? I was amazed! Suddenly a guard removed the kid behind me and someone behind him...both were smoking weed!!! All that smoke blowing my way could just be the reason why I liked Bob's concert more than I thought I would!
Big Yellow Taxi
Just Like This Train
Night Ride Home
The Crazy Cries Of Love
Free Man In Paris
The Magdalene Laundries
Moon At The Window (partial)
REPORTS FROM THE INTERNET COMMUNITY
(From:Jodjrrph@aol.com)-My wife and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary at the concert last night and had a glorious time. It was our first Joni Mitchell concert and I went with almost uncontrolled excitement and a bit of trepidation considering the concert site. We came away very pleasantly surprised at the acoustics in the very large United Center. We could hear virtually every lyric sung and word spoken by Joni. Dylan's set was, of course, much louder and less intelligble but I think Bob is probably barely intelligble at normal conversational volume.
The set list remained essentially the same as the posted list from the Minneapolis show with a couple of exceptions. I don't believe she played Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, though I am not completely familiar with the piece so she may have snuck it past me. We were treated to an encore of Woodstock played solo. A fitting ending to a beautiful show!
Our seats were 2 rows off the floor and about two-thirds back from the stage. The crowd was very respectful and polite. There was a group of motley "gentlemen" in front of us who got very stoned during Joni's set. At first an annoyance, later part of the entertainment with their air guitar show. I would like to hear from others at the show who had less desirable seats and their assesssment of the acoustics to guide future ticket-buying decisions at the U.C. Thanks!
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-It was a glorious night for Joni, her band, and all of us privileged to witness her tonight. She was animated and quite expressive in her delivery. I think she was relaxed, and it appeared as if she were really enjoying herself. We noticed more syncopation, and rhythmic phrasing in her songs as she punched out the words, even on songs like Hejira and Amelia.
Her voice was the best yet; strong, clear, reaching higher notes than on her last tour out west. She was able to accomplish grace notes and slid into multi-noted words without effort, as I said before, "punching" the delivery. Also her strength was evident in greater volume as she actually belted out notes I have not heard on recordings since Shadows and Light.
Her look: A rust colored long silk skirt and matching tunic top, loose without belt nor cinching. It was a shade darker than her Parker Fly guitar and complemented it well. Her lips were berry-stained. She wore her favored silver ball earrings, and a silver necklace (?turquoise, small squash blossom pattern), and she had on her two rings of her left hand. That gemstone is still on her left ring finger, and a larger flat ring was on her middle finger. Her nails were silvery, the longer lengths being on her right hand...I couldn't see her shoes for the long skirt and heighth of the stage from my vantage point. Her hair was of fuller body, a little fly-away, parted off-center a bit. And to finish off the ensemble, I think she wore a Wonder bra... ;-)
The band was tight, same members. I did meet and speak briefly with that gorgeous Chris Botti, her new Botticelli horn boy (muted trumpet), who told me he is moving to LA in two weeks from New York. He is so beautiful. I think I am in love... He posed with me for a photo. Thanks go to our Laura O. for snapping the pic for us together. The trumpet added drama and was louder and had more parts added than what Mark Isham played for her at the WB taping we will see in two weeks on PPV.
The setlist deviated a bit from Minneapolis...no Don Juan's Reckless Daughter tonight...shucks! And she flubbed the third line of Moon at the Window, stopped and said "I'm going to skip this one", put down her guitar and proceeded with Trouble Man. She did do the cigarette prop with Comes Love. She came back for an encore with Woodstock.
The performance seemed to last only minutes, due to my transfixed state as she played. Joni looked happy tonight, and I was happy to see her looking so happy...heck, we all felt happy...
She did command attention from a shouting guy during her description (lengthy) of what prompted the Magdalene Laundries, and told him "I have the floor now" and asked us if we heard her, and was her voice a blurred sound? It was after this that she abruptly stopped Moon..., and I see her pattern of confronting something onstage and then having a bit of a delayed reaction with a blocking of thought processes, maybe due to possible anxiety she might feel afterward or an emotional reaction of some kind.
I am eager to see her next in Atlanta (for me) and hope she keeps up the standard of the best performance I have seen out of the five I've been to since May.
(From:email@example.com)-The United Center is, at best, a sterile and uninviting place; at worst, it's an oversized basketball stadium destined to treat musicians of any stripe with the same bludgeoning disrespect such places are known for. As a long-time (retired) Grateful Dead fan, I had much first hand knowledge of what such venues could do to the sound and atmosphere surrounding an artist, and it was only with some trepidation that I found myself sitting in one of the upper deck seats this past weekend, waiting for the chance to indulge in something I had written of a couple of years ago: a concert appearance by Joni Mitchell.
The bill was difficult to ignore, not only was the show marking the first return of Joni to the Chicago area since the early 1980's (minus a very recent, benefit-swells only appearance at a local music school) , but, in what would seem at first glance an inspired pairing, she was doubled-up with another long-time hero, Bob Dylan. The sense of anticipation was acute, as I had been a long-time Joni-phile who hadn't gotten but a few televised or print glimpses of her since I attended that last, long-ago Chicago concert. I was interested in how she was; like a long lost friend suddenly expected into town, I was as concerned as much as how she looked and how she handled herself out on stage again as I was in hearing the music. Knowing that she would be likely to load her show with selections from her most recent album, I was equally intrigued by which of the other songs that made up her canon and my musical landscape she would select: would these selections provide the "clues" I was seeking to how my friend was doing these days? I could only hope.
And so I swallowed my long-standing aversion to the local institutionalized ticket-scalpers, Ticketmaster, and forked out the money for what proved to be a seat very far away. Luckily, binoculars come in handy. By showtime, the arena was only sparsely populated - I had heard someone say in the parking lot the show had only sold 11,000 tickets (in an arena that holds at least considerably more). I worried about what Joni would be like in such a dark, cavernous place, and held my breath through the opening act and watched the groups of fresh-faced kids smoke and laugh alongside me.
By an hour later she had appeared. Starting the show alone, the came out her guitar and a glass of water. Dressed in a floor-length brown dress, her golden hair shone out in the bright stage lights of an otherwise sparse stage. She opened with They Paved Paradise (and put up a parking lot), strummed quietly, her voice lilting out of the stacks of amplified speakers that lined the stage. She was soon joined by her band, including Larry Klein and Brian Blades. The set list contained some of the songs she had played in other, recent shows: Night Ride Home, Crazy Crow, Hejira, Harry's House, Just Like This Train, Amelia and Sex Kills all made appearances. A couple of selections from the new album, Taming the Tiger, came along as well: Crazy Cries of Love (introduced as dedicated to "aal of the lovers in small apartments with thin walls or parents around), and Happiness is the Best Face Lift both shone with the beauty of the new. Her voice seemed in fine form, and she tapped her foot and swayed along, sometimes a bit vigorously, as her band provided empathetic support to her thin, high-sounding guitar playing.
But the clues to how she was doing, in that old, lost-friend mode, were there as well. Saying very little, she concentrated on her songs, smiles after wards and small bows showing her appreciation. She seemed small up there on stage, far away, but dedicated as well, moving from song to song with a confidence that might have been shaken in another performer attempting such intimate music in such vast surroundings. Bits of the old flash and fire we've come to expect from her showed as well: during the introduction to The Magdeline Laundries, she paused and pointed a finger at one of the inevitable ones who screamed something out during her monologue. "Excuse me," she said, looking up into the blackness surrounding her. "...but I have the floor here". During the start to Refuge of the Roads, she struggled, it seemed, with the beginning, not appearing to have joined voice and guitar to her liking. Less than a minute into it, she stopped, and said "forget it", or words to that effect, and decided to abandon the tune entirely. And during the last two songs of her set (which, unfortunately, I had never heard and don't know the titles to), she abandoned her guitar as well for her ever-present cigarette, moving back and forth between verses to smoke in the wings, arms folded, knee gently swaying.
But the show, as wonderful as it was, was a bit out of place. (And it was wonderful, at least to my eyes and ears. Not only was it another chance to visit that friend, but a renewed sense of the breadth and depth of her songwriting, not to mention her continuing relevance and intensity was demonstrated. Not to mention, her voice is still a revelation, cigarettes or no.) Many of the concertgoers were there for some other reason, whether it be Dylan or conversation, and treated the music as almost inconsequential. While there were no doubt those who hung on every word and tried in the barn-like acoustics to follow every note, others, unfamiliar with Joni, were robbed of the chance to really take the opportunity to learn more about an artist that has a lot to say to them. Lost in the oversized room and buried under the hanging banners of many championship sports teams that feel more at home in the United Center, no doubt, than musicians do, Joni's music could only be appreciated in small doses and from far away, at least metaphorically. Even Bob Dylan used way too much smoke in the beginning of his set to try and overcome such disparity between singer/songwriter and listener.
Nevertheless, it was she, acoustics and sightlines be damned. I've heard good things about the recent Old Town School show, and can only hope her newfound touring resolve can extend to another visit back to Chicago and a promoter who can recognize the need to present her work in an environment more conducive to the nature of that work. But until then, I'll just have to work to remember what she was like and what she means, cigarette smoke, loud chatter, gargantuan distance and all.
(From:STUTHALBLUM@prodigy.net)-Lynn and I went to the United Center last night to see Bob and Joni and Dave. Since the show wasn't even close to sold out, we were able to get $50 seats 7 rows off the floor for $25 each.
Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men started off at 7:02 sharp.æ I noticed immediately that the sound was pretty good for the cavernous home of the Bulls. Dave Alvin's got a deep, barrel-chested voice and plays sorta BR5-49 hard-country.æ He did a great medley of one of his own into "Ain't Got the Do-Re-Mi" into "Promised Land" and I thought I was at a Grateful Dead show and felt like dancing.æ He also did his own "Fourth of July" and closed with a version of "American Music" which went into a guitar solo that included some of "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid."æ I enjoyed his 35-minute set a lot.
Joni Mitchell came on at 7:54 and did a solo version of "Big Yellow Taxi." Her voice has deepened and coarsened a lot from smoking and I don't think the song suits her anymore, but her new-style vocals were very effective for the rest of the set.æ After another song, he band came on and was really top-notch.æ It included Daniel Lanois' and Emmylou Harris' accomplice Brady Blade on drums and Joni's ex-husband Larry Kein on bass, and with Joni's jazzy guitar chording, made a lot of really good jamming grooves. The band also had a pedal steel/guitar/mandolinist and a trumpeter who imitated Miles Davis slavishly.æ Her set included "Night Ride Home", "Thin Walls", Free Man in Paris", "Amelia", "Sex Kills", "Happiness is the Best Facelift" and "The Magdalene Laundries."æ She put down the guitar and sang Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man'' and Bille Holiday's "Comes Love", both of which were phenomenal.æ She came back for a solo encore of "Woodstock", closing her set after 75 minutes.æ I'm really glad I finally saw Joni Mitchell and would see her again if she comes through for less than the $3,000 per ticket that the Old Town School recently charged for a fund-raiser.
Bob was, well, Bob.æ Seen him better (each of the last two times at the 35,000 seat New World Music Theatre with Ani DiFranco and BR5-49, and the 1100-capacity Metro with David Bromberg), and seen him worse (most of the late 1980s and early 1990s).æ Played from 9:35 to 11:12 in all.æ Set was:
(el): Serve Somebody, I'll Remember You, Cold Irons Bound, Just Like a Woman, Silvio.æ (ac): It Ain't Me Babe, Masters of War, Don't Think Twice, Tangled Up in Blue. el.: To Make You Feel My Love, Highway 61 Revisited. Encore: (el) While I Was Sleeping, Rainy Day Women. (ac) Blowin' in the Wind.æ (el) ????????æ (ac) Forever Young.
Liked his acoustic numbers best, especially It Ain't Me Babe and Don't Think Twice. Lynn thought he put EXTRA marbles in his mouth for Masters of War.
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-Well, I am still processing the experience of seeing Joni for the first time (basking in the afterglow is more like it). I was somewhat leery of the United Center as a musical venue, and ironically enough, my seats, which were on the floor about 50 feet or so from the stage were about 10 feet away from my hockey seats (where the night before the Blackhawks beat Nashville 5-4). I was pleasantly suprised by the sound quality in such a huge space. Intimacy was created, although the setting was not intimate. I was moved to tears throughout, and I was not alone, particularly by the subtle renditions of Hejira and Amelia. I took three old friends who I knew would fully appreciate seeing her, and driving home we had great conversation about the memories attached to her music. The crowd ranged in age from about 5 to 70, I think, the parking was lot a melange of vw microbuses, range rovers, old subarus...a real cross section of fans.
Joni's music has been with me through the best and worst moments of my life. It meant so much to see her live in the company of so many others clearly moved and grateful also. (Women randomly standing on their seats and having what looked like religious epiphanies, 18 year old boys awestruck with deer in the headlights grins) I am struck by the range, timelessness, and relevance of her body of work. I hope the next time she's in town, we can set her up at the Park West ( or even the commercial, but comfortable House of Blues). Of course a smaller venue may require more than one show...I could live with that. As for Bob Dylan, his band made the show spectacular, lots of the acoustic sound that I am partial to, included a lovely "Tangled up in Blue", and "Masters of War" which roared like train and sent a collective chill through the room. Great energy and a real cohesive group who looked like they were having the time of their lives in a honkey tonk, instead of a huge arena. They closed with "Forever Young". Our ears were still ringing with Joni.
(From:email@example.com)-Now that we've reviewed the set list, picked apart the fashion details, and shivered over how cute the trumpet player was, I thought I'd touch upon some stuff that hasn't been brought up about the MUSICIANS at the show.
Greg Leisz, the pedal steel player extraordinaire, really added amazing colors to the songs, especially 'Amelia'. He is a very in- demand session player (he's THEE GUY for pedal steel) and it was a treat to have him along with Larry Klein and Brian (not Brady) Blades helping to frame Joni's songs.
Brian Blades is a most tasteful, restrained, and orchestrally minded player. There really seems to be other-worldly telepathy between he and Joni; the kind that normally comes from decades of playing together, or from siblings. It may sound strange to say that a drummer could've been louder in the house mix, but Brian was not very loud.
Larry Klein is a happy man. He was beaming the entire performance. He loves playing this music, which I can imagine has a lot to do with why he and Joni became friends in the first place. The low notes he hit on the B string of his 5-string bass were perhaps the most primal tones of the evening.
Trumpeter Chris Botti filled in the spots normally reserved on the recordings for one mister Wayne Shorter quite fine. The majority of his playing was done with a mute. He managed to stay out of the way and be a supportive player.
Congratulations to Joni on picking a wonderful cast of people to entrust her music to. Here's hoping she gets sick of stadiums real fast. There were too many people talking, waiting for Dylan. Joni's music deserves a more intimate setting (Park West in Chicago would be perfect). Don't get me wrong, I loved the show in spite of it, and I enjoyed Dylan even without a translator...but it is a fact that people who were there to see Joni primarily, like myself, were penalized by the people there to see Dylan that didn't give a shit about Joni. They talked, drank, smoked weed, got up to leave during the quiet songs...some entire sections of people got up and left and then returned in the middle of other songs. It's a drag to pay $50 for a ticket for an artist you truly love and have to put up with that disrespect. But for fear of never seeing Joni play ever...what can you do?
One other note...I read on this website an advocation for buying the new Joni record at "big stores" other than ma n'pa independant stores so the record would get Soundscanned?! You know there are some things more important than record sales...like for instance principles. Think about it, how do you think artists like Joni that don't get a lot of airplay get passed on from generation to generation? Well, I can assure you small independant record stores play a fair part. You think staff at Tower or Virgin or Border's is going to stop and try to steer the new Lilith Fair generation toward Joni Mitchell? Much less her back catalogue? Don't worry, Joni's not going to lose her record contract, her art isn't going to suffer, and just because something is high on Billboard doesn't mean that it'll start getting radio airplay. I think it's wrong to advocate buying at big corporate stores and something tells me, just from the kind of person that I've read in interviews and that I know through her music, that Joni would probably agree with me...I don't think she'll go poor.
Tommi Christopher Zender
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-This was my third time seeing Joni. I absolutely adore her and am a devoted fan! I saw her for the first time at Ravinia around 71 or 72 and of course had much closer seats then.æ I saw her again in the late 70's at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin and then last night at the United Center.æ These last two times I took my mother along, so it was a special evening for us.æ æ
She came out very confident and cool, starting the show with "Big Yellow Taxi".æ I sang along to every word of it, nearly moved to tears that I was seeing her live and that I was singing along to her live!æ This show seemed to touch me more than the others in the past, although each time I've seen her it has been a fabulous show.æ I guess it is because I don't know when the next chance will be when she will tour in this area again.æ So, I sat in my seat singing along to every song but the two that weren't her compositions.æ I only wish I were up front right near the stage!æ The sound was very crisp and clear and you could hear every word and note.æ There appeared to be a problem when she started to sing "Moon at the Window" where the computer for her guitar apparently went out of synch.æ She handled it well and moved on to the next song, her feathers unruffled.æ æ
She handled some momentary rudeness from someone in the audience by saying with total control and confidence that she "has the floor" and she continued to tell the story behind "The Magdalene Laundries".æ That song had a whole new depth of meaning for me after hearing that.æ Her overall performance was that of total class. Being a poet, singer and guitarist myself, I have to say that Joni Mitchell has influenced me more than anyone else, well, other than Bob Dylan of course! æ
As far as Bob Dylan's performance, the band really rocked!ææ This was my second time seeing Dylan.æ The first was 72 at the Chicago Stadium and then last night. The sound system didn't seem as good as it was for Joni.æ His voice seemed to be drowned out by the loudness of the band.æ The band was really good, Bob's guitar work was good, yet nothing was really defined, especially his voice and his words.æ I was a bit annoyed at this because here is this legend who has written such significant songs over the past 30 plus years and he isn't communicating them in a clearly heard way!æ Nonetheless, he still was very cool and appeared to be happy and comfortable.æ I was especially moved during "Blowin in the Wind".æ I just wish his voice came across louder and with more enunciation as he has such significant things to say!
(From:Davidcrass@aol.com)-Chicago - United Center: The last time I saw Joni was at the Santa Barbara Bowl sometime around 15 years ago. It was a truely magical evening complete with a helicopter fyling overhead during Woodstock. Joni looked up at the helicopter as she sang about the "bombers in the sky". I have been a devoted fan for 20 years now. This music has been with me through many diiffiult times, as well as, happy times. Seeing Joni perform again has been a dream come true for me. I traveled by train from Columbai Missouri to Chicago. As the miles rushed by, I couldn't help but remember the first time I really listened to Joni's music. A jazz musician freind of mine in Austin Texas gave me the album Hejira and told me he was sure this music would touch me. He was right! I must have listened to the album a hundred times. So, it was especially wonderful to hear the song Amelia in Chicago. Joni's voice was so strong and beautiful during the song that it brought tears to my eyes. The entire set was equally as wonderful. I have to admit however, that it was hard to see her perform in such a cold setting.The United Center seemed to me to be the wrong enivironment - but then again, I was lucky enough to see her under he stars in Santa Barbara many moons ago. Speaking of moons, during the beginning of Moon at the Window, something malfunctioned and she abandoned the song stating, " I think I'll skip this one, there's a time thing here and I've talked too long tonight". How sad I thought. Why are you perfoming in such a place? In Santa Barbara, she strummed her guitar while we walked down the side of the mountain safely to our cars. There was no "time thing". Maybe I'm getting old, but why not perform in places where her fans can come up to the stage, dance and sing along? Places where rude people (not into her music) don't go. Places more intimate where she could sing Comes Love and the audience could really share their love for this unbelievable music and exraordinary artist. As much as I loved the performance and seeing Joni again, I couldn't help but remember that night in Santa Barbara when life was somewhat more simple and did not revolve around record sales, contracts and cold places.
(From:email@example.com> To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" joni mitchell had a remarkable night sunday at the united center in chicago. she used the elaborate, but questionable qcoustics, to her ad- vantage by lettint her music flow into the upper reaches instead of blasting to the rafters. too bad bob dylan didn't take note of this. joni's set, fea- turing her new Roland guitar with its tuning features, was framed with solo versions of "big yellow taxi" and "wodstock" that apeared to be more inspired than the originals. her explanation of the plight of women in the history of Ireland was interrupted by rude noise. she quickly asserted herself by declaring thet "I have the floor"--no more noise. her selections saluting Mothers, dreams, Amelia, dreams, and Trouble Man were cool and well received. Come back soon, joni.
(From:email@example.com)-It was an indescribable event - from the journey to Chicago from Milwaukee; (listening to vintage Joni bootlegs, and her 3 new cover songs in the car; standing outside the UC and grabbing my friend in a fit of ecstacy yelling,"I can't believe we are finally here!") to entering into the UC jungle of dopers, smokers, and a few drunks...and ages from 5 to 60 or older! After picking up 2 of the 3 Joni tee shirts, and Craig agonizing over which signed litho to snag, we located our "front and center seats" - which were on the floor on the right side of the sound techs... a bit disappointing for 57 smackers...
Luckily, R & R brought 2 pair of binoculars so that the 4 of us could see HER in all her splendor... The 3 seats in front of us remained empty, so that we got a good view of her 99% of the time. We were also free of most of the talkers and dopers.
Promptly at 8 she appeared, solo, with Big yellow taxi, adding "Why you wanna go do that" as a little rap/chant at the tail of the song. Just Like this Train was next, still solo and gorgeous. After a brief band into, it was Night Ride Home, starting off solo and the band easing on in during the second verse.
She was clear -her voice started out in better than I've ever heard it recently. She seemed to be ina good mood, but in watching her face, that changed from time to time - once with the heckler and his cat-calls during her historical, but not personal (i.e. Just Ice) intro of the Magdalene Launderies, and when she lost control of voice and/or guitar after the first 4 lines of "Moon at the Window". And she was actually doing the 1st verse - "It takes cheerful resignation"etc.!!! Then she commented on how she had done too much talking that day... But as she moved on to Trouble Man, the audience forgot the faux pas - every performer's fear of a big screw up for whatever reason - and really got into it.
All her songs were fab; there were musical exicutions and chord changes in Amelia, one of my all-time faves, and Facelift was outstanding - I was very disappointed with the CD version - and I could go on and on...Too bad I had to wait 15 years for this..
We left after her set,vocal chords hurting from yelling "We love you Joni", not wanting Bobby to interfere with our afterglow from that evening with Joni...
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-The United Center is the last place I would ever want to see an artist like Joni Mitchell. Big, lumbering, and as acoustically challenged as it gets, the United could be a bad blind date unworthy of the classy Miss M. However, Joni pulled it in off in spades. Those new to her music certainly missed the caress and punch of her words often lost in the stratosphere of the arena. But Joni seduced us, with rhythm and simplicity, into accompanying her on a journey.
Nearly every song until late in the set used travel and faraway locations as metaphors, from the opening "Big Yellow Taxi" to "Just Like This Train" and a "Night Ride Home" before heading off to Paris to see the "Free Man in...". Then she hit the road in a three song set from "Hejira". She then introduced "Face Lift" from the new album as a "Christmas song for all mothers". Her band barreled through a muscular version of "Sex Kills" and then slowed down for a rapturous version of "The Magdalene Laundries". "Moon at the Window" was quickly ejected after a few measures when Joni abruptly announced "I'm not going to do this song", whether because of time constraints or what might have been trouble with her new computerized guitar was not clear. She put down her guitar and the band launched into Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" followed by "Comes Love", an obscure Billy Holliday tune. Joni sang like she had been waiting to get to these tunes all night. Not too suprising that she had mad comments about doing an album of covers next time out. She sounded great and was having so much fun, now I can't wait for it to come out.
I loved the arrangement of the band with the drum kit to her left instead of behind her. Besides giving her the focus, it projected a warm feeling of 5 musicians playing for the love of the songs and each other. In retrospect, I'm most impressed by how Joni handled such an unwieldy space with her spare percussive playing and her strong vocals purring and punching the lines, playing to the back row then drawing us up to the stage with her.
(From:email@example.com)-Sunday night, my wife and I treated ourselves to the an excellent concert by Joni Mitchell. I have been a Joni fan for years but my wife only new her C&S; stuff, so for her it was a real education. She was delighted by Joni's performance and hasn't stopped listening to all her other cd's since we got home. Joni's performance was masterful, literate, and well-balanced. Glad she didn't perform the "hits" that everyone wanted her to do. The band was right on and Jonie guitar playing was sharp and exciting.
The play list was energetic and complementary. I thought "Sex Kills" and "Amelia" were the highlights. Not being a fan of Hejira, "Amelia" got me re-interested in it. Great to hear her pull out "Night Ride Home" and wished she had done something from Dog Eat Dog or Chalkmark. Maybe next time around. "Magdalene Laundries" was touching, as was her speech before it. I was at the concert to see my Dylan primarily, as I am a diehard Dylanphile, but even I thought the idiots who kept calling for him to come out and take over for Joni were too much. What a bunch of assholes. Joni truly deserves more respect than that. Comparing the two, I left the show admitting to my wife (who has seen Dylan 5 times with me) that Joni's show was better.
Acoustics at the United Center suck. This is the third concert we've seen there (Elton John and Billy Joel) and it confirms it will be the last. The place is not an audiophile dreamland. Time to pull its plug. And, the middle-aged, beer guzzling, popcorn-crunching, nachos-nibbling, pizza scarfing jerks who have to get up every five minutes to get more to eat and drink just ruined the entire night overall. I guess civility ended years ago, as was evidenced by many of the audience members treatment of Joni.
Good luck to Joni and Bob on the rest of their tour. Just one wish: they would duet just once, someplace, and get it over with. I couldn't think of two better artists to sing together today. Perhaps they could call the the Traveling Wilburys Reincarnate?
10/25/98 United Center, Chicago
I last saw Joni in concert in San Francisco for the Shadow and Light tour almost 20 years ago, so I was very excited to find out that she was coming to Chicago. Unfortunately, I didn't check the "What's New " section of Wally's web site as frequently as I should have so that by the time I heard about this concert the only available seats through Ticketmaster were in the second tier at the far end of the stadium (I'm kicking myself now for not going through a ticket broker for better seats). From that vantage point my observations are very close to the previous writer who sat in a similar section. The people who sat near me and my husband were not really in synch with Joni's music (literally and figuratively - the lady behind me was clapping along with Black Crow so totally off the beat that I spent the whole song trying to figure out how she could possibly fit her rhythms in with the song's). Too many people were there just to see Dylan and talked while Joni was playing and even worse repeatedly yelled out "Bobby" towards the end of Joni's set. The acoustics from my section were not as bad as I had expected, but still too distant and cold for the music to overpower you emotionally. Quite a contrast from the perfect setting I experienced in SF the last time I saw Joni - all Joni fans and a wonderful concert hall.
Despite all of this, Joni and the band were amazing. Joni's voice was very strong, there is a richness to her voice when you hear it live that I have never heard captured on disc. And I am tired of reading how cigarette smoking has somehow damaged her vocal abilities. I listened to some older works tonight (Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira) and as good as her vocals were then, they seem so narrow compared to the depth she now possesses. This was especially noticeable during this live performance as she used her voice like an instrument to blend with the other instruments on the stage. Plus, to watch her hands work the guitar and create such a full spectrum of sound is awe inspiring. Her voice and her guitar were incredibly connected with the band, it is hard to believe that they haven't been playing together for years.
Part of Joni's brilliance is finding wonderful musicians to collaborate with and this was no exception, the interpretations by the band couldn't have been better. There was a subtlety in their playing that pulled you into the music. Greg Leisz and Chris Botti provided unbelievably light strokes of color floating on top of the vocals. And Larry Klein was a joy to hear and especially to watch - he looked like he was having the time of his life. I do agree with Tommi, the drum mix was way too soft, I could see more drum playing than I could hear. Too bad, because what did come through was wonderful - a much more musical than rhythmic sound.
I really enjoyed the selection of numbers, a nice mix of old and new. I read the set list from the Minneapolis concert before I left for the United Center and was looking forward to hearing Amelia more than any of the other song because it was so beautiful when I heard it 20 years ago. But, some MORON sitting in the row behind me talked all the way through the song which destroyed the mood. The most pleasant surprise for me was Happiness is the Best Facelift. It was sung with a slightly faster tempo than on the album and came across with an almost lighthearted "Mom is driving me crazy" feel that the album version didn't possess (there seemed to be a lot more pain in the album cut). It was great to hear Harry's House live, I would have loved to have heard Edith and the Kingpin paired with it. Especially with Joni's current vocal style, which happened to be a perfect fit for her last two numbers: Trouble Man and Comes Love. It was nice to have an encore of Woodstock, but I can't help feeling that it was put in to please the Top 40 crowd. I would have preferred My Best to You as an encore- what a great song. Nevertheless, all of the numbers were beautifully played, it's just too bad they were played in an acoustic wasteland with a large part of the audience under appreciative.
I'm sure whoever planned this tour was thinking of trying to get as much exposure as possible, but this did no justice to anyone involved. Some of the younger Dylan fans just didn't have a clue how to behave, even during Dylan's set I was amazed to find that they weren't sure what songs he was playing until he got to the choruses, then they would perk up and start applauding.
Joni's music truly deserved a much better venue and a much more intelligent audience. I thought that Joni was really annoyed at the lack of respect she got from the Dylan bozos during her Magdalene Laundries introduction. I also got the impression that was why she skipped Moon at the Window and went on to the two up tempo closing numbers.
Despite all of the circumstantial negatives it was still a joy to see Joni live again. To be able to watch Joni and all of the musicians with her create their art before my eyes was a wonderful gift. Now I can only hope that this double billing mishap doesn't turn Joni off from touring again. If there is a next tour I have three requests: 1. Keep Joni on a solo bill, 2. Scout out venues that have a good sound quality to seating capacity ratio, and 3. Give the readers of this web site an opportunity to purchase tickets before they go on sale to the general public so I don't have to sit next to heathens again.
Finally, thank you Wally for maintaining this forum. I am very busy with two young children and appreciate how easy you have made it for me to stay connected with Joni's music. I hope your health is improving, please keep us posted. My prayers are with you.
(From:Radiolad@aol.com)-I, too, attended Joni's Alpine Valley show in '79 and thought it an amazing . . . 35 minutes! Rained out, as noted previously. Having missed her 80's performance here, I was really eager to hear her live again.
A friend of mine attended (it was his birthday present) and our seats were stage right, seven rows up. Others have reported crystal clear sound but such was not the case where we sat. Because I know Joni's songs very well, I had no trouble distinguishing the lyrics but my friend commented that it was like listening to someone peform under water. Nevertheless, she sounded great and I kinda like the natural roughness that has come into her voice from the years of smoking. It forced her to rethink some high notes in some of the older songs and that helped to give them a fresh perspective. I think she was enormously brave to start off in front of 11,000 people solo on her guitar. Although the band was extremely tight, and played nicely off one another, accoustically, I prefered the songs that she performed by herself. I'm still getting into "Taming The Tiger" and was happy that she concentrated on other recent albums. It was wonderful to hear her sign "Harry's House" (although I wish she'd gone all the way and kept "Centerpiece" in the middle) and the songs from "Hejira" were mesmerizing (especially . . . "Hejira")! I really liked her renditions of "Trouble Man" and "Comes Love" and look forward to an album of cover songs. I thought her re-working of "Woodstock" was really cool but my friend didn't much like it and lamented the fact that she didn't do any piano songs.
I would heartily agree with others reporting here that she would be much better served by a smaller venue like Park West and hope that she returns to do a show there.
A friend of ours is good pals with Larry Klein and promised to try to get us backstage but when push came to shove United Center security shooed us out of the place at the last minute -- curses, foiled again!
P.S. Dylan: Could only understand two phrases out of his entire set: "it's just like a woman" and "the answer my friend is blowin' in the wind." Band tight and the show rocking, even still.
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-I actually preferred this show to the Old Town School....sure there were a few rude fucks but nobody was sleeping in the front row and she didn't write 'WAKE UP CHICAGO' on the dressing room wall this time. I loved every minute and was entirely engrossed with her comraderie with the band. Missed Don Juan from the Minneapolis show however, and the lovely Refuge of the Roads, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Love Puts on a New face from the OTSFM show. The rapport between Joni and Larry was magical, as with all the band. Looking forward to WB tapings, but am confused with the PPV.
(From:email@example.com)-It was the most fucking amazing thing I've ever seen. Dave Alvin was really good, although he was more like background music until Joni & Bob came out. I felt that he was way underrated by the audience. When I saw Joni Mitchell herself walking out from backstage, I wanted to piss my pants. Her set was beautiful; very mellow and jazzy. The people I was with are hard-core Dylan fans and, although they liked her, were a bit too happy to see her walk off stage after an encore. I, however, was transfixed the entire time she was out there. I wished I had a camera when she lit a cigarette just before a really bluesey piece. Damn!!! Then there was Dylan...whoa. He was brilliant--I loved watching him onstage; he is a very entertaining showman, but his music topped it all. He did 3 encores with a total of 5 songs. The entire show was close to 4 hours long, but it could've been 10 minutes. It's been almost 4 days since the show and I'm still basking in the afterglow that only a really amazing concert can give you. My only complaints--Bob & Joni didn't play together, the United Center is too big for a more personal concert (although I probably would've wet myself if I got any closer--I had really good seats, too, considering that I paid $200 less than the ones at 2nd row center stage cost. I could see their magic fingers playing their magic guitars!!!), and we got off at the wrong el stop and endded up walking 2 miles to get there. More than worth it, though.
Lisa Rena Trudeau
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. USA
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-I saw Joni at the UC; first time I have ever seen her, after all these years. There are no words... terms like "magic" and "exquisite" and "beautiful" are so pale compared to the experience of hearing Joni in person. I went to the concert for one reason, to see Joni Mitchell and whoever else was on the bill was irrelevant.
I have seen and heard Joni. What else can I say... the experience was extraordinary; to think that I have heard her sing "BYT" and "Woodstock" and "Sex Kills" and "Free Man in Paris" is still beyond my comprehension, it was a high that I haven't come down from yet.
I hope Joni knows what she has given, and what she has meant, to so many people through the years. Her music has been a constant source of meaning; she has entertained, guided, shared, touched, taught, inspired, and given me the experience of bliss and the simultaneous experience of insight... no one else can do that, no one does what she does.
I would point to the Greg Kot review in the Chicago Tribune for a good description of Joni in Chicago. Because it was my first time seeing her, I cannot review her appearance prosaically because for me it was transport to somewhere between here and heaven.
There is no doubt that I will keep this website bookmarked to be appraised of future tours. I have to see her again. We know that we can't go back to where we've been, but the future will offer new pleasures. Joni, until next time, love, always.
(the Rev.) Vince Lavieri
(From:email@example.com)-I saw Joni in Chicago and still, weeks later, I`m blown away...What a magical night. First, seeing Joni Mitchell (JONI MITHCELL!!) walk onto the stage!! That was wild in itself-and she`s so graceful and lovely. She seemed so happy and good God- everything she did was marvellous. Hearing her sing Hejira, not to mention Just Like This Train, and of course the Billie Holliday number which Joni absolutely belted out. Her new songs as well were stunning. She was stunning, her band so tight, the band and Joni in the groove...awesome. I`ll never forget it. And I was lucky enough to move up to the 3rd row near center!!! We Joni fans were able to tell her she`s awesome and that we love her-she waved and smiled a dazzling smile when she left, I waved back beaming, no doubt others did too.
Thankyou Joni!! Thankyou for years of articulating so much of what many of us feel but are unable to express. Thankyou for making music and thankyou for TOURING!!!
Pavla (Yes it`s a v, not a u) Frazier
1st Set: Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men
2nd Set: Joni Mitchell
3rd Set: Bob Dylan
It was a glorious night for Joni, her band,
and all of us priveleged to witness her tonight.
She was animated and quite expressive in her
delivery. I think she was relaxed, and it appeared
as if she were really enjoying herself.
We noticed more syncopation, and rhythmic phrasing
in her songs as she punched out the words, even on
songs like Hejira and Amelia.
Her voice was the best yet; strong, clear, reaching
higher notes than on her last tour out west.
She was able to accomplish grace notes and slid
into multi-noted words without effort, as I said
before, "punching" the delivery. Also her strength
was evident in greater volume as she actually
belted out notes I have not heard on recordings
since Shadows and Light.
Her look: A rust colored long silk skirt and matching
tunic top, loose without belt nor cinching. It was a
shade darker than her Parker Fly guitar and complemented
it well. Her lips were berry-stained. She wore her favored
silver ball earrings, and a silver necklace (?turquoise,
small squash blossom pattern), and she had on her two rings
of her left hand. That gemstone is still on her left ring
finger, and a larger flat ring was on her middle finger.
Her nails were silvery, the longer lengths being on her
I couldn't see her shoes for the long skirt and heighth
of the stage from my vantage point.
Her hair was of fuller body, a little fly-away, parted
off-center a bit.
And to finish off the ensemble, I think she wore a
wonder bra... ;-)
The band was tight, same members. I did meet and speak
briefly with that gorgeous Chris Botti, her new
Botticelli horn boy (muted trumpet), who told me
he is moving to LA in two weeks (Kakki, I gave him
your number! ;-D) from New York.
He is so beautiful. I think I am in love...
He posed with me for a photo. Thanks go to our
Laura O for snapping us together.
The trumpet added drama and was louder and had
more parts added than what Mark Isham played
for her at the WB taping we will see in two weeks
The setlist deviated a bit from Minneapolis, if
Bard was telling the truth...no Don Juan's Reckless
And she flubbed the third line of Moon at the Window,
stopped and said "I'm going to skip this one", put
down her guitar and proceeded with Trouble Man.
She did do the cigarette prop with Comes Love.
She came back for an encore with Woodstock.
The performance seemed to last only minutes, due
to my transfixed state as she played. Joni looked
happy tonight, and I was happy to see her looking
so happy...heck, we all felt happy...
She did command attention from a shouting guy
during her description (lengthy) of what prompted
the Magdalene Laundries, and told him "I have the
floor now" and asked us if we heard her, and was her
voice a blurred sound? It was after this that
she flubbed Moon..., and I see her pattern of
confronting something onstage and then having
a bit of a delayed reaction with a blocking
of thought processes, maybe due to possible
anxiety she might feel afterward.
I am eager to see her next in Atlanta (for me)
and hope she keeps up the standard of the
best performance I have seen out of the
five I've been to since May.
Did she *really* sing Don Juan's Reckless Daughter in MN? she didn't in
And did she sing *Coyote*--for real, are you sure it was Coyote--I would
have fainted if she had sung Coyote in Chi but she didn't.
The rest of the setlist was the same but these two songs were not sung
in Chi. Neither was Moon at the Window--which she started but quit--I
think there was a tuning mistake and she said forget it and took off the
guitar and did Trouble Man.
She was in excellent, excellent humor.
Ok, I saw Joni in LA in May and I thought she was great but . . .
she nothing then compared to her performance in Chicago last night.
Maybe it was becuz I was in the 11th row and could see her expressions.
But I don't think so. She was transcendent. I cried twice. Once,
during Hejira--just the lines "a defector from the petty wars that
shell-shock love away" should give her genius status--and once during
Amelia--when I went home and listened to the studio version, I knew
that her live version is amazingly superior--when she sings the line "I
crash into his arms, Amelia, it was just a false alarm", I can see/hear
her heart breaking and mine broke with her. She was utterly amazing.
I *loved* that she began alone for a couple of songs. I *loved* that
she got rid of her guitar for the last two songs (before encore) and got
down with her bad self and sang Trouble Man and Comes Love (is this the
name). The audience was totally with her and she knew it.
She seemed very, very pleased with the reception. All my friends who
are not huge JM fans thought she was amazing. Because she was. I am so
happy and jealous of all of you who will see her soon. I was actually
thinking about flying somewhere else to see her becuz she was so damn
I will probably write more later.
And what a surprise to hear Free Man in Paris! Totally unexpected. I
thought I would hear the same set that I heard in LA. I was hoping that
she would have followed Free Man with TTT but alas . . .
One thing that pissed me off about the concert--and no, it wasn't Joni
or anything she did--it was Johnny Mars, DJ for WXRT, who came out
before Joni and talked about her and Dylan being so influential and all
that great blah blah blah--and his station *doesn't play Joni*. I
screamed that out to him but I don't think he heard me.
And another thing--about Joni and her amazing performance--
when I was listening to her sing Amelia and Hejira, especially, and then
again on Woodstock--I thought that these renditions of those old,
heart-felt songs are now sung so much more heart-felt because of the
experience of life, just living life and she was pouring all that
experience into the performance of the songs. I thought this of Amelia
in LA also. But then I thought, she has made these songs mature now, as
if they were meant to be sung by an older, wiser person rather than a
younger, greener one. And if this is true for these songs, she becomes
a bigger genius in my eyes. That she, as a younger person, captured
this sense of retrospection at a young age that would resonate and
transcend when sung at a later age. I hope this makes sense. These
songs are so *right now* for her, it seems, and you can hear that in her
voice, the inflection, the phrasing, the timbre, the depth, that it is
surprising to remember they are over 20 years old. She elevated herself
into the high heavens last night--and me with her.
I have not been in love with TTT. Some of you may know that. But I am
going to listen to it with different ears or a different mindset.
Facelift sent me last night--and it was hearing it on TTT that allowed
this to happen.
God, she is great. And as much as Dylan rocked, and rock he did, I
couldn't understand a word he said and that is not the voice of a
generation, it is a growl and rasp without words. Joni's voice,
however, in all senses of the word was . . . beyond beyond
Still on cloud nine and a half...
1. Joni was relaxed, confident, poised, enthusiastic and in excellent voice.
And I mean *excellent* voice. Allergies? What allergies?
2. The set list restructuring from the West Coast shows is a good change.
Solo bits first, new covers toward the end. "Comes Love" knocked me out.
3. No DJRD after the Minneapolis tease. Shit! Not nice kitty, kitty.
4. If you go, do NOT miss Dave Alvin (nor Dylan). I wish Joni had performed
"Raised on Robbery" with Dave's band. Both NJC acts were tight and on target.
5. Move over Eric Clapton, Brian Blade is God.
After some loud jerk interrupted the flow of her intro to Magdalene Laundries,
Joni quipped something funny and sassy like "not now honey........*I* have the
floor now." Indeed she did.
Time to hit the road again; two hours to drive to Indy for tonight's gig.
P.S. Thanks for the chocolates, Laura!
my own thoughts on joni in chicago....
i did get to see the concert by the graciousness and kindness of a fellow
lister who had an extra ticket for me. i'm deeply grateful to you!!!!!
but first- the rousing meet and greet at the Sheraton- with Marsha (TN or
should I say TNT!), Diane (AK), Kingpin Bob (KY), Brad & Kim (MN), Laura (our
reporter) & Mike, Jody & Scott, and myself (IL). Quite the international
gathering. missed around the piano (play exquisitely by our own FredNOW, aka
Fred Simon) were Howard, Robbert, Don R, and who else? Mary P- we really
missed you!!!! Oh and Howard- in the 11th row- were you left or right of
center? we were mostly in the 12th & 14th on the left side of the floor.
the show---- kinda surreal- at least for me.... I haven't been to an arena
show in years- not since REM in 1986 I think. The united center - the space
is so large, so clean, and the crowd - fairly mellow- i thought it might be a
college graduation or a motivational-speaker roundup- hoopla- event.... with
speeches by betty ford and john glenn and susan powders on how to make the
most out of your life...
dave alvin and Bobby D rocked- bouncing sounds off every angle of the place,
sacrificing clarity for power... Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune put it best I
think- about Joni's sound hovering in the air- filling the vast murkiness of
that space with her amazingly intimate soundscape.
most everyone else has hit on the ups and downs- Harry's house is dull- Hejira
and amelia were out of this world- just like this train- delicious- especially
how she savors the line "watching your hairline receed.........(mull, mull,
mull, relish...) my vain darling." Free man was a delight- but she's never
played it live, that i've heard, that matches the C&S version, or takes it
somewhere new IMHO. Crazy Cries, bouncy and sweet- Happiness is the best
facelift, intimate and intense... I really feel people listening to this song
(just as they did at Old town)- I think joni's hit a nerve for many
people..... growing up but still facing your parents approval or
dissapproval... (i think of my own mother- grown with children of her own-
bringing up the subject of divorce with her mother- who shot back at her that
she would disgrace the family.. Miss Hollywood is what Grandma called her...).
Magdaleine Laundries was really great- she spit that out with full vengence!
I wanted to hear coyote and DJRD- why were they cut??? She hardly talked much
so it wasn't like she used up too much time.. (like she said). I think she was
distracted after Magdaleine, and her quip to rowdy hooters in the crowd, and
her sour start to Moon at the window...(she stopped and seemed like she was
going to start again and then changed her mind... that split second to bring
it all to a close) and maybe she sensed the crowd was restless, cuz frankly,
they were. Chicago audience aren't always the most polite- and aren't good at
holding there attention to thing that don't constantly bang them on the head.
The level of chatter during her set did increase with each song- I could hear
converstions several rows away! Living here in Chicago I feel confident in
saying that Chicagoans can be really loud and obnoxious without knowing it...
except laura and mike and scott and jody and fred and howard and..... and
maybe switching right to Trouble Man and Comes Love was a way bring her and us
back out of the trance- her emotional, rhythmic pulsing, hypnotic journey she
lead us on. I image doing all those songs back to back takes it's toll on her
too- there's lots of old ghosts in her songs. I felt them for myself;
rethinking where i was when I heard this or that song for the first time. I
laughed after her set and told Kingpin- okay, now I can relax.
But she did do an encore (which meant nobody yawned) of Woodstock- which gets
spookier with each new telling.. her voicing tinged with the weariness of an
old old story, wishing the same promise; toughened by need and urgency.
then she bowed and smiled sweetly and of she went.....
followed by the crazy man- BOBBY D- what a trickster he is....
so we went to Ritz Carlton (craving warmth and beauty) for a drink and glimpse
perhaps- but the lounge was closed... good thing, the Ritz is about as cozy as
wearing a fiberglass suit in an ice locker.
and i'm so glad to have meet some of you again, and some of you for the first
that's what makes the experience so special
Words are such poor soldiers to enlist in a description of the United
Center concert ... yes it was that transcendent. But try I will, and
please excuse me if this comes out in bits and pieces -- you guys buried
me like an avalanche of 433, yes count 'em, 433 new messages over the
So without further ado -- who but Joni cuold turn the United Center into
a small club that seats about 50? Who else plays with such relaxed
ease, sings with such purity and moves with such elegant grace? Mary
Cassatt may have painted women's hands well, but give me Joni's moving
across the strings of her guitar any day!
At once playful and reverent, chipper and melancholy -- disposing of her
one heckler with charm and ease -- and turning the crowd around
completely ... complete with her trademark "change of mind" on one song.
Well it was all there, and I'm glad I was as well.
I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but unless you had seats
farther back in the center (like mine in S106) you probably didn't. As
Joni hit the opening chords of "The Magdalene Laundries", and the stage
was bathed in that eerie blue/green light, a tremendous thing happened.
The entrances to the sections just behind the stage were curtained off.
But light from the hallway gleamed through from the center and tops.
The effect was that of a field of illuminated crosses suspended in a
starless sky -- a constellation of etherial headstones for the 110 poor
girls of the Magdalene Laundries. This is the most powerful thing I
have ever seen at any show, anytime, anywhere.
Just got back in town and had to sort through 400 emails.
I want to tell you all how wonderful it has been for me to join this list.
Not only did I get to see the smooth and sleek Ms. M. live, for the FIRST
time, after being a fan for 30 years, but I also have had the best time
with my fellow JMDLers.
I won't bore you all with my inept review of the concert since Marsha,
Fred, Howard, Brad and others did such a great job of it. But I will give
some small impressions.
It went by sooooo fast. Seemed only 5 min. Of course, the first 3 songs and
maybe more were a blur as the tears were flowing. I have not seen other of
her concerts to compare her performance to, but I did have the West Coast
tape tree that I played on the way home to Arkansas. Her voice in Chicago
was so smooth and flowing. The West Coast voice is short and brisk. She
seemed so comfortable up there. And the Chicago fans seem to be enthralled!
I want to thank the Kingpin for his expertise finding us such great seats.
To Fred for his fantastic piano concert. (Need to get some of his CD's). To
Doug for sharing his Chicago knowledge. And to Laura and sweet hubby Mark,
Jody and Scott, Brad and Kim, It was great meeting you all. And of course
to Marsha, my roomie, you are the BEST!!! We had such a great time. It is
so weird that you can meet someone for the first time and find out you
click like macaroni and cheese!
I'm sorry we didn't get to meet anyone else off the list that was there.
Howard, Don and others. We *were* able to get a photo after the concert
before security ushered us all out.
This last weekend will be one of the few beautiful memories that will flash
before my eyes at the time of my death. One of the top 5 memories of my life!
My wife and I were honored to be in Chicago for her performance and would have
gone even if she were opening for Spike Jones. At the time of the
interruption in Chicago, neither of us believed that the outburst from the
stands was anything but a show of enthusiasm for Joni. But in the difficult
communication between stage and seats, she ended up excusing the fan away
somewhat clumsily. The fan she was talking to was below us (we were high and
to the left of the stage for those of you blessed with seats on the floor).
She was at the least confused over the reason for the outburst from the seats
and could have ignored it from the perspective of the audience. I suspect
that if she had the benefit of hindsight she would agree.
With regard to Mr. Rowe's comments regarding the Dylan fans, what may have
comprised his audience 30 years ago IMHO does not necessarily represent his
audience today. The Dylan segment was not "the poet" at work, sitting on his
stool, strumming his six string and interacting with the faithful. The Dylan
segment was a strong rock performance with lyrics which were simply a weak
excuse for a tremendous rock line. It was immensely stirring, but
unfulfilling for those who came to hear a poet. His older works did stir the
audience but overall his faithful came to hear a rock concert and were not
I reserve the title, "The Poet" for our own SIQUOMB.
It would be a cruel injustice if I didn't bow and scrape to Joni's band
for the tour. Each in their own way are simply incredible. Here are
the standouts that will probably stay with me forever ...
Brian Blades -- This guy has totally succeeded where I failed as a
drummer. You see, I was once accused of playing "politely" -- and gave
it up. But if I'd known then that "Polite" could become the smooth,
elegant fire of a Brian Blades, I'd have hung in there a bit. His work
on "Black Crow" might very easily have ruined the album cut for me ...
wicked quick without flailing or crashing, stinging and bright wherever
called for ... a masterpiece. I can not tell you how glad I am that the
kit was turned towards the audience. What a kick to watch this guy --
it's not just any player who can make me move the binocs off the
Greg Liesz -- I think if Phil Spectre knew about this guy, stereo might
never have gotten off the ground. Growing up as I did, in Texas, my
exposure to the "peddle" steel guitar was limited to Patsy Cline, Hank
Williams Sr. and Sons of the Pioneers -- lots of twang and whine. Greg
plays the instrument much more like a keyboard, the sound becoming the
Chelsea Morning butterscotch that sticks to all your senses. Tops to
Greg on "Amelia", for he truly cut new facets into this eerie gem.
Larry Klien -- Three words only ... "Night Ride Home." After the
wonderful solo floating of the opening numbers, Larry's long slow
glissando into the basement registers opened up the sound like an orchid
-- tears flow for the first time right here. Many kudos to Larry as
well for his handy Jaco impersonation on 'Hejira' and 'Black Crow.' You
might not always like his production, but hearing him live leaves no
doubt in my mind that he really is the bass player of choice.
It was thrilling to hear Joni live for the first time in 15 years. She sounded
great, looked and moved great, and, to my great delight, performed a
surprising number of older tunes considering her repeated avowals not to do so
-- Big Yellow Taxi, Just Like This Train, Free Man In Paris, Harry's House,
Black Crow, Amelia, Hejira, Woodstock -- in fact, the majority of her own
songs in the set were 22 years old or older ... imagine that!
In between the Alvin and Dylan sets, which were way too much for the cavernous
acoustics of the United Center to handle, Joni's music was enhanced by the
extra reverb of the hall, playing at half the volume of the others and
actually attaining about as much intimacy as one could hope for in a place of
Joni and band played like jazz musicians, responding spontaneously to each
other, playing with rhythms and phrasing and melodic variations ... very cool
temperature-wise but never frigid. The VG8, trumpet, and pedal steel guitar,
along with Brian Blade's exquisite drumming and Klein's deep bottom bed,
coalesced into a unique whole, a sound unlike anything I've ever heard,
fulfilling all the promise of Joni's experiments through the years with jazz.
Joni's singing was superb: always on pitch, supple and graceful, dynamically
and tonally varied and rhythmically vital. When she sang Woodstock (by far the
best version I've ever heard), my eyes filled with tears.
Paul (from the Dylan list):
I had never listened to Joni Mitchell before, recorded or live, and did not
expect to enjoy her. But I very much liked her performance in Chicago, or I
should say, the latter part of her performance, especially after she put
down the electric guitar and I had gotten into a mellow mood. It may be that
people who are excellent at making records are not great in live performance
of the same material. I don't know the history of Mitchell's performing, but
I could imagine the her new stuff makes for better live entertainment than
high-pitched folk singing (if that is what she is known for--I have little