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By C.C., Reporting for JoniMitchell.com
IF IT FEELS RIGHT
Maurice Chevalier looks rakishly at me from his position above my bureau. His face is frozen on a framed piece of sheet music from the 1932 movie "Love Me Tonight."
The title of the Rodgers and Hart song: "Isn't It Romantic?"
I'm turned out tonight. April's Downbeat magazine featured Joni on the cover, and the feature interview quotes Joni as saying that these shows, "would be a good reason to dress up." Ok, I'm game. I figure that part of enjoying an event is what one brings to it. So here I am fishing through a retired ash tray from the Stork Club for my cufflinks, entangled among small change and other accessory ornaments I rarely use. Comedy on the right wrist, Tragedy on the left. That feels right. Lack of patience with a bow tie makes 25 minutes trying to tie one on make me want to do just that. If not for the Beethoven string quartets playing on WNYC, I'd have strangled myself with it. Finally, it's a masterpiece and I'm headed to Manhattan, loaded down with photo equipment.
The photo pass isn't where it's supposed to be at WILL CALL when I arrive at 6:30, so I'm sent to another entrance where it also isn't. The man at the check-in desk there suggests I come back at 7:45. "Get yourself a bite," he says with a smile. The sky is starting to look a little threatening, so I go subterranean to the Pennsylvania Station Amtrak waiting lounge and listen to the recitations of the station stops. The entire Northeast corridor is announced in lilting Jamaiican, mon. I take the advice of the check-in guy and buy an apple to snack. I also get a banana, which I figure I can munch during the second half of the show in honor of Richard Thompson.
At 7:30, I return to the check-in entrance and talk to the incoming musicians. I greet about 20 formally dressed, classically trained players. They are all friendly and very happy they are playing this gig. I also witness undercover police collar two men for some misdemeanor or other in the plaza across 33rd Street. No fuss, no muss and the perps are removed. Fifteen minutes goes by quickly with this much action and I return to the desk where the man tells me that still, no photo pass is present. A friendly press rep associated with Joni's tour management company is there. She phones around and locates someone who tells check-in he has my pass in a ticket envelope. Voila. We're all cool now, and at 8:05 not a minute too soon. I had purchased my own ticket anyway, but without the pass you wouldn't have seen these pictures. Photo ops are VERY SERIOUS in New York.
I am escorted to the auditorium.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
New York and Joni Mitchell. What can we say?
"WE LUV HUH!" That's what we say. We said it last summer in Central Park. We said it last month at the Hammerstein Ballroom. We said it last night right here.
The Theatre at Madison Square Garden, formerly known as the Felt Forum (not for the seat fabric), and then as The Paramount is a large auditorium that looks as if it holds about 4000. The rows have a shallow rake and the room is wide. There are lines of small clear light bulbs serving as house lights crisscrossing the ceiling which amplify the flat, horizontal effect. One feels that one is sitting closer to the stage than one actually is.
I am positioned at the left center aisle near the foot of the stage. The press rep and I are talking about the venue and the tight security rules. She's concerned about my monopod, which I explain has only one leg and will stand close to me. For this second night performance, there is only ONE other photographer so she senses there won't be the usual piranha feeding frenzy among photogs. She lets me keep it, knowing it won't be used to maim anyone. As is usual among New Yorkers, great stories abound. The couple sitting on the aisle ask me who I'm representing. I tell them about JM.com and we talk about being fans. Michelle tells me that seeing Joni tonight is special for her. Having read about Joni and Kilauren finding one another, she and her mother were inspired to seek her mother's family. I tell Michelle that I admire her and her mother for their courage and wish her whole family well. We agree that Joni and Kilauren's story affects people deeply, positively.
New York is a diverse, progressive place. Just this week, events on New York stages included soprano Dawn Upshaw singing Laura Nyro, Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry performing a Kurt Weill type song cycle together in Brooklyn, and now Joni Mitchell with a 71 piece orchestra performing standards and new arrangements of her own work! All are proof again that New York is an environment that encourages artists to step out of the box. Indeed, at both New York performances, audience members who dared cat calls to Joni to "play guitar" or "sing old songs," were stifled and practically beaten back into their seats by adjacent fans. I think Rick Nelson's ghost had something to do with that.
These audiences were here for goosebumps, not "The Big Chill."
When one considers the average price for a ticket in this auditorium tonight, it seems the only responsible thing an artist can do is NOT dish out what fans already have in their living rooms. It's like going out for a banana split. If you can make the same one at home, why bother?
Well, you can't make this one at home...
The power of a 71 piece orchestra, well directed and conducted, and playing great arrangements of well written material is awesome. Most Broadway musicals are forced to make due with less than half this assembly.
The ambition of this tour is daunting. 12 performances in 11 cities in 22 days. What makes this grueling schedule even more so is the fact that after every performance save the two here in New York, 71 new musicians appeared. Now remember, the show consists of 18 pieces, approximately 100 minutes in length. If Mendoza and Klein don't drop from exhaustion, it's a miracle.
I did a little figuring on this with help from some friends in the know about such things.
IF: Each 71 piece orchestra with 10 principal players meets together with the conductor, musical director and copyist for a 5 hour rehearsal of 1 hour 40 minutes of material and returns for a performance whicih lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours including intermission for which they are paid the appropriate union scale plus pension, health and welfare, handling fees for paymasters, cartage (yes, musicians are paid to bring their own instruments to the gig, understandable if you've ever seen somone wrestle a double bass in the subway or unwedge a harp from the rear of a taxi)—you're talking BIG BUCKS! And usually bonded (paid in advance), too!
Even at the high average ticket price, you'd need to sell some 500 seats at each performance just to hear a chord. That doesn't include payments to the conductor, contractor (the person who contracts the players), copyist, arranger, musical director, or any of the featured players, including um, the Vocalist. I wouldn't presume artists of this caliber work for scale but would certainly say "thanks" if they did in order to help bring this event to a theatre near you. This is the kind of treatment they usually apply to a tour by say, the Three Tenors, but not for just any pop diva. A ticket for the Three Tenors costs twice to thrice what mine did.
Additionally, a tour needs venues, promotion, lighting equipment and crew, sound equipment and crew, management personnel, security, travel accomodations and the odd (in some towns, very odd) meal or two. I can't attempt to estimate those costs but it's my guess that this tour ain't about makin' money. If it does so, it will be a credit to the tour managers and the artists involved.
"Comparisons are odorous," reads the famous malaprop Willy the Shake wrote in his comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.
I've read a few articles and reviews which seek to compare Joni's current orchestral period to career turns illustrated by Linda Ronstadt's Lush Life and Carly Simon's Torch. Well, I had to run and light a match myself when I considered those analogies. It's not that either of those works were bad, it's just that their points of view were so different from Joni's that I couldn't make the connection. While Ronstadt masterfully stylized the construction of the pieces she chose, her vocal pyrotechnics often overwhelmed true feelings and the net result was impeccably rendered but strangely saccharine. Simon dug down far deeper but her choice of relentless, psychotherapeutically pathetic, wailing portraits made it easy to roll one's eyes while asking, "It's all about you isn't it?" I don't know if it's my reaction to perceived sexism, but I'd rather see Joni's work here compared to Harry Nilsson's "A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night" for scale and loosely, song cycle concept or even Jerry Vale's "I Remember Buddy" (Clark) for its swinging homage to the material.
Joni proved years ago that she could reinterpret standards. "Twisted," "Centerpiece" and especially hers and Charles Mingus' "A Chair In The Sky," "Sweet Sucker Dance," and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" made it abundantly clear that she knew how to develop her own vocabulary in song styling. It was later, though in 1983 that I think the seed for BSN was planted long before its gestation at the Walden Woods benefit. The album "Wild Things Run Fast" opens with a track that is a composite of her original "Chinese Cafe" and "Unchained Melody." Near the close of the track, Joni breaks from flashback to devastatingly deliver the last three lines of the cover song: "I need your love, I need your love, God speed your love to me." In that one instant, she bridged herself to the vocal interpretations we hear tonight. The resolve, passion, honesty and simplicity were hers alone even if the words and melody were alien. I was so unprepared for it then, it forced a gasp. This form follows function aesthetic is again the perfect framework upon which Joni applies her own deep association to and within every syllable. One can believe she considers herself a careful guardian of this material, treating the songs with the same integrity she applies to her own. Hence, there are no crimes of passion in these deceptively efficient vocal readings, and Joni pays homage to the compositions' history as she makes them her carefully considered own. Within Vince Mendoza's arrangements for the large orchestra, they seem the aural equivalent of a Richard Neutra house built in the gardens at Versailles. The setting may seem to conflict the structure with its opulence, but upon closer scrutiny is discovered to be more abstract than originally perceived. With their creative ground rules so clearly established, Mitchell, Klein and Mendoza maintain the perspective from which to distill some powerful stuff sometimes drawing fresh results from elements heard earlier in Joni's recorded career.
I read a comment recently which intimated that Joni was sometimes overwhelmed by these arrangements, their scale beyond her creative control. I have two words for that: AS IF.
CHARMING, ALARMING, DISARMING (snap, snap)
So tonight, the evening begins quietly with Debussy's Clouds from his Nuages. Mendoza conducts his only sophomore group for the entire tour. The piece is restrained, typically colorful work by that composer that allows every section of the orchestra a small moment. This highbrow a start entices me to gloat that everyone else here seems a tad underdressed. The crowd is seated board upright as the piece ends to polite, Lincoln Center style applause.
The ovation begins in a wave from house right as Joni walks her right angle around the basses along the edge of the stage to her microphone. The audience rises to its feet as she smiles and nods with gracious humble acceptance. As the ovation continues, she steps back from the mic and tents her hands over her eyes peering past the glare of the spots to see just WHO is out there. Could it really be that she's as interested in us as we are in her? Charmed, we're sure. The chirp looks none the worse for wear at this halfway point in the tour. She steps back to the mic and the audience obeys,quieting itself. She's wearing a first act dress similar to the one she wore for last night's New York show, although this one is a particularly flattering silver blue color. The fabric drapes in rather revealing ways and its attached cape provided a seldom-used-but-to-good-effect prop while giving Joni the luminescent contour of a candle flame. The only curious thing about Joni's attire is the placement of the dress' belt, tied in a large gnarly knot. From anything beyond about 100 feet, it looks like a big "outie."
Many observations have been made about the individual performances of the tracks from BSN in other audience members' comments which follow this review and in reviews from other cities' performances. I won't belabor the obvious: working with a 71 piece orchestra doesn't leave much opportunity for spontaneity. The subtle differences between recording and performance were mostly within Joni's choices in phrasing. The featured soloists had only slightly greater opportunity to imnprovise within their breaks. Joni's phenomenal stage presence and the dynamic power of this sound—organic and instantaneous—was the wood stoking the fire of this audience. I must admit that I was too busy taking pictures during the first two tracks to restate exactly how Joni described how the relationship arc would be traced. From now until the second half of the show, it's WOMAN AT WORK!
"You're My Thrill," and "At Last" and "Comes Love" come and go oh so quickly. I am permitted to take photos only during the first two songs from the left side stage apron, and none for the remainder of the show. The sound from the orchestra is amplified and balanced beautifully, notably better in the first half than at last night's show. The impact of Joni's voice with this wonderful orchestra is startling. Behind the camera, I had to fight the impulse to close my eyes and savor the sound. Joni seemed to have the same need. Opportunities to photograph her singing with opened eyes proved infrequent within the brief period. Her affect during most of the first half of tonight's performance was one of intense concentration. It was as if every song was a script, deviation from which she could not allow for fear of recrimination. Like an athlete, she approached each piece from BSN striving for personal best. She appeared to feel for every muscle and organ between her shoulders and toes, searching for stored data in the emotion machine. Her fingers involuntarily played the harp of her aura.
Mysteriously, when she spoke the tension vanished. She advanced the plot of the relationship cycle witih easy, self-effacing style. Paradoxically, she was at ease with performing but not with The Performance.
"You've Changed" showed some of Joni's best loved stylistic vocabulary. The chromatic passages and slides are at once welcome nostalgia and living tribute. Joni's dynamic within the simple two word phrase make each and every restatement of the title a harsher indictment still. There seems no limit to this woman's headroom.
The elegant simplicity and carefully considered narrative I mentioned earlier are nowhere more in evidence than In Joni's performance of "Answer Me, My Love." The audience seems to have taken this song to heart as well with recognitive applause greeting the horn section as they flawlessly balanced the famously difficult introduction. Joni leads us to the song as the "begging" part of the cycle. It's quiet resolve damages all of us for having witnessed the refusal of so open and eloquent a request. Bob Sheppard's sax was simply tremendous here.
The house is awed by the live performance of the introduction to "A Case Of You." Joni introduces the song simply, "then you go to the bar. There are lots of good bar songs... I chose one of mine." Her performance with the orchestra adds new dimensions of innocence and vulnerability, wonderment and resignation to the song. She curiously counted and moved to a rhythm which appeared at odds with the ballad tempo we heard. Her timing was spot on, but watching her made me want to know what meter she feels as she sings it. At its conclusion was one of the grandest ovations of the evening. Joni expressed her gratitude.
"Don't Go To Strangers" unenviable place in the mix here was rescued by Joni's bedroom eyed styling. In live context, it's easier to trace the relationship arc's rest here. The overt "fantasy at work" images (Joni referred to them as "generosity") contrasted so sharply with the personal insights from the previous song, that one can't help feeling a little uncomfortable watching someone in over-compensitory gyrations trying to save a relationship. On record, the arc gets a little thin for me at this point. But here tonight, it sailed right through intact! I can't explain exactly what did it or if it was more "AHA!" than "DUH!" I just have to chalk it up to Joni selling a difficult script transition. Good acting, the end.
Herbie Hancock arrives on stage in a suave grey suit, introduced by Joni. He places a peck on her cheek and gives the audience a wave before having a seat at the piano center stage behind Joni's mic. For me, "Sometimes I'm Happy" seems to gel the whole gig. The arrangement has diverse elements from earlier in Joni's career. The reeds and woodwinds echoing Tom Scott's lines from the mid 70s, the TUBA taking Jaco's fretless, the horns blasting Severinsen/Ferguson type dynamics atop Herbie's piano solo and Berghofer and Erskine's rim shot rhythm is classic big band heaven. Herbie improvises a bit during his break and the combo section steps out from the orchestra in the mix. The craftsmanship at hand is just fantastic and the audience has a blast! I'm suffering an acute case of Steve Martin Happy Feet. Even Joni seems to have to remind herself to step aside from watching Herbie work so that the audience can get a view. Joni's coda starts a tumultuous ovation. Hancock rises and waves to the audience as he makes an appreciative exit.
Vince Mendoza walks almost undetected to the piano and softly plays a single note which cues Joni for her a cappella intro to "Don't Worry 'Bout Me." Joni's live reading of this song was the single biggest surprise of the evening for me. She improves upon the recorded version by way of adding slight ritards to certain phrases for just the right effect. The woman pictured on the cover of BSN might be living out "A Case Of You" but at that moment, this is what's playing in that bar. Peter Erskine's brush work is sublime. The song ends with an unexpected laugh due to a kamikaze insect divebombing at Joni, forcing her to comically delay the last, "'bout... ME." "I think he just wanted my necklace," she quips.
Joni's soft exit ends the first half of the show, and the house lights rise to welcome back vendors selling champagne with strawberries. This audience is energized. Most everyone stands and gathers to chat like a flock of sparrows in September. A group of four casually attired twentysomething women with great smiles had arrived late and sat behind me. I felt like I'd been inserted into an episode of "Sex and The City." They seemed to have liked what they heard and asked how much of the show their late arrival had cost. I told them they missed the first three tunes and they seemed satisfied that the damage wasn't worse.
Part II begins entr'acte style with Joni and the orchestra barely waiting for the house lights to dim. Everyone seems suddenly in place as the dark introduction to "Stormy Weather" gathers its thunderhead. Joni's dress is the now famous Miyake with knee height hoop. It is what the Queen of Hearts would wear in the 21st century. Her demeanor is markedly changed from this point on. Arms swing freely, her whole posture seems more relaxed and unburdened. She continues to develop this into a signature piece for herself with unique personal flourishes like her rewrite, "just can't get my poor old self together," and hymnal, "every night I pray that the Lord above will let me, walk in the sunshine once more."
After Herbie is welcomed back to the piano, the biggest souvenir item of the tour makes its appearance as Joni pulls out her lyric cheat sheet for "I Wish I Were In Love Again." "Didn't do my homework," she giggles. The jazz combo swings out while I blister my fingers from snapping. Berghofer and Erskine particularly shine while giving Hancock room to break loose.
The kind of anticipatory quiet that precedes "Both Sides Now" reminds me of that usually heard before performance of the Largo second movement from Dvorak's Symphony from the New World. It's the focal point of the evening and it harbors great expectation. Cinematic rolling strings conjure vaporous formations through perfectly balanced amplification. With its darker timbre, the song's new arrangement harkens the change in seasons, fathoming the sky to reference a life full of discovery yet few conclusions. This live performance is a work of art so ephemeral as to become its very subject. Like the clouds it uses metaphorically, our mutual understanding changes and vanishes leaving behind only questions of our experience.
Just in case you thought the show was a bit serious to this point, Joni closes her briefcase with an anecdote so disarming as to have elicited exploding gasps and screaming giggles, two sounds I dearly love. She tells us about seeing cloud formations of various scenes including Michaelangelo Sistine Chapel visions in New Orleans, Jimi Hendrix at St. Peter's, and another absurd one she described with perfect comic timing as, "Magoo...dressed in a bunny suit...jacking off, wanking!" The image sends the audience into stitches and gets its blood pumping for the next part of the show: new orchestral rearrangements of Joni's original songs.
First up is "Be Cool." The enrichment provided by replacing the synth lines with the orchestra is a revelation. Erskine seemed to have lots of fun punctuating the rests and rhythm changes. Eminently danceable, the song seems to lubricate everyone's spine, so many are swaying in their seats.
Joni gives one of the longer intro anecdotes of the evening to set up "Judgement Of The Moon And Stars," relating the "charming/alarming" lyric dichotomy just heard in "Be Cool" to the personality characteristics which seem to define her heroes. She tells the story of Beethoven whose friend, the Italian inventor of the device which helps musicians keep time ("probably named Metronomi or something like that"), subverts him to compromise his artistic integrity in order to gain the 19th century equivalent of a big hit. The orchestral version of "Judgement.." provides the Sturm und Drang missing from the earlier recorded version, Joni's piano arrangement having provided the intact, essential and elemental framework for Mendoza and Company to validate the Beethoven references. Joni rings an alarm herself, momentarily humming in place of some forgotten lyric. She self-effacingly places a finger to her temple upon recovery. When released on her promised next orchestral collection, I'll look forward to hearing this one on the Marconi.
"Fang" a/k/a Klein, a/k/a "The Russian On Prozac," a/k/a the Musical Director for the tour is welcomed to the stage for fretless bass duty on "Hejira." The word "expansion" characterizes this rearrangement well. The orchestra finally provides the needed weight to define the fast driving rhythm of this song. It's always been there, but lacking a heavy backbeat and using the bass as a melodic lead instrument, many listeners have had difficulty sensing its propulsion. Not any longer. With the full range of percussive colors at hand within the orchestra, Klein is freed (no pun intended) to express richly and virtuosically. Mendoza again allows the strings to speak for the sky and I'm sure when this is heard in its recorded form, its image will be WIDESCREEN!
Mitchell, Mendoza and Klein work dark magic with the final original, "For The Roses." With measured meter seeming to add weight like a sink filling with water from a leaky faucet one drop at a time, tension is increased in the magnitude of plates along a geologic fault. Volatility and the sense of imminent danger grows as Joni bitterly voices a thinly veiled, sad threat to leave her spotlight empty. She frighteningly makes good on it too, quieting the audience with an extended arm to allow Isham to finish his ravaging solo as she slips away. In deference to this, it is WE who finally crack from the pressure when the song ends, springing up in loud acclamation.
The thunderous ovation returns the whole ensemble to the stage for "Trouble Man." I refuse to sit when the audience does, turning to check if I will be blocking anybody's view if I remain standing for the encore. I spy the 4 pretty women behind me. "Anybody want to dance?" They all look like deer caught in the headlights. I ask again, "Nobody? Music doesn't get any better than THIS!" They pass. I laugh and look back toward the stage musing to myself how even dressed to the nines, my mojo ain't working the way it used to. I see my new friend Michelle up and dancing at her front row seat. So I step to the shadowy aisle and boogie while Joni sizzles. The final ovation is deafening, my part for which I now apologize to anyone seated between me and the stage. Glowing Joni begins to leave but quickly rushes back to the mic with the alacrity of a high school girl having forgotten to thank the orchestra and introduce the featured players. The atmosphere is joyous, familiar and friendly. Joni thanks all her "friends in New York" and beams. She and the other principals pause on the way off stage to greet well wishers and accept flowers and notes. The house lights come up and the orchestra gathers itself while the sated crowd begins to depart.
I bid good night to the women who left me to my own choreographic devices. They were making plans to go out locally for dessert. Back in my seat, I secure all my photographic supplies and offer a quick prayer to the lens gods for good exposures. I leave late enough to be ushered out through a side door where some fans still remained. They congratulated me on a great performance and must have been surprised by my confusion until I remembered my clothes and laughed, "I played the hand claps, finger snaps and Indian whoops!" A rain shower had just ended, but the remaining mist left enough atmosphere through which the rosy street lamps drew tents of color. I waited within one for the walk sign at the strangely deserted corner of 33rd and 8th and removed the knot from my infernal bow tie.
It's awe-LOAVE-her now. I can't wait to get changed.
REPORTS FROM THE INTERNET COMMUNITY
Joni Mitchell's concert was very brave tonight: she sang--beautifully, with sensuality and gusto--the entire "Both Sides Now" album, her voice in firm shape, sounding often like a warm, muted horn. The orchestra listened to her well, as did her audience--the crowd was supportive, loving, and respectful (three grand things). And she looked so elegant in her Miyake dresses, swaying in often double-time, her fingers pulsing with her sways.
The brave shift came in the second half of the evening, when Mitchell turned to some important material from "For the Roses". The problem here was in the orchestrations: Mendoza has largely scored Mitchell's piano part to "Ludwig's Tune," only over-emphasizing the quarter-note time pulse, so that the orchestra sounded bloated, thumping. This heavy time-beat left Mitchell little room for any fluid work with her voice, and the clumpy scoring sometimes obliterated what she was able to do. Many of these problems persisted in the scored version of "For the Roses," one of Mitchell's most eloquent, hauntings songs. Here, the orchestra was asked to pump itself up into an ungainly sound, so that--again--Mitchell could not roam around in the musical line, exploring the depth there.
But her versions of "Trouble Man" and her own "Be Cool" were rousing, sexy, and joyous. I must say, however, that the orchestration difficulties mentioned above continued with "Hejira," though Larry Klein was acutely sensitive on bass. Mendoza needs to resist highlighting the standard time-beat of Mitchell's songs; these songs are much more complex than they may at first appear. Their complexities require honoring.
I urge Mitchell to rethink these orchestrations, if she does indeed make the rumored next album of older material. The orchestrations should be sparser, more subtle, giving more room for Mitchell's voice to play with tempo and fluidity of phrasing.
But I have spent my life with this woman's music, honor her, teach her in my classes at New York University, and am very grateful that she is here, with us, pushing us to places that we did not think we knew.
Thanks for the gift of this site--it's a wonder.
Wow....what a show ............... Joni would have been a big star in any era. She would have sung for Queen Elizabeth ........ The regal, elegant, and beautiful artist. I won't discuss specific songs, just the overall effect. I sat about 20 rows, dead center. Joni opened as the ultimate jazz singer. The overall beauty of the singer with seventy piece orchestra was dazzling...........A must see of a great artist who has lived.
saw Joni last night in New York. Great show, Joni was wonderful, but would have liked alittle more zip and some more old songs. I was also dissappointed Joni did not play the piano or guitar.
I made a very spontaneous decision to attend the second night of Joni's dual appearances at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. I'd seen Joni once before, at the Woodstock anniversary show a few years ago, and felt she was kind of swallowed up by the enormous venue and diversity of the audience. But a friend had went the night before, and insisted I go, even if it meant going solo (which I did). I knew I made the right decision when I stopped in the lounge about a half an hour before concert time, and heard "Comes Love" filling the air. I grabbed a glass of wine, forgot my worries and reveled in my "relationship" with this artist since I discovered "Court & Spark" over ten years ago. Suddenly, it was OK, even appropriate, for me to attend this alone. Many times over the years, it's been me, my thoughts, a journal, and Joni, tackling whatever obstacle was facing me, so I feel a very intimate, personal connection with Joni. Needless to say, the rest of the night, thanks to the incredible music, mood and good white wine, was an enormous pleasure.
What is it about this woman that creates such inner stirrings? I really don't know, but I just lost myself in the mood in the theatre, which was a perfect setting for Joni's style and artistry. It was a wonderfully stylish evening, but casual, respectful and, from my observations, almost worshipful. I don't know many other people who really connect with Joni's music, and it was great to feel the appreciation around me for this legendary artist. The crowd was very mixed, men and women, younger and older, but all seemed to have the same intimate connection with Joni, using her name in their conversations as if she's a close friend. In a way, she is just that, of course.
Song after song, I went deeper into the magic of the evening. There was barely a false note, only a few missed lyrics (she hummed a few lines here and there, and made fun of herself afterwards) and a very gracious and lengthy thank you to her band and the audience before she left.
The highlights for me were certainly "Both Sides Now" which left the audience hushed, awed and respectful. The song simply grows deeper and more meaningful with every year, and the lyrics still blow me away. And I loved to hear the "For The Roses" stuff at the end, because that is one of the first Joni albums I discovered, about ten years ago, and have worn out over the years, but, somehow, never get tired of. That is an amazing truth about her music for me, I never get tired of it, especially the ballads and their universal truths. You don't have to be a woman mourning lost love to relate to her songs, trust me. As I left the concert I was uplifted, but also grateful for this woman. Her music has soothed me many times over the bumps in my life, and I was warmed to see her enjoying herself so much, and have so much warmth and love radiate towards her from her adoring fans. Plus, the oh-so-cool concert program (I wanted the lithograph but it was too expensive) is going to add some class and color to my office, and remind me of this night.
hi jim...my wife and i attended the may 23rd show at the theater at madison square garden in nyc last night. i had read the reviews from previous shows, and as much as i have loved joni's music since the 60s, i was wondering how i would much i would appreciate her current work in a live setting. i love BOTH SIDES NOW, but what i like best is joni doing joni.
keeping that in mind, we were flabbergasted at just how much joni appeared to love doing this music and how much more animated she was than we were expecting. the new york crowd was prepared for her, which helped a whole lot. no one expected her to sit at the piano or play guitar. we just loved her for what she was doing. her set list was identical to the previous shows and some of her stage banter seemed likewise reprised last night. her voice was PHENOMENAL!!!! she sang with confidence (especially as the night progressed). and she was graceful and seemed very much like a high school girl when she received standing ovations or heavy applause. this was a great show all around and it was a treat to see her rework some of her own material during the second set. i would recommend seeing joni during the rest of the tour to everyone!
I went to Joni's concert last night, and what a wonderful experience it was! After reading some negative reports on this site, I was a little worried that the "arc of a modern romance" concept with full orchestra wouldn't fly, but it was fabulous! Maybe the audience clapped and cheered a little more for her songs, but I think most of us were just thrilled to be there seeing her do what she does so well - new work. I loved how casual she was about it all, determined to enjoy herself, completely relaxed, or so it seemed. I kept on thinking that her voice (and phrasing) now sound like a bright horn, picking out the best line for the moment. Judgement of the Moon and Stars was a completely new experience for me. Now I see the connection to Beethoven (silly, I know, to just get it now, but there it is), and there were moments during this piece when I thought explosions were going to come out of the orchestra! Hejira was hot hot hot and cooking. I couldn't hold still.
She looked beautiful, wearing two outfits for each portion of the show. The first dress was a beautiful, layered/cape kind of thing in a silver moon color. The second dress was really funky, don't know if it was black, or chocolate colored, but it kind of looked like some architectural thing Yohji Yamamoto would design and David Bowie would have worn (as Ziggy Stardust). It looked like layers of fish gills(!) and was shaped like greater and less than signs < >!!! But she looked great, and these two guys behind me were going on and on about how beautiful she is, and joking about how lucky they are because their girlfriends are half as pretty.
One more thing- after singing "Both Sides Now" Joni said that she's seen a lot of things in clouds since writing the song, like Jimi Hendrix, and others I can't remember. Then she said that during the tour dates in Florida, she saw "McGoo" in the clouds, wearing a bunny suit and "jacking off, wanking!" Don't know why, but it was so funny to hear Joni talk kind of raunchy!
Anyway, it was a glorious glorious night! Thank you Joni!
Joni was peaking last night! She looked beautiful and her crooning of the entire Both Sides Now album sounded so much better than the album itself. In between each song she would talk and joke and laugh and just send out some really sweet and positive vibes into the audience. I was 10th row center and Natalie Merchant was right behind me loving every minute of Joni's performance. Everyone around was exuding orgasmic vibes - you could tell it was a real Joni-lover filled theatre. They were serving champagne and strawberries throughout the show (before the show started and during intermission) Joni's voice was strong and amazing. Judgement of the Moon and the Stars was made for an orchestra like that - it was meant to be played that way. The whole show was a thrill, with the best parts just listening to her sing, her stories, her laugh, her forgetting some lines and humming and laughing and dancing along - everyone in the audience appreciated her authenticity. Just being in a room with her and about 2,000 other Joni-philes created a vibe that I could live in forever. It was a great show - not one single complaint!!!! PERFECT!!!!
I was thrilled to see Joni at the Garden Tuesday evening. She showed us all once again what art is all about as she immersed herself body, mind and spirit into the music. Like another fan commented, she could sing the white pages and we'd sit there melting! She takes on these old standards and expresses them like she'd written them herself. The energetic arrangement of "Be Cool" worked very well and I thought "Ludwig's Tune" was well suited to the orchestral arrangement with its powerful and emotional conclusion. I felt that "For the Roses" and "Hejira" lost something in the orchestral interpretation; Joni's original creations of these beautiful pieces are lyrically and musically so tied together .
I wish she'd had more time to "chat" with us. I have been a fan of Joni's since "Ladies of the Canyon" when I was 16 years old. She's been with me through many heartaches, many lonely nights and much soul-searching for the past 30 years. I am still amazed by her unique style and incomparable artistry. Thank you, Joni for all you've given us!
Brookhaven, New York
I sat in the ninth row left of center on the aisle. The opening classical piece was wonderful to hear. I visit Tanglewood every summer (since 1982), so I've heard lots of classical music. The fact that the orchestra was amplified was tolerable. I am spoiled by natural acoustic symphony. Seeing Joni again was like visiting an old friend. I saw her in 1975.
The opening vocal was a critical moment. Can she pull it off? She grew more relaxed, and her renditions of the classics were most enjoyable. "A Case Of You" was a transcendant moment for me -especially the verse "I am a lonely painter." I spent six bucks for a glass of champagne with strawberry, and purchased the "Turbulent Indigo" tee-shirt for $27. My cousin bought the "Taming the Tiger" tee. I told him that his was the one that I would have bought if I had taste. What did I mean? Well, "Turbulent Indigo" denotes the fractured artist.
What did Joni mean when she explained that "the clouds looked like Mr. Magoo in a bunny suit jacking off?" Was this expressionism? Impressionism? or Dadaism?
"Judgment of the Moon and Stars" hit a high mark even though she forgot two lines and hummed. (teleprompter?) I had a memorable experience, and I love you, Joni. Thanks for the great shocking humor. It was appropriate.
Just a note to say that Joni's show was absolutely incredible! My friend and I loved every minute! The highlight for us was her rendition of "A case of you". We had tears in our eyes when she finished that song! I've never cried at a concert before! Other highlights were Hejira & For the roses. Her story about seeing clouds in Florida was great too! She really has a great sense of humor!!! I can only think of one word to describe the whole evening and it is - Brilliant!!!! She just radiated love from the stage!! I even got to shake her hand at the end of the show!!!!. I've touched an living legend. WOW!! I would highly recommend to any fan of Joni's to seek out tickets! You will not be disappointed!!!
Nick Detaranto & Gina Christiano
Mt. Arlington, New Jersey
Joni tuesday night at Madison Square was beautiful, moving, exhilarating, and out of sight. The musicianship was just a thrill to watch: Larry Klein in particular was BLAZING on what I think was a fretless bass. So many pop people have tried to do orchestral jazz, and really embarrassed themselves; but alas Joni being the one of the only pop people with real respect for the jazz tradition is the one to pull it off---there was not one "standard" moment. It was all musical and all emotional. When she comes back next time though she should invite Hendricks and Ross up and bust out with "Tickle Toes"!
What can I say…Joni’s Tuesday night performance at the Theater at Madison Square Garden was extraordinary.
When I tried to get good seats for Joni’s first New York show, I was disappointed that they were already gone. My lover and I were not happy during the recent Dylan/Joni show at Madison Square Garden – we had mediocre seats, surrounded by too many restless (and noisy!) Dylan fans.
But my friend Tom saw Joni in Los Angeles and urged me to go, no matter where we had to sit. "It’s a once-in-a-lifetime show," Tom said.
I bought two tickets online the next day and was very pleased we were assigned seats in the fourth row, center stage. When the usher escorted us to our seats last night, we were astonished to discover that the first couple rows had been eliminated because of the orchestra stage. We were seated in the front row, directly in front of Joni’s microphone, in the company of what one concertgoer accurated described as "hard-core Joni fans." Our impromptu "Joni community" shared champagne, Joni stories (when did you see her first concert? What’s your favorite Joni album, etc.) and a lot of humor and anticipation. Right before the lights went down, a guy who was seated a few spaces away from us ordered more champagne and insisted we all toast Joni before the performance.."For the roses!"
The rest, of course, was all up to Joni; need I say - she delivered - over and over. The wonderful things people have been writing about her performances on this tour are absolutely true: he New York Times and the Daily News happily echoed the JM.COM mini – reviews this morning (the "paper of record" noted that "Ms. Mitchell has suddenly emerged as a great jazz singer"). This WAS a "once-in-a-lifetime" show (thank you, Tom!) - it’s simply breathtaking and exhilarating to hear Joni accompanied by a 70-piece orchestra and the brilliant musicians in her band. Joni received numerous standing ovations - from the front of the Theater, it was amazing to hear the gasps and then roar and cheer of the audience. She basked in our love and enthusiasm, obviously touched and energized by the response she received.
And this wasn’t the "quiet Joni" on stage - The "Both Sides Now" selections were peppered with playful, dry and frequently hilarious anecdotes…she used the stories to draw us into each song so she could work her interpretive magic. It’s an old cliché but Joni made us laugh and made us cry…her voice, her persona, her charisma, her astounding musicality are unequaled … there is simply no one else like her. Also – I was unprepared for the sheer brilliance of the second half of the show – the newly orchestrated versions of "Hegira," "Be Cool" and "For the Roses" were dazzling ("Roses" remains the quintessential critique of stardom, the music biz and the role of art).
The NY Times also mentioned "the Mitchell fans who vociferously pledged their love all the way through." Well, I’m very proud to say I applauded and screamed and "pledged my love." When she sang the beautiful "new" version of "A Case of You," I gasped as we made eye contact during the second chorus of this most beautiful of all love songs. I can’t really explain how I felt at that moment – trying to describe how much Joni has meant to me couldn’t be easily translated into words and phrases and sentences. I smiled, nodded my head and listened to the orchestra build as the song drew to a close. During the ovation that followed, Joni looked back at me and smiled in return. After the encore and the numerous ovations, my boyfriend and I watched people gathering at the corner of the stage, reaching out to shake her hand. I didn’t need to do that…
Thank you, Joni!
Joni Mitchell is certainly entitled to do any type of tour that she wants. However, I would prefer to hear her do her own songs with just an acoustic guitar than do mostly others with an enormous orchestra. For someone who tours so infrequently, it was disappointing that she chose to do a "covers" tour.
Just a quick note to say I was totally blown away by the show. Joni sounded
EXCELLENT!!! When she performed Hejira I was blown away!! I can't wait till
Joni's NYC concert tonight was even better than the Monday performance. The
sound quality was improved, and Joni seemed to jell more with the orchestra.
Her phrasing in Both Sides Now was a revelation, and she looked gorgeous. I
was shocked to see so many empty seats, as I exited the theatre. I guess the
only reason the concert wasn't sold out must be due to the high ticket
prices. I must confess that I had to leave after For The Roses, and missed
the Trouble Man encore. I have a 2 hour commute, and I missed my train Monday
night by about 5 minutes, and got stuck at Penn Station for 2 hours until my
next train...didn't want to repeat that again.
I had a great time at Judy's Chelsea on Monday night. David Lahm is an
excellent pianist, and I thouroughly enjoyed the singers. I certainly will be
going back. I'm sorry I didn't get to speak with more of the folks from the
list. I did chat a bit with Paul, who travelled from Wales for the
concert(!), and then got engaged in conversation with some of the singers -
before I knew it, it was time for the concert.
I had a minor 'incident' at Monday's concert - I had made up a tape of rare
late Billie Holiday recordings to give to Joni. After For The Roses, I walked
to the front of the stage, and as Joni was nearly center stage, I took the
tape out of my pocket, which enraged the nasty security guard. The guy
started yelling at me to get out of there - Joni was close, but was totally
oblivious to this, looking at the fans directly in front of her. To make a
long story short, I attempted to throw the tape in Joni's direction. The tape
slid across part of the stage, and hit the foot of the first violinist, who
looked over at me. I asked him to give the tape to Joni - he smiled and
nodded - so I hope she did get it...Apologies for this disjointed post.
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to see Joni perform this way,
with the orchestra, no guitar in hand. I, of course, love her guitar and
piano playing but see/hearing this incredibly gifted woman, who has inspired
me and all of you by an outpouring of her talent over the years, perform
songs that have inspired her was a blessing. I know some of you couldn't
attend these shows for various reasons but I do hope that there will be a
tape made so that you have the chance to see it too. I can be critical,
believe me, but all the criticism in the world can't take away Joni's
spirit, her charm and grace as her smoky crooning filled the theater. Bravo!
And it was a pleasure spending time with you, Colleen. I'm glad you made the
Joni was in great voice and spirits both nights, and I truly enjoyed
myself, especially Tues night, with the better seat and view.
At last night's show she cracked up the audience. She was introducing
the song Both Sides Now, and spoke of the many cloud formations she'd
seen over the years, and said that one of the oddest cloud formations
she'd ever seen was just recently - after the Florida show (Hi Paul,
Pearl and Steve!) - "it was the strangest thing," Joni said. "I looked
up and could swear I saw Magoo jacking off"
The audience was in stitches!
So I got myself to the theatre to see Joni last night. Do I sound
grumbly? That's how I felt. I had a very expensive ticket purchased long
ago and had tucked it away and then on my calendar yesterday it said
Joni 8 pm MSG. I hadn't completely forgotten about it, but almost had,
and that's a complete turnaround from my excitement and anticipation of
seeing her when she toured with Bob Dylan, and my excitement about the
tribute concert. So I got myself there through the NYC rain and almost
no empty cabs and, once there, was anxious to find my seat, relax, dry
off, look around, drink champagne and talk to people next to me. I
thought "Hmmm, here I am once again to see Joni, and I'm very happy to
be able to do this, but I reeeaaaalllly don't like the BSN CD. She is
taking me kicking and screaming into this. It's worse for me than
getting used to Mingus. At least there were some jazzy sounds leading up
to Mingus. She is really putting me to the test with this orchestra
stuff that makes me feel about 60 years old all of a sudden. I do not
like it. So I'm loyal and I'm here, enjoy it. And the champagne's not
bad, and the conversation's good." Ho hum.
And then she comes on stage and I'm one of the first people to stand and
there's a clinch in my stomach and tears in my eyes and I can't clap
loudly enough and I thank god I'm there because for a little while she
and I can share the same space and she's taught me so many things over
almost 30 years so I'll trust her again with this new phase of hers and
go along with her again. No more ho hum. I was shocked. I was thrilled
to be there. I was moved just at the idea of seeing her so close. I was
in love. And I'd not felt it so strongly ever. See what starting out
grumbly leads to?
And she sang and I was able to listen, and really hear the music, and
feel it, without terrifyingly instantly aging 20 years, and be moved and
teased and taught again, and enjoy everything she was offering. Her
voice was smooth and rich and right on target every second. She was
focused and very generous with the audience and the musicians and having
a very good time. She shook hands with people in the front rows each
time she left the stage and was given flowers and at the end was given a
second bunch, got almost off stage, and went running back smiling to the
piano to pick up the bouquet she'd been given earlier in the show. She
also showed us some of her artistic process and I found that very
touching, forgetting some words and humming a little instead, rolling
her eyes and doing the shoot-me-in-the-head hand motion making fun of
that forgetfulness, then all of sudden focusing and getting it together
again; reading the lyrics of one of the wordier songs from a big score
because she didn't do her homework she said; telling us a little of what
she thinks about.
So it sounds odd, but the actual songs she did were almost unimportant
in all of this glow, although I get such a kick out of Comes Love, I
can't get it out of my head now. And the songs on the downside of the
arc didn't seem so depressing hearing them live. Sometimes I'm Happy was
one of them and she was very swingy and joyful with that one. And then
she sang Both Sides Now, and it wasn't sad to me, it was so new sounding
I could hardly relate it to the version I first heard years ago. And she
grabbed at moths flying around her, giggled, talked about what she saw
in clouds, Michaelangelo figures, lots of pecs, and the strangest was
Mr. Magoo on his back with a bunny tale and he was jerking off, I mean
he was wanking she said and she briefly did the hand motion (can you
imagine hearing such language from elegant Joni?), she laughed, we all
laughed, and she said she was thinking about that in the first verses of
Both Sides Now that she'd just sung so it had been hard for her to
concentrate (and, no, I couldn't tell).
The person next to me didn't know much about Joni's personal life and at
one point she turned to me and said, "Joni's finally gotten horny." I
said "yeah, she sure has. It's great isn't it?", and we both laughed.
The ice princess Joni's sometimes accused of being wasn't anywhere in
sight. She was very much a sexual being.
Do I like BSN a whole lot now? No, I don't think so, but I will hear it
differently than I was able to before. And I fell so hard I think I'll
have to watch out for that grumbly attitude. :-)
And everyone still to see a concert, watch out, she may just now be
heating up. Enjoy.