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From JM.com's Official Reporters, David Mingus and Pearl Weisberg
Big Yellow Taxi
Just Like This Train
Night Ride Home
Free Man In Paris
Song for Sharon
The Magdalene Laundries
Both Sides, Now
From David Mingus:
The morning after, in the City where she performed, the newspaper article was captioned "Mitchell's birthday is gift to audience" - how poignant! We felt something very special for being allowed to share her birthday.
Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum - a domed basketball arena with surpassingly good acoustics - found a real cross-section of fans and admirers entranced by Joni's enlightened style, sincerity and amazing talent. She was radiant. The spotlight magnified the brilliance of her long golden hair and the green, crushed velvet dress she was wearing (reminiscent of her apparel pictured on "For the Roses").
Her 92 minute performance included a set of 16 songs and personal asides to her mother, childhood friend (Sharon Bell), a caretaker, a former lover, and others.
She opened with "Big Yellow Taxi" and demonstrated that no one performs it better - although some have tried. She mimicked Dylan by whimsically 'nasalizing' the verse which he wrote. The audience, diehard Dylan fans included, loved it.
She related that her caretaker once said "Joni, you wouldn't write such melancholy songs if you didn't write at night!"
She proceeded to tell the story about the Magdalene Laundries when a heckler shouted something about her getting off stage and bringing out Dylan (whose appearance immediately followed Joni's). She replied, "To each his own. You're an idiot, a rude idiot." And when she began singing she shot the guy a look that should have made him feel like one. Later, when walking on the stage for an encore, she said, "I'm gonna stay longer just to bug this one man" (she didn't know that security had removed the guy from the concert).
Being the consummate artist, Joni is apt to stop everything to tune a string to perfection. We purists miss these deep breaths between songs in the age of the VG8 (where tuning has given way to programing). However, four cords into Song for Sharon Joni stopped to make an adjustment. To the purists and the terminally trivial I am happy to report that we had one "string stop",
The band was fabulous - perfectly supportive of Joni's music and naturally in sync. Joni spoke affectionately of her marriage to Larry Klein and its demise. They obviously still enjoy a very special relationship.
After her encore Larry Klein presented Joni with a cake repleat with candles. She was obviously delighted and playfully blew them out with one breath as we all sang Happy Birthday.
I was thrilled to be given a pass to photograph the concert. I had a wonderful time and shall be forever grateful to Wally for the opportunity. And I confess, I packaged a couple of small personal treasures in hopes that I would meet someone who could deliver a birthday present to Joni. I hope I was successful. What a wonderful feeling to be able to give to someone who has given so much to me.
REPORTS FROM THE INTERNET COMMUNITY
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-What can I say about Joni's final show of this tour that has not been said?
Virtually sold out, as tickets were not offered at the box office when the gates opened...
Final bows, Joni collects about 10 bouquets of flowers up front, Larry brings out cake, we all sing and cry.
Ok, I'll do the same thing all you regionals have done, and say the Atlanta audience was by far the most appreciative, polite, (with the exception of one "rude idiot"), and Attentive compared to others I have seen (5 other shows, including Chicago 2 weeks ago). The reason most likely for this was no alcohol served on this college campus. Joni did chide a guy who, was thrown out eventually for his yelling out "shut up!" to her during her explanation of the Magdalene Laundries. She then asked him again "What did you say?", and then "To each his own...I'm just as good as Bob...and you're an idiot...and a rude idiot!"
She held her composure for all songs thereafter, as we held our breaths, and she was delighted at the audience's appreciative applause and whistles, and bouquets, and said she was getting "perverse pleasure" in doing "one more" song, which was Both Sides Now, and we loved it!!! It was melancholy, she stood without guitar, but accompanied by the band. It was in a lower key, pensive, slowed, and reflective, and how she says it should have always been sung.... God, what a special encore, hearing Joni on her 55th Birthday night sing Both Sides Now to us, looking back on a life she has shown to be uncompromising, honest, and full of "truth and beauty".
I'll let others give more details about what she said in between songs, (she was chatty).
Down to celebrate more with/for our Birthday Girl!!!
(From:Lubengo1@aol.com)-I have just returned home from Joni's Atlanta appearance and it was just as splendid as the earlier concerts...yet with some surprises. Joni entered the stage wearing a lovely moss green velvet half coat and long skirt, and her shoulder length hair was pretty, if not curly as in other reports. The rather intimate crowd of 10,000 in the coliseum greeted her warmly and rose to their feet. She seamlessly carried through the aforementioned set and kept the crowd entranced throughout. As I was on 12th row center, my view afforded me to see that she was relaxed, gracious and definitely in control of her element. Her voice was as crisp and clear as the chilly fall evening outside. As this was the end (?) of her current tour, she added a beautiful cover on Both Sides Now. And to cap off the evening, Larry brought out a birthday cake with candles sparkling, and the crowd of 10,000 sang Joni "happy birthday".... And that is a moment that I shall forever hold dear - singing to Joni Mitchell...OFF KEY!
As for Bob Dylan, well...I left immediately after Joni left the stage. I didn't want to let Bob's caterwauling (my opinion) to ruin the beautiful mood that Joni had provided.
(From:HairFarmer@a-o.com)-Well the show was killer, I mean I was a little disapointed at no "DJRD"... at least until "Both Sides Now". Yes, we really were treated to "BSN" as the final encore(unless of course you count 'Happy Birthday'). The rest of the show was good as well, of course. My other highlights being "Free Man in Paris", "Song For Sharon" and "Hejira". The trumpet work on "Hejira" was especially moving. I have to admit I was truly amazed by "BSN". I kept thinking about the A&E; profile where she talks about hearing Mabel Mercer sing the song in her seventies and how "You really have to be in your seventies, reflecting back on a life's experiance to sing that song". Well, I'd say 55 years has been plenty for her to aquire the history she needed. You really can *feel* true experiance in a great singer's voice and boy was it there tonight. Our one heckler got his just deserts and was removed by security to the tune of a cheer slowly rippling out through the crowd in the middle of "Magdalene Laundries". Joni was shaken by his outburst just enough to not finish the story of the song's inspiration, but boy did it fuel the performance. She focused her attention towards the "Rude Idiot"'s direction for the entire song, very passionate. "Trouble Man" was also geared for the moron in question. She really tore it up. You could just feel how completely sick of these nincompoops she is.
John M. Lind
(From:JamesAlec@mindspring.com)-I was a bit concerned with previous reports of illness, but there was no sign that Joni wasn't in good health this evening. She was truly mesmerizing, especially during the "Amela"/"Hejira" portion of the show. "Both Sides Now" was a real treat. Stayed for Bob and shouldn't have bothered.
James Alec Gelin
(From:email@example.com)-My two big brothers got me started listening to Joni Mitchell when I was about thirteen years old. I used to come home from church (in Atlanta), stick a record on the stereo in my room, and dance around in front of the mirror with an unplugged electric guitar that I hadn't the slightest idea how to play. Later I learned how to tune it to play This Flight Tonight which is pretty easy even for a beginner, but that was more or less the zenith of my musical career. Anyway, I'm all grown up now, writing novels and teaching art in small-town Alabama, but I still adore Joni Mitchell. Few things in a person's life hold up that long! When I heard she was coming to Atanta, I knew I had to go even if it meant facing EVIL interstates and CANCEROUS suburban sprawl. (Do you want to know how I REALLY feel about Atlanta? I have to say that it looks pretty good once you get close to town and off those Mad Max highways). Well, my selfless devotion was many times rewarded!!!! That concert was absolutely wonderful! What a gift to all of us fans! And I'll never, never forget, not in my entire life, getting to sing Happy Birthday to Joni Mitchell, whose music has given me so much pleasure for so many years. I'm sorry about the idiot who said "Shut up!" (or maybe yelled for "Bobby.") Still, I'm glad he gave Joni fuel for a few good jokes--she said "You don't deserve love," and also something like, "I feel like staying out here a little longer just to irritate that bad apple over there," and then something to the effect that she approved of the rest of us. It's good that she did, because Atlanta (and the rest of us Southerners there) clearly approved of her. Thank you so much, Joni.
(From:Jenivirgo@aol.com)-I must say that Joni was absolutely amazing. The crowd seemed to be much more appreciative (except for the one "rude idiot" who was escorted out by security) of her performance than that of Bob Dylan. I had never seen Joni perform before and it was certainly an experience I will never forget. I sat in the crowd and had to hold back the tears several times because it was so touching to hear her. Then Both Sides Now and the crowd singing Happy Birthday...it was too much. I am a photographer, and managed to get off a couple good shots, but through the majority of the show, I sat in awe, with my mouth hanging open. My life is complete.
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-I have been a huge fan of Joni's since 1973 and have never had the opportunity to see her in concert until her Atlanta appearance. Well, it was worth the wait! After 25 years of inspiration, as an artist and as a woman, I am now even more awestruck. The perfomance was great and I appreciated how personable she was, speaking frequently to the audience about the songs and her life. It was also so special to be there on her birthday - to sign the giant card and sing Happy Birthday to my idol! She has meant so much to me, it was truly one of the greatest evenings of my life.
(From:email@example.com)-This is the third time I've seen Joni in the last six months and she showed incredible artistic growth and more self assurance each time. I thought nothing could compare with her performanc at A Day In The Garden. She proved me wrong with modified arrangements and accompaniments. The new trumpet player is something else. The new set list grabbed the audience from the beginning and maybe even prepared them for the pieces that would be difficult for the marginal listener. There was no Don Juan's Reckless Daughter but there was Song For Sharon and Both Sides Now. The accompaniment of the latter made the song so fresh and poignant that one would think it written yesterday.
Something interesting happened. A group of five fourteen or fifteen year old boys sat directly behind me having come with their parents for Dylan. A couple from Marietta Georgia who are big fans like me sat next to me. The boys really joined us in our enjoyment of and respect for Joni. They kept borrowing my binoculars and asking us questions about who Joni is as a person and an artist. I told them as much as I could between songs. By the middle of the concert they were calling her a foxy lady with a tone of respect in their voices. There is an audience among the young for her.
(From:dabush "@gpc.DC.PeachNet.EDU)-First, it was a great show. Dave Alvin was a stroke of genius to open and I was glad to hear him live again. Dylan rocked with "Highway 61" and just enough harmonica at the end of "It Ain't Me Babe" to close the show. But, I think even die-hard Dylan fans would agree it was Joni's night!
Second, having read previous reports of hecklers, I was suspicious of the timing of the shout from off-stage right. I mean, what was left of the story of the Magdalene Laudries that was truncated? Did Joni put this plant in the audience in some Kaufman-esque plan to bring more attention to her stage banter? Planned or not, it worked as the conversation in my section between sets was about the "idiot" and the Magdalene Laundries. I bit my lip and listened to people (I would estimate in age from Felicity to Dobie Gillis) and their comments. Best line from Joni-- "The newspaper said I'm older than the president... well, he's pretty frisky isn't he"?
So for $40 I got four hours of great tunes and stories I will tell to anyone who'll listen.
Thanks for letting me share an additional two cents.
(From:firstname.lastname@example.org)-Just a few minor points about the heckler: It really wasn't as ugly as an exchange as reported here, yeah the guy was a drunk jerk who wanted Dylan, but he never told her to shut up!.....it was one lone guy among 10,000 who wouldn't really have been noticed had Joni not stopped the show and demanded, "Excuse me?" whereupon he repeated it to deafening silence.
And he said: "Dylan" - NOT "Shut up"
And she said, "You don't deserve Bob!" NOT "you don't deserve love!"
I hate to be nit-picky here, but I hate to see this one incident overshadow such an awesome performance and get so distorted and out of proportion. He acted inappropriately for ten seconds and she called him on it, handling it with class. For most of the 90 minutes you could hear a pin drop, the audience was so rapt and respectful - this guy shouted "Dylan" twice! Enough already - poetic justice: he got thrown out before Dylan even came on!
By the way, this was the third time I've seen her and I've never seen her so chatty, comfortable and at ease - she's always been awesome, but this was definitely a more relaxed Joni.
(From:ABoneDaddy@aol.com)-well lets see.... we drove 300 miles to see joni mitchell.. and that was nothing compared to the miles she travelled to entertain us... and.. before you go bashing bob, let me tell you that if not for him, my daughter, gloria of 13, would not have told me of the show...and that was the best that i have seen dylan in 15 years.. my daughter was tricked into seeing one of the best shows of her life, joni mitchell...under the guise of seing bob. shes not worthy..shes not worthy... which is what she sang to the exiting bob dylan. but .. she also sat mesmerized by a show few of us will soon forget. i mean, when was the last time you saw joni mitchell live and in person... when will be the next?
a lot of us look at the heckler as an maroon.. but he was a friend of mine... he got alot of emotion out of her and some extra songs... thanx dude.... like i told my child... she sang that last one just to show him that she was the winner and could forgive...
oh yea almost forgot.. i met 2 guys in a 10 foot radius that had not been to that arena since they saw the allmon bros in 69... they said.. funny huh..
(From:MDANDREW@southernco.com)- the nov. 7th show in atlanta was delightful for me, until the hecling episode. i felt bad for her because i really enjoy the explainations for songwriting. i was surprised to see her smoke a cigarette at the end of the show. i suppose i thought her voice and persona to be too pure for her to smoke. i hope that doesn't sound too prude.
(From:email@example.com)-The Alexander was smaller than most venues they'd been playing but I think it helped the crowd focus. The hall holds 10,000 but about 3000 seats were roped off behind the stage. We had very close seats at stage right in the PO section. No obstruction, though. The crowd began to applaud as soon as the lights went down after an opening set by Dave Alvin. She stepped out alone and began to play the most incredible chords from her VG8. She's such a great guitarist. The sound in the hall was exceptional considering it's a sports arena. Her vocals were crisp and clear and sent chills up your spine. I hadn't seen her since I was 18 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She done so much since then, there is so much more depth to her performance. Maybe, I'm just more able to appreciate it at 42. The band could not have been more in tune with each other, all facing each other, communicating with nods and smiles. It was flawless and so sweet. I was torn between listening with my eyes closed and peering through the binoculars trying to sear the image permanently into my memory. I knew that we were very fortunate to have been treated to a second encore with "Both Sides, Now". One of her staff commented on what a special treat we'd all received and how outstanding the band sounded that night. I assured him that we knew and were thankful for it. If I'm never able to see her or the guys again, I'll always be proud that I was there, that night, in that place, with the music so perfect and a brilliant talent at her best.
1st Set: Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men
2nd Set: Joni Mitchell
3rd Set: Bob Dylan
I met Joni today after her sound check,
and like with all others, she was gracious
and kind and friendly. I was able to wish
her a happy birthday and give her an artsy
photo holder with pics I have taken of her
and her friends and colleagues, and me and
her friends over time...
She looks and sounds great, no residual
More on the concert later...
PS--Joni did BOTH SIDES NOW as a second encore
song. Larry brought out a BD cake and we all
sang the BD song to her, she blew out the
candles, and all our wishes will come true!!!!
What can I say about Joni's final show of this
tour that has not been said?
Virtually sold out, as tickets were not offered
at the box office when the gates opened...
Set list: pay attention, it's different tonight!
Big Yellow Taxi
Just Like This Train
Night Ride Home
Free Man in Paris
Song for Sharon "Bell"
Happiness is the Best Face Lift
Both Sides Now!!!!
Final bows, Joni collects about 10 bouquets
of flowers up front, Larry brings out cake,
we all sing and cry.
Ok, I'll do the same thing all you regionals
have done, and say the Atlanta audience was
by far the most appreciative, polite, (with
the exception of one "rude idiot"), and
Attentive compared to others I have seen
(5 other shows, including Chicago 2 weeks ago).
The reason most likely for this was no alcohol
served on this college campus. Joni did chide
a guy who, was thrown out eventually for his
yelling out "shut up!" to her during her
explanation of the Magdalene Laundries. She
then asked him again "What did you say?", and
then "To each his own...I'm just as good as
Bob...and you're an idiot...and a rude idiot!"
She held her composure for all songs thereafter,
as we held our breaths, and she was delighted at
the audience's appreciative applause and whistles,
and bouquets, and said she was getting "perverse
pleasure" in doing "one more" song, which was
Both Sides Now, and we loved it!!! It was melancholy,
she stood without guitar, but accompanied by the
band. It was in a lower key, pensive, slowed,
and reflective, and how she says it should have
always been sung....
God, what a special encore, hearing Joni on her
55th Birthday night sing Both Sides Now to us,
looking back on a life she has shown to be
uncompromising, honest, and full of "truth
I'll let others give more details about
what she said in between songs, (she was
"If you want me, I'll be in the bar".
And that's where we met and wished
Joni Mitchell a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
At the Ritz here we gathered briefly in
my room, collected ourselves and thoughts
about the wonderful concert we had just
seen in Atlanta, and moseyed on downstairs
with the hope that the "swinging hotspot"
would be in our neck of the woods.
We were not disappointed.
On the elevator ride down was Greg L,
Joni's pedal steel player. We complimented
him, discussed the parts he played that
moved us the most, and he was very pleased
that we were that attentive to Black Crow,
Amelia, and Both Sides Now...he said BSN was
decided upon at the sound check and the
band was sweating it tonight, as it the song was
rather impromptu, but Joni wanted to do it.
How glad we are she did!
We offered to buy him a drink, and he said
he was meeting "others in the band", but
might take us up on it. AAAAaaahhhh.
The hotel band was loud, the ballroom folks had
just let out of their parties and were
all over the place here that holds about
300 with sectioned areas.
Greg joined Larry Klein and Chris Botti,
seated on a couch with chairs and a
coffee table in one of the more intimate
rooms. We eventually got our table there,
and knew we had to wait and
hope Joni would eventually come down.
She did in about 30 minutes. We
appropriately kept our distance, did
not approach, as we watched them order
champagne. A couple celebrating their
year anniversary seated next table over
offered us their cake, so we vicariously
enjoyed wedding/Joni birthday cake as
we watched Joni get toasted and quietly
raised our glasses to her too.
I had a bottle of champagne sent over to
Joni and her group. She turned and motioned
a thanks, and I approached her group, did
a congratulatory wish and compliment to
the show, and was then caught in the tractor
beam of her gaze as she made the connection
to the mutual friend we have and expressed
her surprise at how many shows I have attended
of hers since May.
Paul Ivice then joined us, Bob M came over,
then John Lind, and Pearl surrounded Joni
as she thanked us for coming to the show,
and said she had not sung "Both Sides Now"
in 30 years...(this is incredible to me...)
but JONI MITCHELL NEVER LIES.
We listened rapt as she talked about going
to hear Mabel Mercer do a show in Manhattan
(not sure when it was), and Mable did BSN.
Joni said she told Mabel it was wonderful
to hear it done by an "older person" at which
Mable got offended. Joni laughed as she
described Mabel's affect and large presence,
and how she bristled at Joni calling her old.
I think just about each of us got a word of
thanks to her. Paul and others will share
their conversations I hope, and I'll just
close by saying that when we get our
photos developed that she allowed us to
take with her, we will share them with you.
She signed my vinyl Hejira and Song to a
I am so happy for me and all jmdl'ers
who have had the privilege to connect
in person with Joni.
I am in love shock right now and will
post more later.
Joni sent us three pieces of her
chocolate birthday cake over to our
table after our meeting with her.
It was the best tasting cake I have
ever eaten in my life.
I have saved a portion. It will be
my version of a saved-in-a-precious-box-
It's Joni's birthday and there's an astonishing vibe in the air. She's
up for this and the crowd is attentive, focused, and feeling Joni's
subtle musical delivery, the poetry set in jazz canvas. There is no
hint of labor and physical demand, but celebration for the artist and
the nearing end of the tour. She's at ease and the Happy Birthday sign
held up by Marsha and other JMDLers early in the set evokes
appreciative acknowledgement from Siquomb. She smiles a lot and the
band is smooth. There is a conversant atmosphere between Joni and
audience. It's as if the whole of the auditorium is finally keying
into her level of artistry. They're listening.
And here I relate the story of near disaster. It's the Magdalene
Laundries introduction. Joni is offering the background of the song to
the audience. A few Bob buffoons grow restless. A couple of snipers
call out shots from the dark rafters. I realize that Joni thinks these
indiscernible missiles are birthday greetings or flattery and she
stops. "What?" with a grin to the heights of stage right. "Baadillen!"
"I'm sorry. What?" "Baadillen!" The smile leaves and suddenly Joni is
isolated in the crosshairs. "What? What did he say?" "BOB DYLAN!" She
recoils into stiffness. "Well to each his own" is all she can think to
say. She's thinking of leaving the stage. It's visible, the suckered
fury. "You're very rude." The majority of the crowd seems unusually
attuned to the situation. There are calls of encouragement and ripples
of supportive cheers. Hang in there. Joni takes the guitar and spits
the first chords of "Magdalene Laundries" toward the unseen fool. She
pushes through the song, but her thoughts are still held by the
heckler. The crowd stands and cheers for her as she finishes. We're on
your side. Lights go down. She discards the guitar. Klein whispers
something to her. She lights a cigarette and an angry "Trouble Man"
erupts which she dedicates to the sniper. She points in his direction
as she sings, but he has since been escorted out by security. This is
a torch song with smoky effect, but she seems more like a punk chick
in a fight. But now, this is a brawl she's going to win. Again we
emphatically rise and cheer as she finishes. We've all won. She's back
and smiling and what might have deteriorated into another Indy has
been elevated and bonded. "Comes Love." Wow. Reaching for every nuance
and sending it out to all of us. "You don't deserve love," she flips
off a final comment to the ghost of Beergut. Large sections of the
audience remain on their feet throughout the rest of the set, a cog in
Encore. The sparse "Woodstock," the magic words lifted from the hit
and hung in quiet epiphany. And then... "We're going to do an extra
song tonight seeing how it's the end of the tour." "Moons and Junes
and fairy tales..." She's singing "Both Sides, Now" in a jazz
arrangement. My mouth is open. What an astounding finish. The song has
been transformed from folkie innocence into metaphor. The light
simplicity of its lyrics, which surely made Joni cringe at later
stages of her career, are pinned metaphorically in "I really don't
know love at all." You could hear the sadness of leaving that
innocence and its dumb freedom. One could feel that apply on numerous
levels as if it were an exit from expectation. She concludes in
self-satisfaction. I can't see suffering fools in the future. There
are flowers lain about the stage and as she retrieves an armful in the
ovation, the lights dim and Klein carries out a small birthday cake.
With the lone horn blowing "Happy Birthday," the auditorium sings out
with appreciation. It's an embracing moment. Joni blows out the
sheltered flames. Triumph.
Just a beautifully written review, Robert!
Enjoyed meeting you at the concert.
We have to give credit where credit is due
for the 8ft+ long birthday greeting we unfurled,
as the band came out for introductions.
Our Steve Chininnis made it and gave it to
the ticketholders-on-the-floor contingent
of our group. I "happened" to a better seat
down there with Bob M and his wife Valerie.
I am glad that my earlier JMDL sign brought
you out of the crowd to greet and meet us.
Always good to put a face/body to emails!
I had a fantastic time with everyone and
was happy and proud to have some of you share
in personal meetings with Joni on such
a special night.
Joni Mitchell was as radiant and mesmerizing last night as she was twentyfive
years ago when I last saw her perform. Her body language when she sings, the
way she sways with her guitar, leaves you in a hypnotic state and you find
yourself just staring at her. She sang so many songs from Hijira that it was
like a dream come true. And, with her personal references to so many songs,
you finally understood what some of them meant. I could go on and on but my
fellow listers did such a great job in describing the magical evening.
Bob Dylan was great but I have to agree with Bob, it was MUCH to loud. The
sound spoiled some of the songs as the music just sounded so muffled. I also
noticed more Dylan boppers than Joni fans. No matter, I enjoyed meeting all
the southern listers and it's fun to now have a face to match the name.
My life dream has been fulfilled. What a wonderful night for Joni and
me! I just wanted to share the lows and highs of the concert with you
I'll start off with the low: I had drunk Dylan fans sitting directly
behind me who hooted and were generally misbehaving throughout, despite
repeated pleas to please shut the hell up. Oh well. The rest was pure
First we arrived, not knowing where our seats were going to be exactly.
We got closer to the front and ended up pretty much on the floor.
However, someone was already in our seats. The seating person steered
us towards our new seats - hello - the front row! I nearly cried. I
just could not believe our good joni-luck! As we were waiting for
Joni's set to begin, who walked right in front of us, but Emily Saliers
of the Indigo Girls- she was sitting a few rows behind us. It was great
to see her attending this concert.
This was my first Joni concert - and I was blown away... she looked
beautiful and played beautifully! She handled the taunts from the crowd
well by playing longer and dedicating in singsong voice Both Sides Now
to the heckler "This one's for yOOOOuuuu!"
To sing Happy Birthday to her and see her response to the crowd from our
close seats was truly memorable.
Thank you, Joni for making me unendingly happy!
How I Spent my Weekend, or "Joni Has a Birthday and I get the Gift"
by Bob Muller
Part I, in which our protaganist enjoys a Joni Encounter of the first kind
(listening to her music):
So my wife & I leave Greenville around 10:30 or so Saturday heading for
Atlanta, a 21/2 hr. road trip on a beautiful. We gave ourselves lots of time
so she could browse the Liz Claiborne outlet in Commerce, Ga and so I wouldn't
be a nervous wreck worried about being late or getting lost in Atlanta (and
believe me, we do plenty of that). We enjoy "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" and
the Ambler PA show from TT#7 on the way down. We do indeed stop at the outlet
mall in Commerce and wander the Liz Claiborne store, but I don't care because
I'm seeing Joni tonight! We head south on I-85, roll into Atlanta about 2, get
lost (the first time) trying to find our hotel, which we eventually do locate.
Our next mission, freshen up and head to Einstein's for a JMDL "meet & greet"
I told Val to be ready to go @ 4:00 which of course was the kiss of death and
we left around 4:15, got lost (second time) and rolled into Einstein's @ 4:50
or so. We joined the party which consisted of Laurie, Pearl, Maurice, Marsha,
Paul, John & Allison, Medric, Steve & his wife (oops, forgot her name, but it
was a little overwhelming meeting faces, connecting them with internet
addresses, making small talk, etc. The food was great, but the service was a
little slow for some so they felt they had to split to be able to find parking
on Georgia Tech's Campus (there wasn't much, as anyone who's ever tried to
find parking on a college campus can attest). So the rest of us blazed a trail
over to Alexander Memorial to get situated...
Part II, In which our storyteller has a Joni encounter of the second kind
(seeing a live performance):
We managed to find parking using the "they can't tow us ALL away" mentality
and walked to Alexander with John & Allison. Val & I were the only ones with
floor seats, and I was delighted when I saw how small the floor area was - no
matter where we were on the floor, our seats were going to be great! I stopped
a moment, looked at the stage, and was just amazed that JONI MITCHELL was
going to be up there playing in a little while. We got there pretty early, and
went to find our seats, only to have the staff tell us that TicketMaster
screwed up and sold a section that didn't exist (the "section" we had seats in
was where all the sound equipment was) Bad News! But it soon turned into good
news when they told us that we could take our choice of some special seating
they had established to accomodate those people. We found ourselves in the
seventh row, near the end but still an excellent, excellent seat.
We left 2 seats vacant to our right, for whatever reason - the reason soon
became apparant when Paul & Marsha came down and sat in them pretending that
they belonged there, and hey, in my opinion, they certainly did! Steve had
made a "Happy Birthday Joni" banner, which he had given to me to unfurl as I
was to be closest to Joni. We all agreed when we would unfurl it and holler
"Happy Birthday Joni", we decided it would be after the first two songs when
the band was coming out. So anyway, Dave Alvin starts up right on time @ 7:00.
I enjoyed his set, I had seen him before in a small club and was a Blasters
fan in the 80's so I appreciated him more than most. But still, Dave, I'll be
polite and applaud but I really want you to finish so I can see Joni!
He does, and now for the good stuff...Joni comes out, solo of course, in the
green velour that others have reported about. She launches into BYT, does the
Dylan verse, and of course I'm in heaven but I wish I didn't know the set so I
could be surprised. She finishes Just Like This Train and Paul, Marsha, Val &
myself share a look to indicate that our "Birthday" cue is fast approaching.
Joni brings out the band, and we time it perfectly! Just as the applause dies
and before the band plays, we hold the banner high, shout "HB Joni!!!" and she
looks our way, and comments about it being a long time since she's played on
her birthday. She cracks a joke about being older than the president and just
as frisky, and the audience is loving it. Then comes the show - I'll not give
the song list, only my observations; The band was so tight & unified,
everything they did was there to serve Joni's music. The acoustics, which were
so-so for Dave Alvin (due to the vacancies of the space) sounded great now as
the empty spaces had filled. Great interplay between Botti & Liesz on "Free
Man in Paris", Joni's rockin, even when others are soloing it's almost
impossible to take your eyes off Siquomb as she hypnotizes you with her
swaying and aura and guitar work! I know I was certainly under her spell. She
broke into "Black Crow", the first of the 4 Hejira numbers she was to do, and
I broke into tears - I thought it would happen during Hejira or Amelia, but it
happened with the first song from that record - such a rush of emotional
memories are tied to this album for me. She seemed very relaxed, the crowd was
nice and quiet and considerate, and since we were on a college campus, no beer
sales, so no rowdy drunks. That was significant, because Joni (as we know by
now) creates such a bond with the audience that she's aware of even the
smallest distractions. I was holding my breath between songs, praying that no
one would disturb the mood. She only did "Facelift" from TTT, and I had really
hoped she would do "Crazy Cries" and introduce it with a plug for TTT as well.
She started to tell a story about her childhood friend Sharon Bell, and I
knew we were about to be treated to Song For Sharon. She introduced it as
"Song For Sharon Bell", and after a false start, played a beautiful version.
But all did not go well, but Joni's professionalism shone through - while
introducing "Magdalene" with the familiar story behind the song, some jerk
yelled out "Bring on Bob" or something like that. Joni made him repeat it, and
then called him an idiot as she began the song. She added "Not just an idiot,
but a rude idiot!" The crowd cheered her enthusiastically, and security tossed
the asshole out. Joni also told him "You don't deserve Bob", and played a
fiery "Magdalene Launderies", plucking the guitar strings so hard she looked
like she was pulling the trigger of a gun.
Next she stepped back, lit her ciggie, and brought down the house with
"Trouble Man" & "Comes Love". I think it helped her to sing "But I'm not going
to let it sweat me none" to forget about her heckler. She bowed and left, and
the crowd rose to its feet and cheered such that I knew we'd be treated to
her encore of Woodstock. Sure enough, as expected, out she came solo with her
guitar and played Woodstock which the crowd really enjoyed. While I enjoyed
it, I realized her show was over - such a bittersweet moment! Then, all of a
sudden, out comes Klein, straps on his bass, and I realize there's more!!
Paul, Marsha & I are looking at each other, now in spontaneous unknown
country. Joni introduces the bonus by saying "We're going to do one more song
just to spite that guy who wanted Bobby!" The crowd goes wild... Some sweet
chords rise up, and it sounds to me like the intro to "My Best to You", and
I'm thinking "Great set closer", and then all of a sudden she starts to sing
"Rows and flows of angel hair..." and I realize of course what she's doing. I
started crying like I hadn't in a while, and all the words she sings take on
such added depth. She completes the song, takes a final bow, and Klein runs
offstage to get a cake complete with candles. He then leads the audience in a
singalong of Happy Birthday" and Joni looks truly touched. By now of course I
know she's done for the night, but it doesn't stop Marsha & I from whooping
like a couple of rednecks at a NASCAR event! Marsha says she doesn't want to
hear Dylan and spoil her Jonimood and arranges for us to meet at the Ritz
later. The rest of us stick around, and after all, I'm a Dylan fan as well.
Luckily, the break was quick, out comes Dylan, and.......Yuck! The sound,
which for Joni was crystalline, is a loud Thud. For some reason, they're
pumping tons of stinking smoke out from behind the stage and my eyes start to
burn. The well-mannered folks who extended courtesy to Joni & her band now
become a band of rowdy, pot-smoking deadheads! Val & I stay for about 4 songs
and can take it no more. This show is indeed over...
Part III: Where our heros and heroines have a Joni experience of the third
kind (Meeting, talking, autographs, and otherwise hopelessly lost in a goo-goo
So, where was I? Aaah yes, we leave Alexander Coliseum and make our way to our
car - Yippee, it wasn't towed, and we pointed ourselves toward the Ritz
Carlton, heading north on Buckhead on Peachtree. Well let me tell you, that
Peachtree street goes on forever! I swear we drove through a time zone or two,
got lost again (the third time, and let me say that we didn't really get lost,
but if you miss a turn in Atlanta, you're supremely screwed; you have to drive
and turn and drive and turn to get back to where you want to be. We make it to
the Ritz, find the parking deck, and leave our humble Saturn with the likes of
the Mercedes and Bulgemobiles to go in and find Marsha. Luckily, as those of
you who know Marsha know, she ain't too hard to find in a crowd ;-). We do a
walk through of the bar(s) and believe me, I'm feeling pretty out of place
with my denim shirt and baggy white pants surrounded by tuxes and cleavage and
guys who probably made more last week than I've made so far this decade.
Anyway, I go to the front desk and have them ring "Miss Doyle" in Room 437.
As it turns out, Marsha and John/Hairfarmer and Allison are up there eating
pork rinds and drinking Dr. Peppers and otherwise hanging out and talking
about the show. Next thing we know, Paul calls and says he's spotted Larry
Klein & Chris Botti in the Lounge, so we're off to jockey for position for a
Joni sighting. We get in the elevator, and who's in there but Greg Liesz. Hey,
I'll be honest and say that I didn't recognize him; Joni's presence was so
awesome onstage I found it hard to focus on the other players...we strike up a
conversation with Greg, and what's he gonna do as he's stuck on this elevator
with us - but I must say he was impressed when we started to praise him for
parts of the show like "I loved it when you and Chris traded during "Free Man
in Paris" - this way he knew we weren't bullshitting with him, even though we
kind of were. So by the time the elevator lands, we're like old drinking
buddies and Marsha is (of course) posing with him as are all of us. He wanted
to know all of our names, and shook everyone's hand, and moved on. OK, 1
degree of seperation, and counting down...
By now, it's probably 11:30 or so, there's no tables to be found, and we can
see where Klein, Liesz, and Botti are sitting and making room for others to
join them (!!!!!!) I made a point to tell Larry how much I enjoyed the show
and also that the Kyle Eastwood disc was one of my favorites of the year,
which it is. He appreciated it and shook my hand with a dead fish handshake,
must have been weak from working those bass strings for an hour and a half.
Eventually, some of the well-dressed fossils and the young and restless headed
to their rooms and freed up some chairs and tables. By now, Paul, Pearl,
Marsha, Val & I, John and Allison were all together, looking at the digital
pictures Pearl took (and they were breathtaking), trying to get some service
(although I don't know why I was so anxious to pay 6$ for a Budweiser), and
otherwise making small talk with our eyes glued to the empty chair in the
midst of Joni's band. Their waiter shows up with a bottle of champagne, and
they start drinking. Finally, here comes Joni, and sits down, and Marsha
breaks into full Den Mother mode, telling us what we needed to do and how we
needed not to be obnoxious fans. And when Marsha speaks, it's best to obey!
But holy cow, the 8-year old kid inside of you is aching to pop over there and
start fawning and all that.
Next, Marsha executes Step 2 - she orders another bottle of the champagne
they were drinking and has it sent to them...Marsha, what a woman of heart and
mind...so they pop the cork, which means they're going to stay awhile. The
waiter mentions to them that the group in the corner has treated them to it,
and Joni turns to look. I was facing her, acknowledged that yes, we are the
party, checked to make sure I wasn't drooling on myself, and we offered some
polite "golf applause". It was soon time for step 3. We waited until Marsha
led the way with her bag containing her vinyl STAS and Hejira, and she Paul &
I approached her.
The next period of time was incredible - what others have said about
conversation with Joni is absolutely true - everything else in the room
disappears, she looks at you eye to eye with no pretension, she talks to you
as if you're her best friend and she knows that you'll be interested in what
she's saying, and of course you are. Now I thought I would be all wobbly-
kneed, but far from it! Joni is instantly so vulnerable in conversation; she
remained seated so I knelt down to talk to her, I guess out of respect like in
"The King & I" - I felt like my head shouldn't be higher than hers. We talked
about her inclusion of "Both Sides Now" and also thanked her for "Song For
Sharon". She said that she enjoyed the show very much, she was glad that the
jerk who harassed her was booted out, and she also said that MSG and Detroit
shows were great for her. She said she was sorry to have to play in Coliseums
and that it would be great to play in small clubs again, but of course she
couldn't go back to doing that now. We talked about her next project, and she
said that the band was anxious to get on it as soon as possible, and she
agreed that it would be great to just cut loose & sing. I told her how I
always thought Blue Motel Room was such a great torch song, she commented that
it was, but the America/Russia lyric wouldn't play anymore. I mentioned the
lyric she was talking about back to her to confirm that the song and album was
indeed a part of my bloodstream, then she started signing autographs - she
signed Marsha's albums, she signed Paul's Joni picture that Pearl had given
all of us (a treasure, Pearl!) and all I had was my ticket stub for her to
sign. I told her that she didn't have to write "To Bob" on it because I
already knew who I was, I just wanted her signature. She smiled at me and
signed, again in such a sweet way. John presented her with a photo of a
painting he had done of her, and she really enjoyed that, too.
Then came the pictures. Marsha posed beside Joni seated in the big easy
chair, then Paul, then me. When I got by her side, I put my arm around her,
and she placed her right hand on top of mine. Her touch was so warm and
gentle! Pearl took the picture, and then Joni said "We better take another one
- that one might not come out" Imagine that, I mean think that whole thing
through....JONI wanted a bonus picture taken for MY benefit!!! We assumed the
same position, she again put her hand, the same hand that played all those
guitar/dulcimer/piano chords, the same hand that wrote all of those words that
have shaped our lives, on top of my hand and Pearl took the photo. Believe me
Pearl, I have done some serious praying today that those pictures come out!!!
I told her that she was a sweetheart, and that if she wanted to dance, I would
love to dance with her. She smiled a smile I'll never get out of my mind, and
said "Maybe after another drink or two"...
Well, what can be said after all that? She sincerely ENJOYED the time we
spent with her, she wasn't patronizing us, and we knew she wouldn't! I am even
deeper in love, awe, and appreciation of her. I'm tearing up now as I remember
this experience - talk amongst yourselves for a moment...
Val & I made it back to our hotel at 2:00 and crashed in the bed - Valerie
went right to sleep, and I want to say right here that she wins some kind of
award for this whole trip - she's only a marginal fan, and she was the
ultimate good sport - she took my autographed ticket stub and put it in her
purse for safekeeping. I couldn't sleep, as tired as I was, not after what I
had just experienced! Did it REALLY happen? How could I post it without
leaving stuff out? How could I convey the emotion, the overwhelming sense of
completion of meeting my JMDL friends of spirit, of seeing Joni in concert, of
meeting her, talking to her, holding her hand?
Well my friends, it did happen. And all those stuffed shirts in the Ritz who
didn't know when the greatest Renaissance artist of our time, perhaps of ALL
time, walked right by them, well they can have all their money, their designer
clothes, their stinky cigars, because I have something now that they'll NEVER
have and never know. Sour Grapes, cause I lost my heart...
Thus ends my tale - I probably have written more today than I have since
January when I joined this crazy thing. And believe me, I don't intend on
taking up this much bandwidth for a while...
I do have to say a BIG thanks to Marsha, who sort of "arranged" the Joni Meet,
Steve who arranged the dinner at Einstein's, Wally and Les who of course made
it all possible, and oh yeah, Joni, thanks forever to you and God Bless you!
Well the show was killer, I mean I was a little disapointed at no "DJRD"...
at least until "Both Sides Now". Yes, Marsha wasn't halucinating, we really
were treated to "BSN" as the final encore(unless of course you count 'Happy
Birthday'). The rest of the show was good as well, of course. My other
highlights being "Free Man in Paris", "Song For Sharon" and "Hejira". The
trumpet work on "Hejira" was especially moving. I have to admit I was truly
amazed by "BSN". So many people have posted lately about wishing she would
do this song again(as well as others) and I had thought several times
recently that the only way I would ever hear her sing this song was If she
were still perfoming in twenty years. I kept thinking about the A&E profile
where she talks about hearing Mabel Mercer sing the song in her seventies
and how "You really have to be in your seventies, reflecting back on a
life's experiance to sing that song". Well, I'd say 55 years has been
plenty for her to aquire the history she needed. You really can *feel* true
experiance in a great singer's voice and boy was it there tonight. Our one
heckler got his just deserts and was removed by security to the tune of a
cheer slowly rippling out through the crowd in the middle of "Magdalene
Laundries". Joni was shaken by his outburst just enough to not finish the
story of the song's inspiration, but boy did it fuel the performance. She
focused her attention towards the "Rude Idiot"'s direction for the entire
song, very passionate. "Trouble Man" was also geared for the moron in
question. She really tore it up. You could just feel how completely sick
of these nincompoops she is.
Finally getting to meet some more(we met Paz in New Orleans on our
honeymoon) fellow listers was also real treat. Marsha joined Allison and I
at a friend's home to watch the PPV, which was excellent. Her giddiness in
pointing everyone in the audiance out to us was wonderful and very sweet I
thought. The M&G at Einsteins before the show could have been better as we
were an hour late due to Atlanta traffic(these people could make Mary
Poppins go balistic), sorry all. We did at least get to meet Bob(rmurocks)
and his wife Val, as well as Pearl, Paul and Maurice(?). Then of course, as
I'm sure Marsha has posted by now, we all got to wish Joan happy birthday
and do the "fan" bit in the hotel lounge. I did my best to keep it
short-and-sweet. I told her I didn't want to be a pest(she seemed to
appreciate that with a small grain of salt like she was wondering if it was
a precursor to an hour-and-a-half's worth of gushing), wished her happy
birthday and gave her a photo of the portrait I painted of her in '93. She
looked at the photo and said "it's very strong" then offered me her hand
old fashioned style, the same way I shake(even as much of an "equalist" as
I try to be in terms of race, gender, religion, etc I find that I still
will hold my hand to shake a woman's differently than a man's. Underhand,
like you would take a lady's hand to kiss in an old movie). Then she
thanked me and handed the picture to the band to look at as I left her to
I didn't get a chance to talk to any of the band(other than Greg, riding
down in the elevator), but Allison got to talk drumming, setup stories and
"road-lag" with Brian. She was a profesional roadie for a while after
college. We did get a scoop from the band, if it hasn't already been
posted, that they're going to shoot an episode of VH1's "Storytellers"
series in L.A. next week. Get busy with those phone calls, Kakki...