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From JM.com's Official Reporter Sue McNamara
Big Yellow Taxi
Just Like This Train
Night Ride Home
The Crazy Cries Of Love
Free Man in Paris
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
The Magdalene Laundries
In contrast to my solo flight to A Day At the Garden last August, I arrived at the Syracuse War Memorial with a crowd of my good friends from Cornell who have been very excited for the past few weeks to see Joni for the first time. Many of them were big Dylan fans and I made sure they got a copy of my Joni compilation tape to prime them for their first SIQUOMB experience.
We arrived at the Will Call box office and picked up our tickets but my press pass was not in the envelope so the security guard checked my ID and brought me back stage to Joni's management team. I had to wait back there during Dave Alvin's set, and all I could make out through the cement walls was that he sounded a lot like Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits). After his set ended I was escorted to the front of the stage and introduced to the security men and told I could take pictures during Joni's third and fourth songs. After the manager left, the security guard said, "I don't care what you do, just don't sit in my chair!" With the house lights still up I surveyed the crowd which was an amazing continuum of all ages and temperament. There were a group of biker type dudes in the front row who were very excitable Joni fans!! There were middle-aged boomers and teenage Dead-heads (or are they called Phish-heads these days?) I noticed a woman who looked to be in her 70s sitting next to a group of college guys in white caps. There was also a large group of rowdy, extremely drunk 30-something women dancing and grabbing people indiscriminately!! You go Girls!! Although I noticed that the crowd was very energetic, it was also apparent that there were A LOT of empty seats. This concert was far from being sold out.
As the lights went down and Joni was introduced I moved off to the side where the security guard told me to stand. I was on the left hand side of the stage which was not a very good vantage point because of the many monitors blocking my view, but I saw Joni float out to the front of the stage and greet the crowd. She looked beautiful in a brown silk layered outfit, with a slight curl in her hair. She started with Big Yellow Taxi. The crowd roared and cheered during her Dylan imitation which was right on!! She also finished the last refrain with "why you wanna go and do that .... why you wanna go and do that ..." in a low growl which really kicked with the sway of her hips. She was already working the crowd into the palm of her hand.
Before she started Just Like This Train, many male voices cried out "I love you, Joni, I love you!" which was really an amazing difference from the Garden where it seemed like there were mostly packs of love-sick women calling out to her. This venue is filled with war and veteran memorabilia and I thought of Killer Kyle sitting in the audience. A lot of the security men wore the black MIA/POW patches and there are big block letters over the stage saying "In Memory of Our War Veterans."
As she finished Just Like This Train, her band joined her on stage. Larry, Brian, Greg and new addition Chris Botti are so tight at this point in the tour. I heard many comments from my friends about how impressed they were with the musicianship. The songs where the band as a whole particularly stood out for me were Harry's House, Black Crow, and Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. I was so happy to hear this great song which I don't ever remember hearing her do live. She started with a long intro that built into a crescendo for the first verse. One aspect of Joni's performance that I was particularly impressed with was her ease. Completely gone is the awkwardness of the rare tv or festival appearances where she would flub a line here or there or forget a chord progression. I did not notice any second guessing on her part at all and it contributed to the mesmerizing effect of the set.
As I moved back to my seat after my photo opportunities, I heard Joni respond to something yelled at her from the crowd. She said, "What no Richard Nixon?" So like a Jeopardy answer I concocted that the love-struck guy in the front row must have yelled out ala Miles of Aisles, "Joni you have more class than Mick Jagger and Gomer Pyle ..." The combination of Amelia into Hejira was hypnotizing not only for the amazing songcraft but Brian Blade performed masterfully while he switched between sticks and hand drumming to create the perfect effect to the mood of Joni's chord structures. Joni introduced Magdalene Laundries in her usual manner with the history of fallen women in Ireland. Then she put down the guitar for two of my favorite songs this tour, Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye and Comes Love originally performed by Billie Holiday. I see these two songs beckoning Joni's next phase of creativity with her interest in remaking into her own the classic standards she loved in her youth. As many people have already reported, her voice has taken on this new personality that has matured with her ever changing style. My friend Steve described it perfectly on the ride home when he said, "She used to be a flute, now she's a trumpet." I think Joni would like that comparison as it reminded me of one of her major influences, Miles Davis.
Joni came back for her encore and flicked her bic in unison with the crowd then started her classic Woodstock. Although there were aspects of the Garden concert that I thought were much better, such as the song selections; I missed Slouching Toward Bethlehem and Moon at the Window; I felt this performance was smooth and Joni was having a mesmerizing effect on the crowd. Although it was a Dylan-dominated crowd, the audience seemed informed and appreciative, even loving. It matched perfectly the mood I was in with my good friends around me enjoying the beauty of the experience .... "once in a while, in a big blue moon, there comes a night like this ...." Thanks to Steve, Dan, Tricia, Morgan, Rebecca, Tim and Christine for enjoying this experience with me, and of course, to Wally for giving me the opportunity to get close to Joni so I can share it with all of you here.
Oh, by the way, Dylan was AWESOME and rocked the house down!! Highway 61 was killer.
(From:email@example.com)-Hi Wally, The concert in Syracuse was one of the most moving performances I have seen in years. The quality of Joni's artistry is so far beyond so many contemporary singer/songwriters today. Where to begin? I felt the performance was layered with so many colours of Joni's palette, it took me several days to process all the emotions. First her voice was so beautiful, so rich in texture and emotion, that my wife and I, and our two friends were spellbound by the entire set. Her choice of music and her partnership with the musicians was so beautiful.æ We arrived early and I counted the minutes waiting for Joni, with the tremendous excitement of a child, since I am the most extreme fan among our group.æ I have followed her career since I was 13, when my sister played For The Roses 24 hours a day, and her voice and piano mesmerized me with its beauty. I haven't seen her since the 1983 WTRF tour at Meriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, so the anticipation was long and agonizing. We were in the tenth row, among lots of Dylan fans who sat quietly, almost lifeless. There were no rude comments that I could hear, but their presence was a little distracting.æ There were two comments that she did hear. The first was "happy birthday Joni" and she responded with what seemed like a heartful "thank you". The other comment was "Joni you have more class than Mick Jagger, Gomer Pyle (ala "Miles of Aisles") and she laughed and responded with "What about Richard Nixon?" æ
She really seemed to be in her prime, as far as voice, her music, her new interpretation of her standards, her new material, and the band. The band was so very, very tight. The jazzy tone kept us swaying through many of the songs. Brian Blade on drums was exquisite, and it was a great statement to have him placed in front. Hearing Larry Klein on bass together with Joni was such a treat. He seemed to be so much in synch with her and the rest of the band, e s p e c i a l l y during Black Crow, Amelia, & Hejira. The entire set was one peak after another. However, if I was forced to choose my favorite I would choose two songs. The first was "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter". This song has always intrigued me, and honestly was not one of my favorites. I never ever thought she would sing it on tour! Her performance was so unique and the band so tight, that the song instantly became one of my new favorites. They seemed to be having so much fun together on it, and perhaps they had loosened up by this time, that it seemed they were blowing the roof off the hall. People in my row where dancing, even some of the Dylan fans. The second was "Hejira", we were floating above our chairs during this one. æ
She looked gorgeous in autumnal colours, a maroon long skirt and I think a tunic.æ The jazzy songs at the end were also highlight. I felt that with "Come Loves" I was transformed to a jazz club in NY City in 1930. Superb.æ I couldn't believe it was over so quickly. After her encore of Woodstock, the four of us looked at each other and sort of floated out of the building.æ There was no way we could hear Bob after those goregous chords!!! My head was buzzing on the drive home home with her sound.æ The next day I went to Border's and bought Herbie Hancocks "Gerwin's World" with the hopes of capturing some of the magic from the previous night's sound.æ It was so happy to hear that her two songs on this new CD provided more of the magic!!! I can't wait for her next work of the standards. Joni is the truly the queen. She just gets better and better and better. My dream would be to hear her on piano if she ever goes on the road again.æ
Thanks again for all you do Wally, Regards,
1st Set: Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men
2nd Set: Joni Mitchell
3rd Set: Bob Dylan
Todd (from the Dylan list):
Joni Mitchell - now I'll leave the review of her set up to those who know
and like her music. Suffice it to say that if any one of her songs were
good, then they were all good, because they all sounded nearly identical to
me. in adition, she introduced one of her songs with some out random
comment about women in Ireland, up until 1972, being imrprisoned for being
single or attractive. Now, I don't know much Irish history, so I'll defer
the validity of that statement. But then she said a similar thing was
attempted here in America. In all my years of schoolin' I ain't 'member
nuthin like dat.