A CHRONOLOGY OF APPEARANCES
Compiled by Simon Montgomery, © 2001
 

2000.05.22  The Theatre at Madison Square Garden  New York, NY

» This Concert is a part of the 2000 Both Sides Now Tour Of North America.

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Photo by Rose Marie Joy

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Related articles from the Library:
» Analog Corner (Stereophile, 2000)
» Cover Concert Doesn't Do Joni Justice (New York Post, 2000)
» Joni Mitchell Plays Something Old, Something New, But Nothing From Blue (SonicNet website, 2000)
» Joni Mitchell Transcends the Musical Packages (New York Times, 2000)
» Joni's Gold Standards (New York Daily News, 2000)

Related video from the Library:
» Judgement Of The Moon And Stars Madison Square Garden, NY (2000)
Set List
1.  Orchestral Overture
2.  You're My Thrill
3.  At Last
4.  Comes Love
5.  You've Changed
6.  Answer Me, My Love
7.  A Case Of You
8.  Don't Go To Strangers
9.  Sometimes I'm Happy
10.  Don't Worry 'Bout Me
11.  Stormy Weather
12.  I Wish I Were In Love Again
13.  Both Sides Now
14.  Be Cool
15.  Judgement Of The Moon And Stars (Ludwig’s Tune)
16.  Hejira
17.  For The Roses
18.  Trouble Man

Comments on this appearance


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123snowy on 2010-Oct-31 at 20:08:08 GMT-5:
I saw this concert about 10 years ago. I travelled to see it from Swansea South Wales a distance of over 3,000 miles. It was worth every inch of the journey. I have seen Joni 4 times in total and have neve been disappointed in the least. I remember going to Judy's before the concert to see fellow JMDLers and had a wonderful time . If anyone remembers this gettogether please get in touch at paul.headon@ntlworld.com, it was a magical night. Joni Mitchell is and always will be a true genius in the true sense on the word based on this concert , and the other 3 occasions I saw her as well! :-)


Archival comments


By Patrick Leader, Reporting for JoniMitchell.com

In what must have been the first indoor date of the Joni Mitchell "Both Sides Now" tour, Joni had to work a room. An old room, the Theater at MSG, which has been the Felt Forum, the Paramount and has seen a lot of history. An ugly room, compared to so many fine theaters in NY, but a room that just happens to have a lot of great seats to see Joni from. This was by far the best space I've seen Joni in, but it was not magic under the stars, so the girl had to work it. And work it she did, not just with showmanship (though there was some of that) but with vocal artistry. She sang real good. Though the songwriter's art came into view several times during the night, it was an evening for appreciating the singer's art. Joni Mitchell's voice, year 2000. And as you'll see in my report, Joni's rhythm, year 2000.

After the overture, Claude Debussy's "Nuages" (clouds, appropriately: thanks to drummer Peter Erskine for clearing that up for us) Joni appeared in vivid, shiny purple. Definitely not Miyake, this was a full-length purple gown with an attached cape. She held on to the ends of the cape as if they were attached to her sleeves, through most of the set. The piece was not quite as haute couture as the dresses I've seen photographed earlier in the tour (and actually not as pretty or flattering) but the shade of purple was so aggressive you had to love it. Almost brassy. She did have a pair of shiny white slacks underneath, peeping out under the hem.

No surprises in the set list. "You're My Thrill" warmed us up, as Joni warmed up, a little tentative. She gave a lovely introductory spiel, inviting us on a journey along the arc... I was warming up to the sound of an amplified orchestra (I attend a fair amount of classical concerts, which are rarely amplified, so this was a bit of a shock, especially during the Debussy.)

She introduced "At Last", saying "Now, we're smitten; now we celebrate." An excellent entree to that song; it really does have a gleeful tinge. Next: "Comes Love", the first high point of the evening for me, with Isham on trumpet. Her introduction admitted to the oddness of its placement, only three songs into a set about "the arc of modern love". She called it "The Soothsayer Song of the Set", and it might be, but it also swings, and she swung with it. She also continued her journey into the "Children's Theater" possibilities in the lyrics. She had so much fun with lines like:

Comes a mousy You can chase it with a broom

or (especially this show)

Comes a nightmare (Joni shivering like a cheesy horror movie, both vocally and physically) You can always stay awake

Chuck Berghofer's standing bass was particularly sweet on "Comes Love".

Joni has a special smile for jm.com photographer Rose Marie Joy "You've Changed" is a genuine classic; some of us who had met before the show at Judy's Chelsea (where David Lahm was holding forth at the piano) had heard a cabaret style version of it. Joni was really loose by this point in the show (in the best sense of the word); she experimented with vocal line possibilities. And I have to say that here, and in every song, she could reach for possibilities because her pitch was just dead on. All night.

Before heading into "Answer Me, My Love", she said, "We could've gone a number of different directions here, we decided to go straight into begging." Quite a laugh there. Then into "A Case of You", which drew the first standing ovation. Next she sang "Don't Go to Strangers", a pretty decent job (beautiful dreamy Isham trumpet at the beginning), but for me the show was beginning to hang; seven songs so far and only one with a little bit of zip. Thank god for the next song.

Herbie Hancock came out for "Sometimes I'm Happy", and you could feel Joni's joy at sharing the stage. She tore it out. Here was my second big highlight; Joni Mitchell singing jazz that is not just harmonically adventurous, but rhythmically on the edge too. This was a sublime performance. "Don't Worry 'Bout Me", with its terrific barrel-voiced intro, was a perfect finish to Act 1.

Act 2 was far stronger for this reviewer. Joni came out in sheer high-culcha drag, a Miyake gown, all pleated, with wire shape at knee level. It may have been the same one photographed so beautifully by Phyllis and Jimmy in Florida, but it appeared to be pure black. When someone yelled out "Joni, your outfit rocks", she replied, "It swings, too" and demonstrated.

Stormy Weather was a great opener for the second set, and Joni's singing was straight-to-the-heart truthful. She then took Herbie and others into another rollicking, rhythmic ride: 'I Wish I Were In Love Again". Another peak moment in the show. The album, my previous experiences of seeing Joni live, her appearances on other albums; none of these prepared me for how hard she can swing, and how hard she swung last night.

I've been reading the reports on the site as the tour has progressed, and from last night's show I got the impression that a lot of people have been. Either that, or a New York audience is more sophisticated than others. It was clear that people knew this was not a greatest hits concert; it was Joni with an orchestra doing mostly standards. When someone from the back yelled out "play your old songs", the audience shushed her. It was particularly ironic that this happened at the beginning of Both Sides Now. As we quieted down, and the band played those first beautiful wavelets of violin lines, and Joni, with pure simplicity, gently placed the first verse into the arrangement, and into the room, and into our hearts; well, I was completely gone by then. If the first act was a hair disappointing for me, I was glowing by this point.

And then with her "arc of a modern romance" and the album play-through complete, the show took another leap forward. She said that she and Klein had enjoyed the BSN project so much that they were working on another one: orchestrations of more of her originals. She claimed that Klein was choosing the songs, allegedly from "the darker side of my oeuvre". I'm not sure I'm buyin' that one! Then she said, "So I chose this one to lighten it up". Be Cool! Just incredible. It was an orchestral arrangement, yes, except that the strings sat this one out. Just the brass (and that section was brilliant all night) and rhythm sections, for a completely jazzy take on a song that's always been one of her more jazzy songs. Not like this though!

Ludwig's tune was, for me, just odd. Not a favorite of mine, so I couldn't say whether I liked the arrangement. I will say that I think the orchestra was right on top of it. The solo oboe was beautiful. Hejira was amazing. The rhythm was, I think, similar to "Nothing Can Be Done" which she has described as a lambada. I don't know if that's accurate. In any case, she gave it the most impassioned reading I've heard from her. Given my love for this song and for all things rhythmic, I was in heaven.

For The Roses was, for me, the perfect justification of this orchestral project. This was a brilliant arrangement of the song, perfect musically, perfect vocally, perfect lyrically. She sang the hell out of it, impassioned and direct. This, when the new album comes out, will be one of the reasons I'll rush to buy it. Joni, Herbie, Mark, Klein and the band (!) finished with another smokin' version of Trouble Man.

So this was truly a wonderful evening, with great musicians supporting another great musician. But for me the real surprise was this: though the album is a torch album and the show could have been, the best parts of the show (with two exceptions) were the songs where Joni got to swing. I can't wait to see where she goes next with this. You know I'll be along for the ride.

REPORTS FROM THE INTERNET COMMUNITY

Hi! Just got back from seeing Joni at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

Joni was in TOP form from beginning to end. She started off really strong and continued that way for the rest of the show.

When Joni first arrived on stage the adenine rose to their feet for a good five minutes with thunderous applause and yelling! One of the best welcome's I've ever seen a New York audience give a performer.

From song to song her voice kept the audience at attention.

I have to say the only bad thing about the concert was that it was over way to soon! Joni IS #1 and always will be.

GJORTENZIO

Hi all. Just returned from the New York concert. Others have already commented on how great this tour is. It's all true. It's once in a lifetime - so those of you in cities still to be visited, get tickets.

The sound started out badly balanced, but improved as the show progressed (or maybe I just got used to it). Unlike reports from other venues, her voice was always well placed in the mix. Strings tended to disappear when any wind instruments played. At certain levels the live sound mushed with the amplified sound. But I'm picking (and used to hearing orchestral music in concert halls unamplified) - for the most part the arrangements came through fine and they were spectacular, especially the new ones.

As the concert started and Joni was going through the first part of her set I was thinking how gutsy this whole album and tour is. This is NOT "Lush Life". She just wanted to do it and did. And pulling off this tour is really amazing. I'm sure there were plenty of people telling her it wouldn't come off.

Among the first five standards, "At Last" moved me most. And I was appreciating the craft of these songs, when along came "A Case of You" and the song just blew everything before it away. And it wasn't just that we wanted to hear her material or familiar material. The song is brilliant, lyrically, musically, emotionally. "Don't Go to Strangers" which followed simply isn't in that league. The standards are fun, and if she wants to do them fine, but she's way beyond the material.

By the way she was in fine voice - confident, secure, power to spare for the big moments, and for the whispers and the purrs.

After intermission, the show went into overdrive. "Stormy Weather" was powerful, great arrangement, great song, great performance. "I wish I were in love again" was cute. "Both Sides Now " in its new arrangement, absolutely heartbreaking. She stumbled over some lyrics - a senior moment - the song more than survived.

Then the greatness didn't let up: Be Cool - what a hilarious inventive gem. Judgement of the Moon and Stars - almost operatic in its sweep, and yes she still has the chops to put it over. Then the high point for me - Hejeira in a new propulsive arrangement suggesting a locomotive. The whole stage pulsed with the rhythm of those incredible lyrics, and Klein's bass. For the Roses finished up with another jaw dropping arrangement of a song that speaks so eloquently about the same stuff that sounds so cranky in her interviews. What art! What honest self appraisal! And what guts to sing a song like that at this point in her career! She walks off the stage after the words "Like an empty spotlight" and the orchestra finishes with a shattering coda.

The concert ended with a perfect encore - Trouble Man in a great energetic arrangement. With cigarette in hand she belted with gusto, not having to save her voice anymore.

I've grown up with Joni Mitchell - she's only a little older than me. In the last year or so I've been feeling a little cut off from her present path - Taming the Tiger hasn't really clicked for me - it seems slightly half baked. I had bad seats for the tour with Dylan and felt ripped off by the crappy sound amplification. And I was suspicious of this standards album thinking it might be a commercial ploy. But tonight has convinced me that she is totally into this phase, and thankfully, she says she's working on the orchestral album of her own material. It's going to be amazing. Time and other things have done all of us some damage. This may be the best she can do at this time in her life. Aren't we all lucky?

Tonight's concert in Madison Square Garden Theater in NY was out of site. It was great, something different but very nice. Joni was great!!!

I think I should get one thing straight right at the start, for those unfamiliar with the venue: There is a world of difference between Madison Square Garden and the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. The former, where Joni Mitchell opened for Bob Dylan in November '98, is a massive, 20,000-seat room more suited for hockey games than music. Joni's show there with Dylan was marred by terrible acoustics, poor sight lines and the Big Mitch sounding as if she were singing from the bottom of a sea of molasses. The Theatre at Madison Square Garden, on the other hand, while in the same complex, is a much different affair. It is perhaps one-quarter the size, with acoustics so fine that you can practically hear every member of the 70-piece orchestra that backed Joni up yesterday, and excellent sight lines. It is one of the finest places to see a show in New York, and was a great place to see Joni perform.

And what a show we were treated to yesterday; one of the most elegant, sophisticated evenings of entertainment I've enjoyed in years. I thought that Joni was in fine voice, despite everyone's carping about her limited range these days. That smoky (what an apt description) timbre in her voice perfectly suits her torch singer persona of this tour, and backed up by that lush orchestra and the wonderful solos of Herbie Hancock, Larry Klein et al., proved a very moving instrument indeed. I don't know how much actual rehearsal the large orchestra got to do before the show, but everything seemed nice and tight and well prepared. I loved seeing Joni perform such "old-timey" numbers as "Judgment of the Moon and Stars," "For the Roses" and "Hejira." And how cool is it to see Joni doing "Be Cool"? Way cool, lemme tell you! Although the new arrangements on some of these tunes--tunes which have been running in our heads for decades now--were initially disorienting, I found myself quickly settling into the new sounds and enjoying them very much. Last night's "For the Roses" was particularly different in feel from the old version that we all love, but the new version has a beautiful feel all its own, and by the song's end, I found myself jumping to my feet and cheering. "Judgment of" was also a triumph, and Klein's work on "Hejira" really most impressive. So from a musical standpoint, the evening was pure heaven.

I'm happy to say that I don't recall having seen Joni appear to be enjoying herself as much at a show in a long time. I've seen her 8 times now, in a 26-year period, and can't remember her ever smiling so much at a show. She really did seem to love doing those old standards; you could just tell by the look on her face that she was fulfilling a longtime dream. The last time I saw her appear to have this much fun on stage was back in August '79, singing and dancing with the Persuasions at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. It always adds to the viewers' pleasure, I feel, when they can tell that the performer is having a great time up there on stage, too.

And let me just say right now that Joni is still gorgeous. She really does look exceptional for a woman pushing 57, but possibly that is faint praise; she looks great for a woman of any age. When she smiles and laughs she sometimes looks like a girl. She's got a wonderful stage presence and aura. I'm from from an expert on haute couture, but I thought that the purple gown she wore for the first set very elegant indeed. The gray pleated number she wore for the second set, described perfectly by another reviewer elsewhere, was like something out of "Star Trek"; I've never seen anything like it in my life. I'm not sure how flattering it was, actually; that drastic flare at the knee was a bit much. But when you have the natural beauty of a Joni Mitchell, you can carry off even the most outlandish of getups with great grace.

So all in all, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it really was a most enjoyable evening. But I do so wish that Joni could have found a way to perform one of my favorite songs of hers, "Down to You." With that full orchestra behind her, it would have been perfection. I feel that she really missed a great opportunity there. Oh well...perhaps next time, or on her upcoming album. I could have used a little more in terms of concert length itself (we got two sets of around 50 minutes each), but then again, no matter how long she might have played, I'd probably be saying the same thing. It's hard to get enuff of a good thing, especially when we're talking about the greatest Canadian who ever lived! The crowd last night seemed to feel the same way. Folks in the audience were just adoring her. Is there any other artist out there who gets fans to scream out "I love you" the way Joni does? (I've never been to a Tom Jones or Ricky Martin concert, so there might be, but not to my knowledge!) An amusing moment occurred when one woman yelled out, "Paint a 'Starry Night' again, man!" To which Joni laughed and responded, "Never!" Indeed, this is a woman who will never be content to rest on her laurels (which she finally seems to be garnering after many years of relative neglect) and do things the same old way. She continues to reinvent herself and surprise and challenge her fans, and yesterday's concert was a winning testament to that fact. She just might be our greatest living artist, and is a treasure whose rare appearances offer a wonderful opportunity to bask in great beauty of many kinds.

Joni arrived in New York fully-armed, so to speak: Herbie was on hand and she probably had access to the best musicians for the orchestra that she'll have on the entire tour. (Though I don't know what she hears in Marc Isham and for once in my life would have preferred Wallace Roney.)

In any case, the combination of musical forces was devastating: Joni may have smoked her way into performing A Case of You three semitones lower than the original key, but man, she is STRONG! Never veering off key and always nailing her pitches, Joni blew me away not only because she sounded so good, but because much of the performance was BETTER than the record! "At Last" and "A Case of You" and "Sometimes I'm Happy" in particular benefitted from souped-up live energy.

The orchestra was nailing these very complex arrangements (the magnitude of Vince Mendoza's genius cannot be overstated; his arrangements make a huge orchestra blend like a tight band). It would have been cool if Wayne were there too, but Bob Sheppard is such a great substitute that I didn't care. He's also touring with Steely Dan later this summer. What an honor for him to do both tours!

Again, the presence of Herbie Hancock automatically added extra weight to the performance, and his blowing on "Sometimes I'm Happy" was a lot more aggressive than on the recording; Herbie took it out! It was also way-cool to have him jamming on "Trouble Man."

The material at the end of the set suggested that the second orchestral project will be even better than the first, the arrangements "Judgement," "Hejira" and "For The Roses" adding untold new dimensions to all three tunes.

Joni WINS!!!

Matt Snyder

Hi Jim:

Here's my 2 cents on the first night in Manhattan.

It was probably an unwise decision to recreate the new album live. Pop music audiences do not listen attentively enough for the story of the linked songs to have penetrated the chatter and the popping up and down for trips to the rest rooms and bar. There was just too much musical content to be absorbed. Perhaps, a wiser course would have been to program all the songs, but intersperse the "new" old JM songs among them and mix the order up, treat the show as a plain old concert. The "arc" of "Both Sides Now" is best savored at home alone, I think.

That said, I think Joni sounded even better live than on the record, vocally stronger and more playful. The re-done JM songs seem to be very much a work in progress, however. I'm not sure Joni has fully worked out how to communicate them all in this new way. "Ludwig's Tune" packed quite a wallop, but I'm wondering if it should. Is is that kind of song? I have no reservations about the sped-up, jazzy "Hejira", however. It was the highlight of the night for me.

It is really unfair to comment, but the outfits Joni wore were two of the most unflattering things I have ever seen on a female performer. She looked absurd and ugly from the neck down.

I was also flabbergasted by the number of people in the audience who clearly did not know what they were going to hear, especially the young couples necking during the "breaking up" songs. This music and this performer are clearly too good for them.

John Roberg

After reading a couple negative reviews of Joni's tour, I ventured to the May 22 New York City show not expecting too much. Glad to report that Joni's performance with the 71-piece orchestra was brilliant. She sounded better live than she has on record in quite some time. New York audiences can be a tough audience, but, Joni commanded their attention and appreciation of the audience from the Debussy "Clouds" overture to the very last number.

While the BSN romantic standards that Joni claimed as her own were all well received, I personally thought that the new orchestral arrangement given "Ludwig's Theme" and "For the Roses" were the highlights of the evening. Can't wait to hear the album that Joni says she and Larry Klein have just begun recording of old Mitchell songs with new orchestral arrangements.

The production values of the concert were first-rate. I marveled at all the attention to detail that Joni and producers spent on planning the evening-- I still can't believe how she is managing to perform with different orchestras in every town. What planning this must take!

Joni's second performance in New York is 5/23 at the Paramount Theatre, or as it is now known, the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

Bob DiCorcia, Westfield, NJ

In the first of two New York shows Monday Joni Mitchell, backed by a large symphonic orchestra, sang the standards from her latest album "Both Sides Now," in order and largely as she recorded them. She opened with "You're My Thrill," the best of the album's intricate arrangements with ominous Bernard Hermann-like strings. The Hitchcock touch is just right, and sets off the sweet and lovely "At Last" which follows. If it doesn't match the fervor and the purity of the young Etta James's version, it pays it fitting tribute. After "Comes Love" and "You've Changed," Joni talked about the songs she'd selected to construct the arc of romance in her new work. "In choosing material there were lots of ways to go here. I decided to go right into begging." The song she introduced, "Answer Me," was followed with her own "A Case of You", lifting the Madison Square Garden Theatre audience to the second standing ovation.

After "Don't Go to Strangers" came "Sometimes I'm Happy," for which she was joined by Herbie Hancock. His amped-up piano jump-started the orchestra and set Joni swinging. The satisfying result points up one of the problems with the symphonic format. The multi-layered arrangements bring out shades of emotion and conflict, but the sound tends to be heavy, rhythmically somber. The evening's "Comes Love", for example, was much less adventurous than the frisky version Joni sang during her last tour and pay-per-view special, when she performed with a small jazz-rock group.

Following "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" and an intermission, Joni returned to complete the cycle of "Both Sides Now" tracks, with "Stormy Weather", "I Wish I Were in Love Again" (Joni needed a lyrics sheet and, perhaps, more freedom with the beat) and a thoughtful, moving "Both Sides Now". One of the oldest and most-recorded songs in her canon, she delivers it now in a slow, measured version that divests it of confessional implications and makes it a hymn for a generation. In this new version Joni sings it like the standard it has long been for other performers, and it is a fitting summing up of an evening and a career.

But the best was yet to come.

With Herbie Hancock back for the last several songs, and joined by ex-husband and music director Larry Klein on bass, Mark Isham on trumpet and Bob Sheppard on saxophone, Joni performed the best of her set, several encore jewels reset in the symphonic mode by arranger/conductor Vince Mendoza. The choice of songs gave the evening a needed tension as the audience wondered where the retrospective would take her (some audience members started calling out for "Old stuff" halfway through the show).

The jazzy insinuations of "Be Cool" were well-served by its new arrangement, though the lyric is too light to sustain them. A few funny jabs at the music industry reminded the audience that Joni was a critic of its buy-and-sell decades ago. As a response to its worship of success, "We're gonna play difficult and obscure stuff", she joked before performing "Judgment of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig's Tune)", her 30-year-old homage to the dying Beethoven. A half dozen woodwinds accomplished no more than the elegantly spare Tom Scott solo in the original, but the rest of the encores were inspired. "Hejira", the title song of Mitchell's finest album, assumed a new harmonic richness. The resetting of "For the Roses" was the evening's highlight: as beautiful and sad and timeless as the artist and her work. She laughingly updated a lyric, evaluating new bands as "copycats and wankers/Looking at 'em on my DVD set." Joni finished with a sexy, smoky cover of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man", the encore at her last New York concert when she likewise returned to the stage cigarette in hand.

Throughout Joni seemed happy and relaxed. Freed of her instruments and comfortable acting out song standard dramas, Joni opens up as a jazz-pop singer. With 10,000 cigarettes singeing the edges of her voice she has to reach through half a dozen registers to secure her emotional effects, but they are - mostly - there. Sometimes harsh, always dry, never rising to the achingly sweet heights of her girlhood soprano, her voice now has a darker resonance, a new urgency and mature emotionalism. The harmonic choices are sophisticated, the phrasing sure.

Her sinuous moves - a gentle roll of the hips and arms - were set off by a pair of gowns, the second a pleated Egyptian queen's robe in shiny black.

Richard Jonas NY, NY

I saw Joni Mitchell's opening night concert in Manhattan, and my only disappointment was not having bought tickets for the second show as well. As for what I've been reading on this (excellent) web site, I have to commend R. Blum for comments made after the Atlanta concert. I, too, am amazed by the so-called "longtime" Joni Mitchell fans who go to these shows and are put off by what they hear. Haven't they bought the new disc and fallen in love with it? Maybe they want Joni to be some kind of musical Nick at Nite...someone they can tune in and see unchanged, exactly the way she was 30 years ago. Mind you, Joni Mitchell 30 years ago was awesome, but who wants to hear the same songs in the same arrangements year after year? I'd rather be punch drunk! I love the way she constantly explores new frontiers and refuses to stagnate. In every CD she takes a thrilling new musical journey, and I happily take it with her. In these days of creative mediocrity, I'm grateful she remains a true pioneer.

Regarding her vocal qualities...yes, her voice IS different now, but it works beautifully with the material she's doing. And her phrasing - need I say it? - remains unparalleled.

As for the concert itself, I loved her un-divalike performance. Even when she muffed the words to "I Wish I Were In Love Again" (despite having the lyric sheet in her hand), I was charmed by her "Ooops! I blew it!" reaction. It's called human, and I think it's refreshing. Anyway, I don't feel the need to critique the rest of the evening. When you've got those great musicians, and that great material, and Joni Mitchell center stage, well...it just doesn't get any better than that.

At one pont in the show, a true fan (who really knew her recordings) jokingly shouted out, "Paint a Starry Night again, man!" She laughed and replied, "No way."

And that's why I love her. Onward, ever onward, Joni! You're the best.

Patrick English Manhattan

I hadn't seen Joni Mitchell in concert for 25 years and I have to admit that I went to the BSN concert at the Madison Square Garden Theater in NYC with more than a little trepidation. Like so many others who have written here, Joni's music has been a huge part of my life and I have always had the utmost respect for her as a musician and a songwriter. Should I just enjoy my memories from 1975 and leave it at that or should I get tickets and see a living legend who might not live up to my considerable expectations? Did I really care about the "standards" she was singing and was her voice diminished to the point that it wasn't even worth hearing? These were the issues that I was grappling with before finally making the decision to go ahead and get tickets. After all, I might not get the chance to see her again and I sure as hell couldn't wait another 25 years (although knowing Joni , she'll probably still be singing) so my wife and I got seats for the opening night concert at the Garden theater. I'm happy to report that all my fears were washed away the minute Joni appeared on stage to a thunderous standing ovation. I knew in an instant that I had made the right choice; I was there not only to hear and enjoy what turned out to be a great musical experience but to show my support for Joni and to say thanks for 30 plus years of artistic substance and integrity.

Hearing the standards live with a 70 piece orchestra was thrilling and a definite improvement over the record and Joni's voice was in great shape. I'm really coming around to her smokey Billie Holliday-like vocals and it's amazing what she can do in her lower register-it's like a whole different singer has been discovered there! Of course, her originals held the most interest for me and I thought that ending the show with "For the Roses" was brilliant (empty spotlight and all).She really nailed "Trouble Man" for the encore and I guess we now have to refer to Joni as a folk/pop/jazz/torch/R&B singer.

My wife and I left the concert feeling uplifted and in great anticipation of the next record and hopefully, the next concert tour. I wonder what "Big Yellow Taxi" sounds like with a 70 piece "band"??!! Anyway, thanks for this great web site and to Joni thanks for still making beautiful music. You are truly irreplaceable.


JMDL Member Comments

Harper Lou: I went to Madison Square Garden Theater last night for the Both Sides Now concert.

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!

It was absolutely one of the classiest musical presentations I ever saw. The Both Sides Now album was well-presented. Herbie Hancock was smoking on the piano. The orchestra was right on. Joni's rapport with the audience was excellent. And Larry Klein only played a wee tiny bit. Who could ask for more?

After the program of the complete new album, I was surprised to hear Joni do some older selections, too. Hejira, Be Cool, For the Roses and Ludwig's Tune (one of my favorites) were a thrill to hear with an orchestra.

At one point, Joni flubbed the words a bit and jumped right back into it. Her mistakes are better than most people's best efforts. As a performer, it was nice to know that idols make mistakes sometimes too.

I read a few posts from people who said that Joni's voice ain't what it used to be. WRONG! Although she's a few notes lower than her sprightly soprano days, she sings with as much quality, or more. What a sense of pitch and timing! For the Roses was so well sung, and I'm glad she threw in those few numbers from previous recordings.

If any of you still has a chance, go to the show! It's one of Joni's best concerts ever.

In the lobby during the intermission, I heard one man remark how boring it all was and how there wasn't any "real jazz" going down. His funeral ought to be Wednesday or Thursday, considering they find the body where I left it!

Some of the JMDL met at Judy's Chelsea before the show. David Lahm is an excellent piano player, and I would encourage anyone visiting New York to try to catch him.

Joni listers from as far as Geneva and Wales were there, too. It was real nice meeting Patrick, Lori, Alison, Paul and everyone.

Sadly, the Wild West Show still has me under contract as a singing cowboy again this Memorial Day, so I won't be able to saddle up and head on down to NOrleans. Have a good Jonifest!


SMEBD: I attended Joni's show at MSG last night and noticed that they were recording the event. There was a microphone directly in front of my seat and just before the show, one of the ushers told the person whose chair the microphone was attached to that he should be mindful of the microphone, as they were recording. I don't know if this is something that is routinely done, but thought that everyone would be interested to know this. The show was, IMHO, simply wonderful. In the audience were Diana Krall, Bette Midler, and Judy Collins, along with lots and lots of fans.


PPeterson4: Hi all. Just returned from the New York concert. Others have already commented on how great this tour is. It's all true. It's once in a lifetime - so those of you in cities still to be visited, get tickets. (On ticket availability: although the concert appeared to be sold out for weeks, as the date approached, suddenly Ticketmaster had seats right up to showtime, many right down front and center. There were plenty of people outside selling extra tickets and since there was no apparant demand for them, they were being let go for less than face value). In case any of you are wondering, only one JMDL'er took me up on my offer of a free ticket.

The sound started out badly balanced, but improved as the show progressed (or maybe I just got used to it). Unlike reports from other venues, her voice was always well placed in the mix. Strings tended to disappear when any wind instruments played. At certain levels the live sound mushed with the amplified sound. But I'm picking (and used to hearing orchestral music in concert halls unamplified) - for the most part the arrangements came through fine and they were spectacular, especially the new ones.

Celebrity sightings: Judy Collins sitting in front of us. Bette Midler with her daughter and husband.

As the concert started and Joni was going through the first part of her set I was thinking how gutsy this whole album and tour is. This is NOT "Lush Life". She just wanted to do it and did. And pulling off this tour is really amazing. I'm sure there were plenty of people telling her it wouldn't come off.

Among the first five standards, "At Last" moved me most. And I was appreciating the craft of these songs, when along came "A Case of You" and the song just blew everything before it away. And it wasn't just that we wanted to hear her material or familiar material. The song is brilliant, lyrically, musically, emotionally. "Don't Go to Strangers" which followed simply isn't in that league. The standards are fun, and if she wants to do them fine, but she's way beyond the material.

By the way she was in fine voice - confident, secure, power to spare for the big moments, and for the whispers and the purrs.

After intermission, the show went into overdrive. "Stormy Weather" was powerful, great arrangement, great song, great performance. "I wish I were in love again" was cute. "Both Sides Now " in its new arrangement, absolutely heartbreaking. She stumbled over some lyrics - a senior moment - the song more than survived.

Then the greatness didn't let up: Be Cool - what a hilarious inventive gem. Judgement of the Moon and Stars - almost operatic in its sweep, and yes she still has the chops to put it over. Then the high point for me - Hejeira in a new propulsive arrangement suggesting a locomotive. The whole stage pulsed with the rhythm of those incredible lyrics, and Klein's bass. For the Roses finished up with another jaw dropping arrangement of a song that speaks so eloquently about the same stuff that sounds so cranky in her interviews. What art! What honest self appraisal! And what guts to sing a song like that at this point in her career! She walks off the stage after the words "Like an empty spotlight" and the orchestra finishes with a shattering coda.

The concert ended with a perfect encore - Trouble Man in a great energetic arrangement. With cigarette in hand she belted with gusto, not having to save her voice anymore.

I've grown up with Joni Mitchell - she's only a little older than me. In the last year or so I've been feeling a little cut off from her present path - Taming the Tiger hasn't really clicked for me - it seems slightly half baked. I had bad seats for the tour with Dylan and felt ripped off by the crappy sound amplification. And I was suspicious of this standards album thinking it might be a commercial ploy. But tonight has convinced me that she is totally into this phase, and thankfully, she says she's working on the orchestral album of her own material. It's going to be amazing. Time and other things have done all of us some damage. This may be the best she can do at this time in her life. Aren't we all lucky?


Sara: 5/22 at MSG was my very first Joni concert! I had the best time! I don't know what to really add to everything else that has already been posted, but I just wanted to say that I think Joni fans are the nicest people in the world! Everyone was so polite, and I spent most of the time before the concert and during intermission talking to complete strangers.

It was great! Oh, and one more thing, does anyone know who Jill Sobule is? She was at the 5/22 show - sitting just a few rows in front of me! I still haven't calmed down from 5/22 concert! I'm SO EXCITED!


emily: i've been "processing" my joni concert experience, holding it close as it revolves in my mind...it happened to occur that i see joni perform for the first time right at a moment of intense personal upheaval, so -- that can be a good and a bad thing, it turns out.

she looked beautiful, happy, relaxed, funky. like she was doing her own thing, had her own art in full focus, NOT like she was doing an oldies-but-goodies-revisit. still, we knew that. i was prepared for the fact that i'd cry throughout the first two songs, out of sheer overload. but i wasn't prepared for the fact that i'd be dancing in my seat to much of the concert! like patrick covered so well in his tour report, joni has special moments when she swings...i LOVED "comes love" and "sometimes i'm happy" here especially. also i was really blown away by "be cool"! she seemed so "on" during this song, a perfect melding of orchestral and vocal arrangements, propulsive and catchy and perfect, i thought. this song alone gave me hope for the upcoming project, since i want JONI TO WRITE MORE NEW MUSIC AND AM LESS THAN THRILLED AT HER MESSING AROUND WITH OLD STUFF EXCLUSIVELY. still, hey, it's her (musical) world and i'm just lucky enough to be in it. basically, if she wants to sing the phone book i'm for it.

um, what else. the theater is a yuck place to watch her and i wasn't really high enough (in the cheap seats) to see over the preceding sections...could have done without a major grammatical error in the program...loved her rapport with the crowd, listening and answering someone's question about who was on drums (random!)...loved "for the roses" but need more processing on "ludwig."

actually to hear those songs together in this format was fascinating to me, because i've been thinking so much about what the album FTR does as a whole is to move steadily and surely from the personal to an interior but scathing lament for the music industry to a searching meditation on art's place in life (or vice versa?). that is, there is a circling, widening movement i sense in that album, reaching a stunning "conclusion" in "ludwig" -- i need to think more about this. but there is something in how she has chosen to re-interpret these two songs now, as she enters a more vocal, jazz phase. hmmm....

so anyway, a real highlight of the night was getting to meet some JMDLers. first, to see and hear david lahm play again at judy's--lovely. also, to get to put faces to and talk to these faces--patrick, lori, alison, brian, others i may be forgetting now. it's so nice to have seen you all! let's do another judy's run when i finish my country stint and return to the place where traffic writes the words to the songs outside your window. (good lord it's quiet here! so quiet i had real trouble sleeping last night.)


alison: Hi all! Back in slc from a fabulous time in the big apple...so a few thoughts and thanks, etc.

We had a great time at Judy's Chelsea before the show, even though i was terribly late and got much ribbing from the folks who thought i would be there at 5:00..I am so sorry! these things will happen, but what can you do when your mom reaallly needs a nap before the show? ha ha. she took new york like a champ (but got very tired!).

so i am very grateful for the time i did get to spend with other listers and friends of listers. what a fantastic group of people! thanks to david lahm for suggesting the place (still haven't had a chance to listen to my new "jazz takes on" cd, but if it's anything like his live stuff i know i won't be dissapointed!), and kenny, brian (nice stack, brian!) emily (who's boyfriend courtney was baffled that we had heard so much about him!), preet from spain, jill (i touched her! i touched her!) and every other lovely person with whom i got to converse. it was really great, and made the concert and experience that much more special.

as for the concert itself...what can I say that hasn't already been said? my mom and i cried though nearly the whole thing. i think the people around us thought we were seriously troubled...haha. it was one of the best nights of my life, and i am especially happy that i got to share it with my mom and so many great other folks.

i hope i don't have to wait another 28 years for it to happen again. thanks to everyone, again.


Richard: In the first of two New York shows Monday Joni Mitchell, backed by a large symphonic orchestra, sang the standards from her latest album "Both Sides Now," in order and largely as she recorded them. She opened with "You're My Thrill," the best of the album's intricate arrangements with ominous Bernard Hermann-like strings. The Hitchcock touch is just right, and sets off the sweet and lovely "At Last" which follows. If it doesn't match the fervor and the purity of the young Etta James's version, it pays it fitting tribute. After "Comes Love" and "You've Changed," Joni talked about the songs she'd selected to construct the arc of romance in her new work. "In choosing material there were lots of ways to go here. I decided to go right into begging." The song she introduced, "Answer Me," was followed with her own "A Case of You", lifting the Madison Square Garden Theatre audience to the second standing ovation.

After "Don't Go to Strangers" came "Sometimes I'm Happy," for which she was joined by Herbie Hancock. His amped-up piano jump-started the orchestra and set Joni swinging. The satisfying result points up one of the problems with the symphonic format. The multi-layered arrangements bring out shades of emotion and conflict, but the sound tends to be heavy, rhythmically somber. The evening's "Comes Love", for example, was much less adventurous than the frisky version Joni sang during her last tour and pay-per-view special, when she performed with a small jazz-rock group.

Following "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" and an intermission, Joni returned to complete the cycle of "Both Sides Now" tracks, with "Stormy Weather", "I Wish I Were in Love Again" (Joni needed a lyrics sheet and, perhaps, more freedom with the beat) and a thoughtful, moving "Both Sides Now". One of the oldest and most-recorded songs in her canon, she delivers it now in a slow, measured version that divests it of confessional implications and makes it a hymn for a generation. In this new version Joni sings it like the standard it has long been for other performers, and it is a fitting summing up of an evening and a career.

But the best was yet to come.

With Herbie Hancock back for the last several songs, and joined by ex-husband and music director Larry Klein on bass, Mark Isham on trumpet and Bob Sheppard on saxophone, Joni performed the best of her set, several encore jewels reset in the symphonic mode by arranger/conductor Vince Mendoza. The choice of songs gave the evening a needed tension as the audience wondered where the retrospective would take her (some audience members started calling out for "Old stuff" halfway through the show).

The jazzy insinuations of "Be Cool" were well-served by its new arrangement, though the lyric is too light to sustain them. A few funny jabs at the music industry reminded the audience that Joni was a critic of its buy-and-sell decades ago. As a response to its worship of success, "We're gonna play difficult and obscure stuff", she joked before performing "Judgment of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig's Tune)", her 30-year-old homage to the dying Beethoven. A half dozen woodwinds accomplished no more than the elegantly spare Tom Scott solo in the original, but the rest of the encores were inspired. "Hejira", the title song of Mitchell's finest album, assumed a new harmonic richness. The resetting of "For the Roses" was the evening's highlight: as beautiful and sad and timeless as the artist and her work. She laughingly updated a lyric, evaluating new bands as "copycats and wankers/Looking at 'em on my DVD set." Joni finished with a sexy, smoky cover of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man", the encore at her last New York concert when she likewise returned to the stage cigarette in hand.

Throughout Joni seemed happy and relaxed. Freed of her instruments and comfortable acting out song standard dramas, Joni opens up as a jazz-pop singer. With 10,000 cigarettes singeing the edges of her voice she has to reach through half a dozen registers to secure her emotional effects, but they are - mostly - there. Sometimes harsh, always dry, never rising to the achingly sweet heights of her girlhood soprano, her voice now has a darker resonance, a new urgency and mature emotionalism. The harmonic choices are sophisticated, the phrasing sure.

Her sinuous moves - a gentle roll of the hips and arms - were set off by a pair of gowns, the second a pleated Egyptian queen's robe in shiny black.