Photo by Michael Paz
Exactly 37 years after Joni Mitchell appeared at Carnegie Hall February of 1969, a somewhat raggedy group of musicians gathered there to celebrate the music of Joni and raise money for a cause that would seem close to Joni's heart: the Music for Youth Foundation, dedicated to making quality musical education available to underprovided youngsters.
It was nearly two hours into the 2 ½ hour event before a performer made the obvious joke. As Bettye LeVette said, "practice, practice, practice". Oddly enough, LeVette, whose soul-searing performance of Last Chance Lost (1994) was the highlight of the evening, was the artist who showed that practice is not enough. More important are heart, and especially a viewpoint. LeVette remade the song, with an impassioned blues shout and absolute commitment to the lyrics. If Joni Mitchell is a songwriter for the ages, the proof must be in artists like LeVette, who meet the songs halfway.
There were many other highlights. Laurie Anderson's internal Both Sides Now (1970) was beautifully calibrated. A low and buzzy drone, sparsely plucked notes on her electric violin cradled in her arms and her airy high vocal combined to make a mysterious and riveting experience of an over-familiar song. The Wood Brothers' version of Black Crow (1976) matched the caffeinated standing bass of Chris Wood from Medeski Martin & Wood with the laid back steel guitar and beautifully twangy vocals of his brother Oliver. The tension between their approaches set up a terrific performance.
I was also very fond of Pharoah's Daughter's version of God Must Be a Boogie Man (1979). Made up of a variety of middle-eastern instruments and vocalists, the ensemble created something fresh, a sound that also beautifully fit the song's story of spiritual inquiry. Shawn Colvin and her small band did a wonderful, ballsy version of Turbulent Indigo (1994) late in the show, metaphorically pissing in the fireplace of a way-too-reverent evening. Marc Cohn nailed For Free (with Don Byron on bass clarinet). The very-young-and-somewhat-hyped Sonya Kitchell, working with Assembly of Dust, truly rocked the house on Trouble Child (1974), both catching the emotion of the lyric, blending well with the band, and dazzling with some vocal fireworks in the second half of the song.
Photo by Michael Paz
Near misses included Jesse Malin's Carey (1971), which was filled with energy, and Me'shell NdegéOcello's Cherokee Louise (1991), which should have been a perfect match of singer and song but fell short. Jimmy Scott's At Last (included on the very thin premise that Joni recorded it in 2000) had grandeur amidst the quavering.
The low points, which were far too many, included the safe, the shallow, the sharp and flat, and even the snide.
I've attended four major tributes to Joni, the Joni's Jazz event in Central Park in 1999, the TNT Tribute in 2000, and nine hours of the Symphony Space Wall-to-Wall Joni Marathon in 2003, and this was definitely the least inspiring. While I admire the Music for Youth Foundation's push for quality musical education, I hope that in the future, they'll pay more attention to the musical quality of their benefit concerts. Perhaps, by asking the artists to interact, maybe even play with each other (the lack of cohesiveness and connection in the concert was striking). Perhaps by having the producer exercise some artistic control over the song selection (this concert included three songs from the '90s, NONE from the '80s, and far too many from Joni's first three albums.)
Still, I'll treasure the great moments, especially Ms. LeVette. And with Joni Mitchell apparently retired from performing, I'm perfectly happy to live in a time when the best artists are exploring her songbook to find just how strong it is.
Photo by Michael Paz
Kenny B: She wasn't there.
DJP: highlights for me:
Laurie Anderson's simple and weird Both sides now
Shawn Colvin's Turbulent Indigo - very straightforward, better (dare I say it) that Joni's
Cowboy Junkies' gorgeous River
Bettye LaVette's heart-wrenching Last Chance Lost
Jimmy Scott's At Last A very very cute
Wood Brother playing standup bass on Black Crow
Carnegie Hall itself
and: Joni's excise that she couldn't be there because she had to medicate her cat.
Nellie McKay not bothering to learn either the melody or lyrics to Chelsea Morning
I had a blast.
Bob Muller: As Kenny said, Joni didn't show - she was scheduled to appear and even perform. She sent a note saying that she couldn't attend because her cat was deathly ill, but she was honored to have her music used to further youth in music and hoped they would be exposed to something besides what they hear on the radio.
Again, not much of an issue with me as I was just as thrilled to see so many long-time JMDL friends and meet some new ones.
The VIP reception was nice - I got a chance to talk to/get photos with:
Photo by Michael Paz
|Group photo of stars at VIP reception|
Photo by ?
Chris: ...It was a little bit of a bummer that JM didn't show up...bad weather, stuck at the airport, sick cats, didn't feel like dealing with it - whatever the case may be.
BUT - there's definitely something to be said for the fact that previous tributes have been, well, not as good as they could've been, and that might have something to do with Joni's presence looming in the bleachers - she said it herself, the Blonde in the Bleachers is a distraction, and her presence haunts you (Christ, she follows you home!) And in this case, she's also a tough critic, a perfectionist, and someone that all of the performers at an event like this are in AWE of. Makes it hard to concentrate on what you're doing.
That said, I thought we did a hell of a lot better than we did at Joni's Jazz (as told through the bootleg) and the TNT gig.
Dar Williams' Rainy Night House? Angelic.
Photo by Michael Paz
|Lou Reed with Little Jimmy Scott at VIP reception|
Photo by ?
Debra Shea: [Bettye's Last Chance Lost] is the performance I'll remember years from now. Yes, much resonance. Felt like my heart was being ripped out. I've never liked or listened much to that song, but hearing it this way gave me new appreciation for Joni and her willingness to honestly face and share with us even the ugliest and most painful of experiences. Joni talks so matter of factly about her divorce but this song shows the emotional side. After hearing Bettye's interpretation, the repetition of the phrase "last chance lost" now makes sense... it's from-the-gut wailing, as though the pain has wiped out all complex or subtle thinking, and the feeling of loss is overwhelming.
Wow. Thanks Joni. Thanks Bettye.
And just when I thought I was over Joni, nope, I'm back again. Joni wasn't there, but her music was, and that's how I know and love her, as the person who's given so much of herself.
The dinner was such fun! It really was wonderful meeting and chatting with people I'd only known as names before. And how nice to have so many Joni fans all together bubbling with enthusiasm! Thanks so much, Patrick, for organizing the dinner. It was a good choice of a place, friendly and typically New York cozy.
And the reception beforehand was a pleasure too, a little too early for me to be there the entire time unfortunately, but by the time I got there the atmosphere was happy and relaxed, with lots of smiling people, and I don't think drink was the reason. Thank you, Julius, for arranging that gathering and sharing the joni-love! That's what people were drunk on.
I agree with Patrick's assessment of the show, and there's plenty more to be said about it, but some other time. I do hope a recording turns up because there were some parts I'd love to experience again.
|The Wood Brothers|
Photo by Michael Paz
Yes! Like she was born to be singing as easily as other people just breathe. Another artist who seems so happy being immersed in the music that it's a pleasure being able to listen in.
Annoying, very annoying, especially coming right after Bettye's heartfelt performance. Nellie McKay's piano playing and singing sounded like a little chirpy bird. It was like "okay, how quickly can I do this and get out of here?" Very superficial rendering. And the only low-light of the evening for me, maybe made more so because of who she followed.
> Cowboy Junkies
Wonderful voice! I'm getting their cd called "Cowboy Junkies" (1st one?) very soon. My concert companion suggested that after I raved about the sound of Margo's voice. It had a quiver to it, not quite vibrato, just a quiver that felt like a heartbeat. I love that and her low rich sound.
Yes, he was out of sync, though, with the cellist (who was too loud) and the other guitarist, and kept trying to play catch up, or get together with, or something, and threw in extra odd fast strums trying to do that, so his performance never really took off. It was great seeing him and imagining him playing at the Woodstock festival, and completely blowing the huge field of people away.
Wonderful closer, and how nice to have the contrast between her version and Laurie Anderson's. Nice, too, because the Wildflowers album was where I first heard Joni's songs. And nice, too, that Judy Collins told the story about being woken up by Al Cooper at 3 in the morning so Joni could play that song to her over the phone. I'd read that story before, but it was enjoyable hearing it from Judy herself. I would have liked hearing more such stories from the artists.
Photo by Michael Paz
Judy Collins has great hair! Along with that great voice! and her version is not a surprise. It's more of a thought that her happy version made sense when I was a teenager (and didn't know what Joni was talking about) then it does now many years and experiences later.
It was quite a concert! I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's take on it, especially after some mulling-it-over time.
>Nellie McKay is notorious for
It wasn't just the lyrics, she screwed up the melody, making it a repetitive singsong. I haven't the musical chops to describe this well, but where in the original there's some kind of modulation (for example, on the word "owls" ["i will bring you incense owls by night"]) she just sang it plain old chirpy major chord.
Can any musician who was there describe this better? Or am I making it up?
Bobsart: These were my notes in the aftermath. Everybody's got his own slightly different take on things, as we all know.
I've graded them with traditional letter grades, just as an indicator of how they stacked up against one another for me. Overall, I certainly felt I got my money's worth - wouldn't have missed it even if ..........yes, and I love both my cats ;-)
Laurie Anderson - Both Sides Now (B- trying for fine art, but not quite getting there). A tip of the cap to her stature in the world of avant garde art, that she would be allowed to do this song, given that JC would later close the show with it.
Photo by Michael Paz
Don Byron - clarinet for Marc Cohn
Marc Cohn - For Free B- I bit disappointing for me, given some advance hype I read (my fault) Bryon's clarinet may have been just a bit too jazzy for this piece, which is a simple song, musically. I'd be interested in David Lahm's opinion on this. Still, not bad.
Judy Collins - BSN A- The best voice of the night. It made the Hall ring. Not a whole lot of heart, but quite good anyway.
Shawn Colvin - Turbulent Indigo A- Very servicable effort on a very ambitious and difficult song to cover. She "squared up" the song's rhythm, to give herself a fighting chance. I'm starting to love this woman.
Cowboy Junkies - River C I totally don't get it.
eels - All I Want C Badly compromised by failure to sing correctly into the mike. Once he regurgitated it, and the sound man made 4 adjustments, the second half of the song was tolerable.
Amy Grant - Big Yellow Taxi B What you'd expect. Some nice shoo-bops.
Richie Havens - Woodstock B he's lost a couple of steps. Somewhat soulful, but lacking in his usual energy.
Bettye LaVette - Last Chance Lost A+ The kind of performance (and intepretation) one comes to hear. Bravo ! Kudos to her guitarist, too !!! I forget his name - Paz, can you help ?
Jesse Malin - Carey A A highlight of the evening. Energetic, and snappy. Good job !
Nellie McKay - Chelsea Morning - on piano - C Uninteresting, Boring, show-tuney version.
Me'shell NdegiOcello - Cherokee Louise A (but net effect was A-, due to sound guy getting it a bit too soft - which the artist did her best to correct.). Quite a good performance and interpretation - she was a bit temperamental, complaining to the sound guy to raise the level of the guitar, which he failed to succeed in doing - she was correct. The guitarist was excellent. She played electric bass and sang.
Photo by Michael Paz
Tom Rush - Urge For Going and The Circle Game - B+ What you'd expect.
Jimmy Scott - At Last (not really a Joni cover) B The crowd voted higher, giving this 80-year old (wheeled on, I think, but walked off - good for him) soul/blues singer a standing O. I hope I can play guitar 1/10 as well as he can sing when I'm 80.
Neil Sedaka -Raised on Robbery B him on piano, plus a bass player. Rocked a little - should have rocked a lot.
Martin Sexton - Marcie A- Beautifully delivered, sensitive take (guitar-only) on a very self conscious song (for a supposedly 3rd person lyric).
Joanne Shenandoah - The Dawntreader C Pretty, traditional arrangement, including mandolin. The girl can't hold a tune, though.
Suzanne Vega - Amelia C Accompanied only by electric bass, playing lead guitar-like chords and picking (ambitious attempt, but no variation from verse to verse). She only sang. Boring and monotonous - this song requires a kick in the pants to get it right. AS Lynn Skinner commented at dinner, the key verse starts "maybe I've never really loved, I guess that is the truth". I believe it.
Dar Williams - Rainy Night House - C+ Only slightly better - I would have liked to hear some backup singers fill up the Hall like a choir at the key moment. Accompanied by pianist, she only sang (and her hands never left the mike stand).
Michelle Williams (of Destiny's Child) - Help Me A. She's adorable - plus, a good singer. Good job. One of the better acts. No KD Lang, though.
The Wood Brothers - Black Crow A- (net effect was B+, though, because miking was a bit too soft. Good version, acoustic bass and guitar - again, instruments were undermiked - could have been an A-, or even an A). I',m partial to this song - glad it was covered.
|Amy Grant with Ashara and Maggie|
Photo by ?
Carnegie Hall - A+ The sound man did a fine job on all but two songs (no small feat, with 24 different performers). The 'old girl' sounded great with the relatively simple arrangements - and even the electric Carey came out just fine. I was in Row S - one of the best seats in the house (I think 5 rows closer would have been totally perfect). Those up front - and there were many JMDLers up there - may have suffered, cause the music can't disperse sufficiently before it reaches your ears. Patrick - is there some "legend" about the best seat in the house?
Stayed up past my usual bedtime
Exceeded my usual blood alcohol parameters
Transcended my usual, considerable, sense of well-being
Reaffirmed my usual conviction that even within the special realm of music, the jmdl is a special princessipality
gratitude, as opposed to obligation is a sweet feeling and that's my feeling about last night and you all
David Sapp: We got home safely thurs. eve - what an amazing experience. The highlights for me - the JMDL reception and dinner party - i've been a lister for 6 yrs and had never met anyone. When I got to the reception I burst into tears of joy----what an absolute thrill. More to follow.......
|Richie Havens with Bob Muller|
Photo by ?
Debra Shea: My seat in row A near the right side aisle was perfect for adoring Joni from, but not the best spot to hear the music. And I could see looks between artists and the sound guy at the right that perhaps other people couldn't.
So, yes, Richie Havens and the cellist were trying to communicate with the sound guy to no effect, and the cello sounded way too loud (from where I was sitting), and it was as though the cellist and other guitarist were playing separately from what Richie Havens was playing. He seemed distracted by that, and kept giving little looks toward the sound guy. After a little while, he seemed to ignore them and just do his thing, and he did get into a trance-like almost prayerful, quietly beseeching, performance that wasn't what I expected but was still powerful. It was hard, though, for me to hear him through the cello sound, a beautiful sound, but too much for what Richie Havens was doing.
And Sonya Kitchell seemed relaxed and comfortable in her skin, which is something rare for any 16-year old, much less one on the Carnegie Hall stage. Again, from my seat, I could see the interaction between her and the musicians to her left, and they were all having a very good time, which is a big help when getting the music across. She had some quirky ways of doing things, like singing out of the side of her mouth, and I thought how odd and how wonderful that she's not "manufactured" the way some artists are nowadays. The music, and her additions to Joni's song, just seemed to flow out of her with no effort. It's hard to separate out the "she's 16?!" from the performance, but I think even if she'd been much older I would still have been impressed.
Kenny B: Well, it's all over now and everyone's sending in their reviews and personal stories from the Wednesday night show at Carnegie Hall, the Friday morning JoniFest at the Rockwood as well as various individual experiences. I've decided not to read any of the others until I've finished my own account just so that it wouldn't be influenced by anyone elses. Obviously, I'm dying to read everyone elses' stories and am looking forward to discussing and reflecting on these events with you all as soon as I finish this note.
I thought, by including my own time-line, some of you who weren't able to attend might get more of a feel for what it was like for me. DISCLAIMER: I did not take any notes at any time and my mind is pretty full of 62 years of other stuff so please forgive me for forgetting names (or mispelling them) or who sang what. Hopefully, someone else has posted a more accurate record of the actual people & performances, especially at the Rockwood.
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: |
Photo by Kenny B
Wednesday, Feb. 1:
2:30 PM: Left work early, went home for a nap & got ready for the big night.
3:50 PM: Ro and I left home to catch the 4:16 LIRR train into Manhattan out of Hicksville (my friends from Sweden get a big kick out of taking the train into NYC from a town called HICKS-VILLE when they stay with us).
5:12 PM: Arrive at Penn Station and, along with about a dozen other people, try to walk OUT of the terminal while half of NYC is trying to get INTO it... I swear I must have bumped into ten thousand people before we walked ten blocks. Now I know what it feels like to be a salmon trying to swim upstream to spawn on the Columbia River.
5:45 PM: After a brisk, chilly 23 block walk (we avoided the subway since we both need the exercise) Ro & I arrived at Carnegie Hall. Before we got there, I could see the Park Central Hotel on the west side of Seventh Avenue; I remembered that many JMDL fans were staying there when I noticed the alter someone had built out front with the Statue of Joni on it and the lighted candles at the base. (heh-heh-heh... just kidding, guys)! We were able to enter the Citigroup Cafe where we met other early birds from the our site.
I must commend Cassie (Queen of the Hot Glue Gun) for all the dedication and effort she put into the JMDL/Joni pinbacks; a very nice touch! I met Julius (who organized this pre-show gathering) and said "hi" to Bob (King of The Covers), as well as Paz, Donna, and everyone else I remembered from JoniFest 2003.
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Kay Ashley, organizer of the event|
Photo by Kenny B
I'll try to keep this brief by saying only that everyone who performed at the pre-show gathering did an admirable job. Sadly, there was no amplified mic (due, in large part, to the Hall requesting nearly $500. to set that up... greedy bastards!) but anyone standing close to the performers was rewarded with an intimate musical treat. The highlight of this pre-show spectacle for me was Kay Ashley's strong accapella rendition of Fiddle & The Drum... this girl is a "Nation Of Joni" National treasure! (More on Kay later...)
Oh, I had one of those $5. "Gourmet Sandwiches"... you know, I never looked it up in the Thesaurus but I guess "gourmet" must be a synonym for "small." If my mouth was any bigger, I could have stuffed the whole thing in there at once... ;-) Anyway, the Yellowtail Shiraz was pretty tasty.
I met lots of new people (that I hadn't met before) including a woman by the name of Nancy, wearing a genuine original 1974 Joni Tour jacket. I convinced her that she must attend the next Northeast JoniFest and she is looking forward to it.
I also met Craig and his daughter Kierna (I KNOW that's wrong but I think it's close) who came all the way from Oregon. She had never seen Joni before and was hoping this would be the time. She was quite disappointed... as were many others of us who had never seen or heard Joni live.
8:00 PM: We were ushered into the hall and the show started fairly promptly. Our seats in the Dress Circle were pretty high and we were in the last row but close to center stage; they really weren't bad seats. There are some pillars that may have partially obstructed the view of some people in this ancient theater but, overall, it looks like a good place to see a show. I brought my binoculars along (just in case I might have gotten a glimpse of you-know-who) which helped me get a close-up view of the performers.
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Lynn Skinner.|
Photo by Kenny B
Now, I know each artist likes to interpret a song in their own way. Personally, I usually like to hear something close to the original (after all, in most cases, I've been listening to and loving the original for many years). And, I respect anyone's unique cover of a song as long as it's well done. Of course, I think we all are going to like or dislike various songs, based upon our own tastes.
That said, I can't for the life of me imagine why Sonya Kitchell and Assembly of Dust would do such a wonderful, right-on rendition of "Trouble Child" and then add such a long & complex ending that simply didn't fit the rest of the song. And, could Richie Havens have done a s-l-o-w-e-r version of "Woodstock"?
Hey, but that's only my opinion; I happened to love most of the other acts and was really impressed by Dar Williams' "Rainy Nighthouse" (one of my favorite Joni tunes... love those chord changes!), Martin Sexton's "Marcie", Marc Cohn's "For Free" (with Don Byron on clarinet), and Neil Sedaka rocking away on the piano for "Raised On Robbery" (I thought I was watching Jerry Lee Lewis up there!). The show stopper of the night had to be 80 year-old "Little" Jimmy Scott belting out a spectacular version of "At Last" (yes, I know Joni didn't write it but she covered it on that standards album so it was fair game).
Now, overall, I thought the show was very good; I might even say great. But I can't help but feel let down at the way the event was produced. From the start, everyone was under the impression that Joni was going to be there. Okay, she wasn't and I can handle that; but right up until the announcer read the note saying she had to stay home and care for her very sick cat, I really thought she might show (and so did many others I talked to). Even half way through the show, I thought, "maybe the note about the cat was just a joke and she's going to walk out any minute now...." It was unfair on the part of the producers to not have this issue resolved beforehand.
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: John Kelly.|
Photo by Kenny B
To add insult to injury, Rita Houston (who I love and listen to on WFUV all the time) was the MC and wasn't even there! Her introductions were all on tape! Very large lack of class on the part of the producers and the Hall. Rita has a great voice and the intros sounded fine except there was no spontaneity... no chance for her to say, "Wow! Wasn't that a great performance by so-and-so?"
10:33: Show ended... I can't remember ever attending a concert and after the last song the lights come on and everyone just walks out. No encore. No assembling the performers for a group sing-along. Very cut-and-dried. Oh, well... there was always the Rockwood to look forward to.
I was going into work late the next day but Ro had to get early so we passed on Seppi's. I trust everyone who went over there had a grand time. I planned on getting the 12:18 train home but the Carnegie Hall show ended so early that we took the subway down to Penn Station and just made the 11:16. Got to Hicksville before midnight and home by a quarter after.
Thursday, Feb. 2:
8:00 PM: Judged & critiqued a photo competition at the Great Neck Camera Club on Long Island.
9:30 PM: Meeting ended and I left to drive into Manhattan. No traffic to speak of and I was into the city by 10 o'clock. I figured I had plenty of time to kill as everyone was supposed to meet at the Rockwood for a midnight start. I drove over to Chinatown to get something to eat at Wo Hop (our favorite restaurant) and the owner told me I just missed the guys I used to work with who were in earlier. I got an order of pork Chow Fun to go and drove over toward the Rockwood to find a parking space.
10:30 PM: Found a good space six blocks from the Rockwood, parked and ate the Chow Fun while listening to the radio. Still too early so I tried to take a nap.
11:00 PM: Decided to check out the Rockwood in case anyone else was there early. I was amazed to see a group with instruments standing outside but, as I got closer, noticed it wasn't anyone I knew. Looked inside and was surprised how small the place was; didn't see anyone I knew so I walked back to the car. Decided to find a space closer to the venue; moved the car to within three blocks (not an easy feat, considering all the parking restrictions in NYC).
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Victoria Lavington|
Photo by Kenny B
11:50 PM: Walked back to the Rockwood. Hooray! I found Kay and a few others standing outside. Kaye said the previous acts were running late so we wouldn't be in before 12:30. Paz and some others showed up; then some more Joniphiles... next thing you know, there were about forty people standing in front of the place. I don't know what time we finally got in but Paz and Kay quikly set up shop and they were ready to go. Cassie handed out more souvenirs: Joni refrigerator magnets she made. Again, I took no notes, so forgive me for any mistakes.
I had never seen or heard Angela McKensie before but this girl can SING! She led off what proved to be at least a three-hour mini-JoniFest. As usual, Paz played bass, lead guitar and piano at various times, either solo or with other people... do you think God could reward me, for whatever good I've done in my life, by letting me play bass, guitar and piano as well as Michael if I get to heaven? And, Bob Muller played the part of mc for the night; you know, he has a great voice. I think they should have gotten him to emcee the Tribute Show at Carnegie... at least he was there in person! ;-)
Alison (the DJ from Salt Lake City whom I met in 2003) sang "You Turn Me On (I'm A Radio)" and I thought that was pretty appropriate. There was a fellow named John Kelly who played guitar and sang wonderfully, but afterward did an acapella version of "Shadows and Light"... very impressive! And Gary Zack... another amazing voice! Simply awesome! I am so impressed by all you talented people and I so appriciate your excellent performances. BTW, who was the girl with the trombone? Before the fest ended, Kierna (the young girl from Oregon) played guitar & sand a Joni song before doing an original she had written which was quite good! Another young, newbie girl (name escapes me) ended the show with a fine vocal performance and Paz backing on bass.
I could go on and on but this note is probably too long already; I'm sure other folks will write about the rest of the performers. Suffice to say we closed the place up and then some people left for home or their hotels while others walked around the corner to grab something to eat at 4:15 AM. I said "goodbye" to everyone and the last thing I remembered seeing was Les Irwin eating a slice of pizza with ham and pineapple on top.
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen|
Photo by Kenny B
I was so glad to be able to meet and spend some time again with so many fine people. Donna, you are so fine and I'm so glad we had time to talk again. I hope you've enjoyed your stay in New Yawk and that you get home safely. Maybe you can write about this trip for the next issue of PASSIONS. Julius, Kay, Paz, and everyone else who performed or had a hand in aiding and abetting the crowd of Joniphiles: you are the best!
4:20 AM: I left the city to drive home. No traffic... well, this is NYC and you never know, do you? Played the double CD Tribute Album Paz produced back in 2000 on the way home... thanks, Michael! Great stuff!
5:00 AM: Home and in bed by half-past. Dreaming of the next JoniFest.
re: Nellie McKay: Annoying, very annoying, especially coming right after Bettye's heartfelt performance. Nellie McKay's piano playing and singing sounded like a little chirpy bird. It was like "okay, how quickly can I do this and get out of here?" Very superficial rendering. And the only low-light of the evening for me, maybe made more so because of who she followed.>
I feel bad for McKay; I've heard her music before and I think she's a very talented performer. Maybe she was especially nervous since it was Carnegie Hall and all. I must admit, however, that her performance reminded me of a young child at her school recital; the way she carried her music sheets out, flubbed the line and then collected them when she was done, making a feeble bow and walking off.
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: David Lahm.|
Photo by Kenny B
Sherelle Smith: I'm back from a most wonderful and exhilariting trip to New York! That's another post though! (Smile) I'm not going to be too hard on anyone because I can empathize with anyone getting up on that stage to pay tribute to Joni. I knwo there were imperfections in sound levels here and there but I was really trying to listen to the spirit of everyone's performance that night and how deep they went into their own souls for that performance.
Richie Havens- I think I am biased about him because he is someone I always wanted to see live. Like someone else, I was absolutely mesmerized. I had a seat in the fifth row and was totally entranced as I watched him walk onto the stage.
Joanne Shennandoah-I thought it was just me but apparently others feel that she had a little trouble with the song.
Shawn Colvin-I was totally impressed and amazed with her version of Turbulent Indigo. She won me over as a fan that night. I had been sitting on the fence for a long time. It was very, very good.
Neil Sedaka- I actually liked his playfullness with the song. I enjoyed his performance.
Meshell Ndegeocello-I thought her performance was very original and heartfelt. I was wondering why she had on a hooded jacket and why she had her back turned to the audience during a musical interlude and then it occured to me that she wanted the audience not to see or hear her but rather the music of Joni. That was my take anyway. What was that comment she made about Judge Alito? (smile)
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Angela McKenzie and Michael Paz|
Photo by Kenny B
Laurie Anderson-this was my first time hearing Laurie perform and she is sooooo different! It took me a moment to get accustomed to her version of Both Sides Now but once I did, I was very impressed by her interpretation. I kept wondering "what would Joni think?" Very interesting...different, but interesting!
Martin Sexton-Beautiful voice and heartfelt singing. I loved the way he held those notes and just let them soar. My first time hearing him as well.
The Wood Brothers-Absolutely, positively blew me away! Black Crow is one of my favorite Joni songs and they nailed it just perfectly for me!!!! This was the first time I had heard them and I am soooo hooked! I love them! Very bluesy and soulful.
Tom Rush-First time hearing him too believe it or not and I did not know his history. He won me over with his calming style and manner on stage. He is truly an icon of music and I am in awe.
Michelle Williams-Did a great job in my opinion with "Help Me". She sang it straight yet adapted it to her own style.
Amy Grant-The reviews I read said she was predictable but I felt she sang a solid song and a heartfelt one too. I was thrilled to see her live as well.
Judy Collins-It was such a thrill to see her live that it enhanced my enjoyment of her performance. I've always loved her version of Both Sides Now and she was in great voice.
I was more uncomfortable with the changes in between songs than anything else. One critic liked the flow of the program but it kind of bothered me. I thought there should be something like a narration of Joni's life or background intstrumental Joni music playing. The only artist who went a little south vocally was Joanne Shennandoah and I just felt so bad for her because she was the first artist to perform. I guess I'll never be a good critic! (Smile)
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Alison Einerson|
Photo by Cassy
Julius: Wherever I go, I always leave my heart at home near San Francisco. But New York City has just about taken all the rest of me. I love that town!!!
Just back in California from the Big Apple and everything's a dizzy, dancing blur of awe and incredulity. And that it was all Joni-infused, from my perspective, without Siquomb herself being within 3000 miles of the place continues to flabbergast me.
If ever I had questions about her stature in the music/entertainment world, they've been assuaged by this trip to NYC. She's huge, mammoth, gargantuan... Queen Kong-like in proportions! In the league of, well, perhaps Sinatra and then, Dylan I suppose, but I can't think of anyone else that approaches, living or dead. Is that just me?
Anyway, I can't wait to sink my teeth into my report to the list, because I've got a lot of juice on Carnegie Hall reception and Tribute concert, Rockwood, Kitchell at the Living Room and SO MANY WONDERFUL JMDLers! Thank all you phenomenal people so very, very much for all the good times and did they ever roll! Wow! I've been a part of this list for near 9 years now, and still it's hard to believe this thing is real. But it's been proven time and time again...in Pittsburgh, Boston, France, Woodstock, Los Angeles and now New York City. Our JMDL is a world-class organization and I'm very proud to be associated with you all. Such class. I'm not worthy, really. Thank you.
And music, music, music and musicians, musicians, musicians, extraordinaire indeed! Unimaginable, had I not been there and experienced it myself...and this time I have ample witnesses!!! What a 3-night, 4 day, round the clock party and culture extravaganza. I'm utterly depleted, but I'm well beyond satisfied with the trip.
And thanks for all the fabulous magnets!! Haha! I'm delighted! More on that later, of course, as my alter ego's magnet obsession remains unresolved... :-)
And as ever, thank you from my heart Roberta Joan Mitchell for the wonder of your music in my life.
Bob Muller: re: Shawn Colvin's outfit: LOL - that was pretty much of a train wreck top she was wearing, but she looked pretty good and was very sweet when Joe & were talking to her, unlike Suzanne Vega who was Miss Arrogant Snobetta. Yuck, now I'm pissed that I spent so much dough buying all that vinyl and CD's of hers. (Not really).
And speaking of outfits, as much as I love MeShell, her "homeless person" costume was extremely inappropriate for Carnegie Hall. We needed someone's Mom backstage saying "Young lady, you are NOT going out looking like that!!!"
Chris: Just a quick note, since I'm sure others were wondering about this... Me'Shell has epilepsy - so the bright lights are bothersome to her. It's one of the reasons she's been socnsidering retiring from live performance, b/c even though she always has extra signs posted about this, pp still insist on using flash photography when she's on stage...I watched her cut a set short once b/c of it, and I was really annoyed (at the crowd).
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Bryan Thomas.|
Photo by Cassy
OzWoman: I arrived back in South Florida laaaaate last night - the trade-off to Spirit Airlines' economical rates ($121 FL/NY round trip - yay!) is their penchant for delays (2 1/2 hours on the way up, over an hour on the way back - ack!).
Regardless, I had an amazing time, before/during/after/surrounding the Joni Tribute - it was absolutely delightful to meet Patrick and Julius (thanks for organizing the pre- and post-gatherings!), Bob Muller, Ashara, Kay, Debra, Jack, Jahida, Joe, Craig, Cassie (super JMDL pins!). Always great to see Pearl and Steve (who live a few miles down the road from me) - missed all those unable to make it for one reason or another...
Below is what I posted to the Dar Williams list Thursday evening - at that point, I hadn't read any of your reviews... but interesting to see many similar opinions and observations... :-)
Hey, All -
Where to begin? - first of all, I am in the library of Adelphi University, where Ms. Goldberg teaches a class every Thursday evening. Can't tell you the last time I was in a college library - I feel as if I should be mainlining a mix of coffee and white crosses... :-)
My flight from Florida was delayed 2 1/2 hours, setting my arrival time at midnight Tuesday, where of course sharon was outside Baggage Claim of LaGuardia to scoop me up and whisk me away to her lovely abode in Brooklyn, which she shares with Whoopi the cat - we stayed up until 4 a.m. yakking, yakking (imagine that!) and slept until 11 the next morning, replenishing our energy with cinnamon coffee and raisin bagels with cream cheese.
We leisurely got ready and took the subway into Manhattan, where we detrained (is that a word?) at 34th, so as to take the walking tour to Carnegie Hall - points of interest included Rockefeller Center (including the skating rink), the NBC studio windows, MTV, a souvenir shop (small gifts for my family), the Empire State Building, the Champs Elysses (Free Man in Paris!) Bakery (which I made sharon take a picture of), all the designer stores (Versace, Pucci, Gucci, etc.), a hot pretzel stand, The Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop, St. Patrick's Cathedral (where the saints du jour were arranged and one could choose with whom to light a candle - St. Jude, patron saint of the impossible, for me). I know there is much I am forgetting - this was more than the 25-cent tour!
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Kira Lesley.|
Photo by Cassy
So... we arrived at Carnegie Hall about 6:45, in time for a pre-show JMDL (Joni Mitchell Discussion List) gathering - a la Falcon Ridge, it was delightful to put faces to names. We were handed a one-sheet program detailing the order and setlist of the evening, seeing that Dar was up *second*, performing Rainy Night House from Ladies of the Canyon - zippity!
We found our places a few minutes before 8, settling into the cushy red seats in Row M, whereupon I looked around and up (and up and up) at the architectural beauty and the historical significance - Carnegie Hall at last (and I didn't even have to practice, practice, practice... :-)
[sharon's already told you the sick cat story, re: Joni's non-attendance - oh [three-second-pause] well... It would have been nice but... after everything Joni's given us in her "body of work", so to speak... she owes us nothing more - no worries... ]
With 24 performers on the program, I won't presume to provide details of every one - I'm going to hit the highlights (for me). sharon does so well summarizing - I realize my flowery modus operandi but am powerless to do it differently. Dar - one word: exquisite! Rainy Night House (purportedly written about Leonard Cohen) is an extremely difficult song (major understatement) - this is a piano composition, so Dar had an accompanist and appeared sans guitar (so strange to witness). She looked absolutely beatific, very 30's/40's torch-singer-esque in the full blue skirt/fitted black top/blue platform shoes combination. She hit every note with purity and richness and confidence, investing the song with the nuance it deserves - when she reached the line of "I sing soprano in the upstairs choir... ah ah ahhhhhhhhhhh", I thought I would cry... except that I was smiling too broadly. I was tempted to whoop after the line "she went to Florida" but postponed my exultation so it would blend in with everyone else's thunderous applause and cheers - After Dar finished, sharon and I leaned into each other, said simultaneously, "she nailed it"... and knew we could relax...
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Donna Binkley and Bob Muller.|
Photo by Cassy
Laurie Anderson's version of Both Sides Now was a perfect performance of a life-changing (inward and outward) song - it's a paean to questions... rather than answers, as some people choose to interpret. Wisdom comes in being able to admit one doesn't always know (clouds, life, love) - something's lost and something's gained indeed...
I adored The Wood Brothers' version of Black Crow - with just a cello and guitar, the song was incredible and their harmonies kicked it up more than a few notches. Suzanne Vega should include Amelia in her own setlist - she took her time, breathed through the powerful lyrics and made us believe in dreams and false alarms...
Pharoah's Daughter, a Middle Eastern group, made the difficult God Must Be a Boogie Man accessible... although they missed the chance to involve the audience in the call-and-response chorus - how fabulous it would have been to hear "God Must Be a Boogie Man" repeated back from the sold-out audience in the clarity of the Carnegie Hall acoustics!
Jessie Malin was a delightful surprise - never heard of him... but you can bet I will investigate. He brought unbridled enthusiasm to Carey - my cheekbones ached from joy...
Michelle Williams (of Destiny's Child) was another unexpected treat - I'm not an R&B/pop/boy-girl band fan... but her version of Help Me was lively, fun and sweetly sung ("we love our lovin'... not like we love our freeeeedom"... :-)
Amy Grant told a very cool story of asking Joni's permission a few years ago to record Big Yellow Taxi - Joni said yes, but then followed up with "but you might as well charge $25 to take inflation into account", referencing the Tree Museum lyric...
Tom Rush's accompanists (bass, piano and drums) on The Circle Game were all students whose music education had been funded by Music for Youth, illustrating the true purpose of the benefit - it was announced that over $130,000 was raised that night!
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Gary Zack.|
Photo by Kenny B
Okay, I just have to say this - Sonya Kitchell kicks *ss! I hear she is only 16 but Trouble Child resonated with the power and beauty of her voice - with her on stage was Assembly of Dust, and she and the lead singer traded lines, harmonized and brought the song to a new, delicious level. I will be finding more about her when I return home - wow... :-)
Shawn Colvin wonderfully covered Turbulent Indigo, a very off-the-radar Joni song - her outfit, to me, albeit very Shawn, was very distracting (think Jane Jetson)...
Margo Timmins' (and Cowboy Junkies") version of River was stunningly melancholic - I also loved how she changed the line from "he loved me so naughty made me weak in the knees" to "he loved me so slowly made me weak in the knees"...
Richie Havens has had a lovely understated cover of Woodstock in his repertoire for a while now - Walter Parks (of the Nudes) is his regular accompanist... but how cool to see (and hear) Stephanie Winters on cello joining them (I couldn't take my eyes off her butterfly sleeves... :-)
Yes, I consider myself a Joni-holic and this evening fueled my fandom and renewed my faith in the strength of her songs - I told sharon today that I'd always seen the undercurrent theme of traveling (traveling, traveling), concretely and as a life metaphor. It is all about the journey rather than the destination anyway - it's even more gratifying to have Dar associated with and contributing to this worthwhile project and artistic triumph. She made so many new fans last night - during our *post*-concert Joni French restaurant get-together, those who had not previously heard of her were all a-buzz on hearing more!
Loved having the chance to see Tom before he moves to San Francisco - meeting Gene and Isabel for dinner tonight after sharon gets out of class. Tomorrow's schedule includes another trip into the city (and I can pick up a Big Yellow Taxi snowglobe I meant to buy for myself last night) for more sightseeing (we did the cultural appreciation Tour of Brooklyn today) and then I fly back to Florida tomorrow evening...
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: Abby Ray.|
Photo by Kenny B
Boundless thanks to Dar and sharon and The City That Never Sleeps, oh my! - most of all, thanks to Joni, A Woman of Heart and Mind. She's quoted as saying, "they'll crucify you for changing and they'll crucify you for not changing. I'd rather change" - since my introduction to her music in the late-60's (my high school years), her segues from folk to blues to pop to jazz over her 40-year career and 26-CD discography continue to intrigue and empower and inspire me (truly a "rich exchange, a warm arrangement"... <3)
Cassy: It's going to take me more than one attempt to tell the story of my New York trip and to be honest... some of what happened in New York will stay in New York - my lips are sealed, I promised!
I couldn't sleep at all the night before I left, I got maybe a couple of hours sleep at most and felt a little bit dazed as I left home.
Arriving in NY I found a shuttle into Manhattan and went directly to my hotel. I'd made arrangements for an early check-in and was pleasantly surprised to get to my room early enough to call other JMDLers for lunch. Paz phoned a friend of a friend who was working Carnegie Hall for the show. We were very lucky to be invited in to hang around for sound-check and were seated in the front of the house while Jessie Malin was playing Carey. As it turned out, Jessie's band members played 5 or 6 songs as the "house" band for the night. They did a phenomenal job as back up musicians. It's never easy to play with complete strangers but they acquitted themselves beautifully.
There were rehearsal halls on the floors above the stage where the actual music were settled prior to hitting the stage for final set-up. Once on stage each of the performers sound-checked and their settings were "saved to a file" for the evening performance, that's how the transitions went so smoothly from artist to artist... they plugged in, their file was brought up on the computer and away they went. It was interesting to observe as the artists asked for more kick or less piano etc. I was enthralled.
Looking to my left I saw Amy Grant and Vince Gill walk in with a friend of theirs. Amy got busy setting up and Vince walked over to each of us and shook hands, introduced himself and we chatted a bit before he sat down to watch his wife. What a nice man! Amy sang, the sound tech saved her file and she came down to spend a few minutes with us too before heading out.
Julius wanted to go and check out Citigroup Cafe so we left briefly to do that and Paz headed backstage to visit. When we left the cafe to head back in, I thought Julius was behind me so I walked directly up onto the stage to go backstage, find Paz and tell him we were leaving. When I looked behind me no Julius! I stopped in my tracks half way along the left side of the stage to wait
|Rockwood Music Hall, Feb 2: .|
Photo by ?
I hooked up with Julius and Paz outside and probably gushed. They told me they had heard "someone" singing and I said "it was ME!" I will never forget it as long as I live. I am reliving that sense of wonder now as I type.
I took a few minutes to hook up with Sherelle, Donna and Gary and then went to the lobby of the hotel to meet with others from the group. I met the enigmatic Lynn Skinner and immediately felt as though I'd met a soul-sister, what a gracious and kind woman she is, not to mention talented. Forgive me for not remembering everyone's names, I met so many people over the last few days it's difficult to keep them straight (not that I'd try to keep anyone straight who chooses not to be).
Julius, Julius, Julius... How can I begin to thank you for the fabulous party you hosted? Your friend Kelly was such a delight to hang out with and as you performed your social-butterfly duties she and I spent quite a bit of time together as she began to understand that the JMDL isn't always "only-Joni". The performances were a lot of fun as everyone joined in at-will and sang their hearts out too. Rose showed us all a new photo she'd received and it was spectacular.
Leading up to the pre-show party, I'd been keeping track of RSVPs because I was making JMDL pins for everyone, it was a fun little project and I enjoyed it though some of the pins were less than perfect... hell they were free so I didn't get any complaints. My idea was to commemorate the merging of the JMDL site with JoniMitchell.com AND the Carnegie Hall tribute in one pin and since the original JMDL artwork was, in my humble opinion, really good I didn't want to reinvent the wheel and design something totally new so I just modified it very slightly and it came out pretty good. It was a great opportunity for me to meet each person who attended personally as I handed them their party favours. It seemed a good way also to identify everyone as part of the group.
As the time for the "VIP" cocktail party approached several of us departed and made our way into the designated area. I was surprised that no one took our tickets or even bothered to look at them as we entered... I spent the additional money why? Oh yeah... it was for charity.
On entering the area, no "stars" were immediately apparent but they began to trickle in over the next little while. I personally met: Suzanne Vega, Lou Reed, Phoebe Snow, Richie Havens, Eels, the band for Jessie Malin (Harry told me Jessie would not be attending he was downstairs throwing up from stage fright) Amy Grant (again) Sonya Kitchell and Laurie Anderson. I had a photo taken with Richie Havens and when I asked someone to take my photo with Suzanne Vega my battery died !!#*!&* I was so disappointed. Kindly, Barbara offered to get a photo for me with Lou and Suzanne and Gary took one of me with Phoebe Snow. Another woman (the one who won the auction for the Joni jacket on eBay - forgive my memory lapse of your name) took a couple of others. What a pistol huh?
A couple of notes regarding meeting the artists:
- Phoebe Snow was mightily hurt that she wasn't asked to sing for the tribute, she had spoken with the producers when she found out about it and they turned her down saying the "program was full". She was telling Gary and I that she is a huge Joni fan and desperately wanted to perform at this event but that it mustn't have been in the stars. I could tell she was disappointed that more people hadn't recognized her. I had had each of the artists sign my "Complete Poems & Lyrics" book on the page of the song they sang (Amy Grant was upset she hadn't thought of bringing her own copy to do the same) so I asked Ms. Snow what her favourite Joni Album was she said "Blue, of course" so I had her sign the title page for that Album, she was thrilled and wrote "Phoebe Snow loves Joni Mitchell" and signed.
- Lou Reed was not scheduled to perform either and spent much of his time escorting Suzanne Vega around during the early part of the event. I asked him what HIS favourite Album was and he answered "Hejira" but then turned to Suzanne and quietly asked her which album something I couldn't hear was on, then turned back to me and changed his answer to "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" so he signed that title page. Lou Reed has a really bad reputation for being a son of a bitch when it comes to socializing. I've heard horror stories of him snapping rude remarks to fans who ask for autographs, even his peers don't have much nice to say about his social skills. The night of the tribute he was an angel. He hugged people, posed for photos, signed autographs, laughed and joked with people... I was stunned.
- Ms. Vega seemed bemused by the goings on and though she signed and posed for photos with grace she was obviously intimidated by the crowd, or stoned, I didn't know which.
- Richie Havens... wow! I felt his energy from five feet away and when he signed and gave me a hug I never wanted him to let go of me, he gave off so much positive vibe I felt as if I was getting everything I needed without ever having known I needed it in the first place. He laughed and talked and more importantly he listened to what people said to him too.
- Jessie Malin's band members were just tickled to have even been recognized. They talked with me for quite a time about the whole experience of playing Carnegie Hall with musical icons and being among them. They were genuinely humbled by the experience and they thanked me as much for my recognition of them as I did for their time in signing my book. We talked a little about the afternoon soundcheck, about Amy Grant wanting brushes on the drums and not sticks. They were surprised at how observant I'd been about a few mistakes they'd made and laughed easily. A real pleasure to meet these guys before they get "big".
- Eels have big egos. They initially behaved as though it were an inconvenience to sign autographs and said they were just about to leave. I raised my eyebrows a little in the direction of Mark Oliver Everett ("E") and just stared into his eyes for a second and he said "Ok, I guess we could do that for you" so I got him to sign then his band mates, he joked with his autograph that he hadn't written "All I Want" and stated to me he wished he had. His bass player is so tall and the other guy has the second most beautiful blue eyes I've ever had the pleasure to gaze into (Kevin Montgomery - son of former Cricket Bob Montgomery - has the very best).
It was time to go into the show so I picked up a little bag of goodies they had for the VIP attendees and realized there were way more than they needed. I grabbed an extra one and ran it down to the cafe so we could perhaps raffle it off later then ran back upstairs. Towards the tail-end of the crowd entering the hall I spoke to the ladies giving out the bags and asked if I could have a few extra for our friends who had been in the coffee shop for a private party. They checked with their boss and he said "sure" so I also took enough for Paz, Kay, Patrick and Julius who had organized the events for our NY "fest". I was hoping to get one to auction off at the later event but there weren't any more. There were lovely commemorative posters of the show in the bags.
It was lovely rubbing shoulders with musicians whose music I've admired. Like Bob, I wish the cocktail party had been after the concert so I would have recognize more people but those I did recognize were worth the additional cost. Besides they had free drinks.
Sherelle: Please forgive me for omitting any artists from my review! That was not my intention especially with Little Jimmy Scott! My goodness he did a fantastic job!!! He gave me goosebumps! He was so regal in his white suit and had so much class and style. Unfortunately, this was my first time hearing him live and I was filled with regret for not hearing him in earlier years!
I feel bad for everyone whose performances were not up to par. I know that their hearts were in it for sure. I kept wondering how many on the stage let the fact that they were playing Carnegie Hall enter their minds and if those thoughts affected their performance in any way. I couldn't help thinking each time someone took the stage, "They're playing Carnegie Hall! They're playing Carnegie Hall!!!" I was in awe for them!!!
I've had time to think about Joni not being there and I've found my peace with it. One article I read spoke of how intimidated the artists at her last tribute felt with her being in the audience and I remember Shawn Colvin openly admitting she was sweating bullets because of Joni's prescence while she was onstage. I believe that being the subject of a tribute concert has been and still is a source of emotional conflict for her.
When the Cowboy Junkies sang "River" it brought me to tears. There is a line in the song where she wishes she could just be done with the whole "music" thing just skate away and I hung my head when those words were so beautifully sung. I felt like I had to let her go. She is so uncomfortable with her fame and her legacy anymore and I can only imagine the struggle she is going through. I've never seen Joni in any capacity and probably never will but I will always love her open and honest musical heart. Her life has been conflicted since day one and I guess that's what I've always accepted and appreciated about her.
Karen: I am new to this list, but I have been a Joni fan since I was a little girl. I don't know nearly as much about Joni as you all do, though. I am a big fan, but no expert, to be sure. : )
I live outside of NYC in Connecticut and was thrilled to hear about the Carnegie Hall tribute show; I was there!
I just read in the last digest some of your comments, you are all so much more knowledgeable, but I will share with you what I thought about it all, for what it's worth.
First of all, I was not surprised that Joni wasn't there, were you? I mean, of course I was hoping she would be, but I was not surprised given how she seems to view the whole performing/music industry world these days. Our loss for sure! Even to feel her presence in the room would have been thrilling. (I never saw Joni perform live. Wah! Too late now.)
My feeling about the Carnegie show was that it was too many acts, but maybe that's just me. I felt like I couldn't get into a groove. You are just getting into someone and pouft! they are gone, and onto the next style/sound/feeling. Although they certainly did a brilliant job executing against that plan, I didn't like that aspect.
Also, it seems to me that you kind of had two choices as a performer. Either sound pretty darn close to the original Joni tune, or sound exactly like yourself, doing a fantastic version. I felt like a lot of people fell flat into the middle, accomplishing neither.
Some people I thought DID do a great job were ...
Richie Havens ~ a classic, what can you say, he was soulful.
Judy Collins ~ well, that was her song as much as Joni's in a way, she sounded and looked fantastic I thought Mechelle (sp?) ~ brilliant I thought, I didn't know why she was so covered up, thanks for the (sad) info on that, but anyway, I had never even heard of her but I thought she was absolutely brilliant Cowboy Junkies ~ They were my favorite, did the best job I thought of sounding just like themselves doing a great cover, really, really great Eels ~ Never heard of them either, the friend I was with hated them, she thought they butchered the song, but I absolutely loved them Destiny's Child person (Michelle) ~ Wow, what energy,fantastic.
Sonia ~ (I think? The 16 year old) ... HOLY @#$!!! She blew me away.
Everyone else I was kinda ... Mmmm ... Not so wild about.
In the end, I think Joni is really hard to cover, her style of playing and singing is so unique to her.
Anyway, in the end I was left thinking Help Me, I think I'm fallin' in love with Joni all over again, and since I am a huge fan of live music that is a lonely thing to do indeed, given that she will probably never perform again ... Oh dear.
Nice to meet you all here ~ : )
Patrick: truthfully, i'm glad joni wasn't there. i think she would have been dispirited. i've just listened to the tnt tribute cd, and reread some of the comments from joni's jazz in 1999, and joni was so inspired to be at both concerts. both performances had an electicity that the carnegie concert didn't ever really find.
i think it was a terrible mistake on the part of the event producer not to find room for phoebe snow. she covered 'a case of you' in 1998 and made a big deal about it, i remember hearing her sing the song on an NPR special. i definitely felt that passion for the music was missing from some of the artists who did get to perform.
Karen: Oh my gosh, you guys, I am laughing so hard at reading what a couple of you said about Shawn Colvin9s outfit at Carnegie ~ I was thinking the exact same thing when I was there! What was she thinking? Yikes. Best outfit has to go to the young woman who was playing the cello ... For .... Gosh, it's already a blur, how sad is that ... Anyway, some of you may remember (especially those with a keen eye for fashion, heh) ... The woman who was playing the cello in the PINK shirt with THE SLEEVES, ohmygod, I wanted her shirt, what a great gig shirt that is. Although, actually, playing the guitar it would be kind of a pain-in-the-xxx, really, wouldn't it, with those looooong sleeves getting all tangled up in the strings, and all. Worked nicely for the cello, tho. : )
Bobsart: While I understand the disjointedness of so many different acts, I felt that was a fair price (and an expected on, in this case) for getting to see all those different performers.
I for one enjoyed seeing so many performers I had never seen or heard before. So which ones should have been shaved in advance instead of, say, Phoebe Snow ? Heck, even after the fact, there is considerable difference of opinion as which were the better acts :-)
Patrick's comment begs this "chicken and egg" question - "can you think of anything offhand that may have contributed to the difference in the electricity levels between the TNT and Central Park concerts and the Carnegie Hall concert ?" ;-)
Debra Shea: For the TNT show: Joni was there, Joni performed, it was all going to be taped, and there was some variety in the show. In addition to the singing, speakers were given enough time to tell about their connection to Joni and her music and even gush a little. There were also films about Joni while the set was being changed. A lot of thought and preparation went into that show.
I didn't get to the Central Park show so can't give a firsthand reaction to that. I do remember, though, reading the intro the organizer gave that included talking about Joni's 1979 performance out in Queens, with the light misty rain, and how magical that was (I was there and I agree!), so the organizer was a long-time fan, and that passion for her and her music came across (or so it seemed based on what I read about it). It was also the first tribute, I think, so that alone would make it unknown territory and exciting.
The Carnegie Hall tribute started to feel like an endurance test about 5 songs from the end. I didn't have a program so didn't know how much longer the show was going to be. There was no intermission, the announcer was a disembodied voice, the routine was the same for each act: men in suits move equipment into place, announcement, performer out onto stage, sing, leave, men appear again... very efficient, and very boring after a while. The little stories a couple of people told added some refreshing variety, but there wasn't enough of that. And the concert was too long to not have an intermission. Better, I think, to have had fewer performers if it meant there was time for talk or something in between the songs other than men in suits rearranging the equipment for the next performer. It felt mechanical. It must be difficult to give one's best performance under those circumstances.
>Me'Shell has epilepsy - so the bright lights are bothersome to her.
That is good to know. She turned around so unexpectedly that maybe she saw a camera or even a flash that I didn't notice.
Someone asked about her Judge Alito comment: I think she was referring to the discomfort the brand new Supreme Court judge had shown the night before during the televised State of the Union speech. Alito had looked itchy, bewildered and uncomfortable, like "where am I? and how did I get here?". She started by facing toward her left, so I could see her clearly and she was making those same little head movements and quick looks that Alito had made, and I thought how astute that she would know how that's coming across.
Her performance was by far my favorite. Very seductive, tough but not overly dramatic, and I loved the interaction between her, the other guitarist and the percussionist's sound. As my concert companion said, very tasty.
>on the differences between this event and TNT
On further reflection, it's unfair to compare the (rich, many resources available, made for tv) TNT tribute with the one at Carnegie Hall, which was a fundraiser, so they wouldn't want to spend the money on things such as films. It would cut into the money raised. An enthusiastic live announcer, though, would have made a huge difference in the feel of the show.
The most enjoyable tribute I've been to was the "Wall to Wall" one at Symphony Space a few years ago. That, too, was a fundraiser, and it lasted 10? 12? hours and never felt tiring or boring, partly because people were free to get up and wander around and it was generally a loose happy atmosphere. It felt like a celebration of Joni and her music rather than just a fundraiser.
Sherelle: re; Me'Shell
I couldn't see her too well from my end even though I was in the fifth row. I was more towards the left of the stage and she was sitting onstage more towards the right. I totally agree with your opinion that she interacted well with her bandmates. It was like a private jam session for all to see. Me'shell is such a phenomenal and deep performer...I love anything she does!!!! That voice is so silky smooth and deep! She could sing Jingle Bells and it would get applause! I also value her as a primo bassist!!! I saw her in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" and she had such a rapport with bassist Bob Babbit (try saying that three times!) that at one point, he was brought to tears by a question she asked of him. I didn't think about the bassist connection at the time but my goodness! There had to be a strong one between them! I'm so glad that the producers paired the two of them up for an interview.
Me'Shell's musicianship is off the charts and she was one of the best highlights of the night! I was taken by several of the artists so it's very hard to choose a "best". They all affected me in different ways. Thanks so much Debra for being my eyes that night. I was a little too far left to see what you saw.
Bob Muller: Since by now most of you have seen the great pics of the Rockwood Music Hall event, I thought I would submit a write-up to help give a feel for what went down. The event, called "Night In The City" was a fundraiser for Katrina's Paino Fund. I'm not sure of the final total amount raised, but we did pretty good considering you could only fit so many folks into the space.
First & foremost, major kudos need to go out to Kay Ashley, who put so much effort into organizing this show. I was honored that she asked me to MC it, and was challenged to orient myself to the performers that I was unfamiliar with; this was for the most part a gathering of NYC singer-songwriters, with a goodly number of out-of-towners and JMDLer's rounding things out.
The concert was supposed to start at 11:00 initially, then got bumped to Midnight. I arrived at Rockwood around 11:00, not knowing the size of the venue (it was very intimate, about the size of your basic living room) but nobody I knew was there yet, so I wandered around a bit, eventually finding Zozo's Coffee Shop, where I enjoyed a couple of good cups of java, assuming (correctly) I'd need them for later. Walking back to Rockwood, I was happy to see Scott & Jody crammed in the corner and went in to join them. Shortly thereafter, more and more folks started filtering in and Kay & I got squared away on the order of business. I don't remember the exact starting time, but there was a healthy crowd of JMDLer's, performers, and other patrons who were there to check it out.
Joy Askew (who had performed at Joni's jazz in 2000) was supposed to kick things off with Woodstock & Coyote; unfortunately she had some health issues and couldn't make it. A bummer as she was the highlight of the Central Park concert imo, but not a problem as Allison Tartalia was ready to go with a piano-based version of All I Want, a nice way to open the show. She lost her place in the lyrics but recovered nicely and the audience was certainly relaxed enough to just laugh it all away as well.
Angela McKenzie was up next and turned in an excellent version of Sex Kills and also Black Crow (?) with Paz playing guitar behind her. John Kelly, the legendary performance artist and Renaiisance Man, graced us with a nice take of For The Roses, accompanying himself on acoustic, and then tried to leave the stage only to return and perform Shadows and Light in a chilling acapella, very in-the-moment performance with many dramatic pauses. It was really cool watching John perform after having only read about him for so long.
After John was Lynn Skinner from Denver, accompanied by Bob Schlesinger on piano. Lynn has done several Joni tributes on her own and typically employs a whole orchestra of musicians, and her catalog of songs is very deep. She performed two numbers, For Free and Not To Blame, the latter done to a very dramatic effect, very chilling. It was great to hear Lynn live and it definitely left me wanting for more. Victoria Lavington was next, and she commented that she hadn't been on stage for over a year. You certainly couldn't tell it as her singing was crystal-clear and very emotionally-invested. She sang Blue (with David Lahm on piano) and Conversation (with Kay on acoustic guitar). Towards the end of Conversation, Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen joined in on trombone (imitating the horns on Joni's own version) and it was a very cool moment. Elizabeth also duetted with David Lahm in an instrumental take on his arrangement of Fiddle and the Drum, and just to prove she can sing as good! as she can play the trombone, she performed a wonderful version of Last Time I Saw Richard with David providing exquisite accompaniment.
Our own Kay Ashley was next, and she played & sang Night In The City with Victoria & Elizabeth providing backing vocals, and then took a solo turn on A Strange Boy. Kay was her always-excellent self! Lisa Roma from NYC was next, and she sang People's Parties (w/Paz on acoustic) and Woodstock (w/Paz on the Parker Fly/VG8). Michael then took the stage to himself and did Chinese Cafe on piano and Love Puts On A New Face on guitar. As always, Michael made playing and singing seem so effortless.
Bryan Thomas had been scheduled in the program earlier but had not arrived - we found out later that he had gone to see his other favorite performer, Prince. He did his electrifying and original version of Black Crow and although the audience was cheering and begging for more, it was not to be. Gary Zack was up next, and he brought a backing track with him from some recent recording sessions and did a great take on Joni's unreleased gem Just Like Me. Very cool to hear this one performed live, and Gary did a great job.
Alison Einerson (pronounced "Eee-nerson", not "Eye-nerson") was up next, and turned in a very nice and fun You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio with Paz on guitar. Donna Binkley (aka The Texas Tush) followed and she & I reprised our Jonifest version of John Prine's In Spite Of Ourselves; lots of fun and thanks Donna for the invitation, it was my pleasure. Donna then brought the mood to a more somber tone with a very moving version of I Think I Understand, one of my favorite Joni songs. Kira Lesley, all the way from Portland OR, was up next, and she had performed at the JMDL reception the night before as well. I can't remember the Joni song she played, but Michael played guitar for her. Kira then played guitar and sang an original song called "They Can't Medicate Me", a funny song about resisting a Ritalin-crazed culture. This was to have been the closer for the night, but Kay said that another singer was inspired to perform, so Abby Ray came onstage and performed a really pretty Blue! with David Lahm on piano.
Whew! Like I said onstage - "Carnegie Hall ain't got SH*T on us!" and everyone who was there will agree; the performances were all excellent and once again the sweet chords of Joni rose up in waxed New York City Halls. Even though it was 3:45 in the morning, several JMDLer's were ready to keep the night going and went to grab something to eat. I was ready to call it a Night (In The City), and I enjoyed the walk back to where I was staying in Chelsea...goodnight, it was a Chelsea morning...
Kay Ashley: I had a great time at the Carnegie Hall show and have many impressions that still feel fresh about various performances, but at this point I'm not sure what I can add to everything others have said.... though I will say that Bettye Levette's performance of "Last Chance Lost" was the absolute highlight of the evening for me. She completey blew me away and I think that her performance was the one that would have pleased Joni the most, had she been there. Bettye achieved the absolute height of what a great cover should be -- she took that song, crushed it up in the crucible, and worked her alchemy and brought out something utterly new and magical. Chills just thinking about it now. I also loved Richie Haven's "Woodstock" -- I remarked to Patrick (who sat next to me scribbling with his totally bitchin' flashlight pen) that Richie's version was the "Horse With No Name" version of "woodstock" -- it had a very similar feel. I presume that this was unintentional on Richie's part, but as more time passes and I recall his performance, the more I feel that the "Horse WIth No Name" comparison is truly meaningful, at least to me: that we are walking in the desert now, but we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. And you never know -- perhaps Richie Havens was deliberately trying to create that horsey desert mood...
A huge thank you to Julius for putting together the pre-show party in the Citigroup Cafe -- what a great time, great chance to reunite with people and hang and sing. And a huge thank you to Patrick as well for getting us all into Seppi's somehow -- it was great fun to just take over the entire joint, meet some new listers and meet Tom Rush to boot. Kudos to Alison for crushing a soda cup and leaving it on the floor under my table at Seppi's -- way to make those mo-mo's proud, girl!
And I want to reserve my greatest effusiveness for the tremendous support that you all gave to me during the Night In City tribute at Rockwood Music Hall. I was SO happy that you were all willing to come to such a late show, and ya'll hung in there until 4:00 am!! So wonderful... and you guys are such a great audience, and since I know pretty much all of you and are used to your enthusiastic response to all music, I wasn't really focused on that part until some of my NYC musician colleagues began commenting about how great the audience was, how attentive and polite, etc. And they are so right -- you were all fantastic and though I put a lot of work into making the thing happen, you guys are the ones who made it a success. It was a peak experience, for sure. It was a true pleasure to meet and hear new people like Lynn Skinner and Angela McKenzie, who both totally rocked; it was of course a pleasure to play with David Lahm (how could it not be?); and it's always so much fun to hear Paz's varied talents and encyclopedic knowledge of Joni's music -- and thank you Paz for making sure that John Kelly became a part of the show. What a thrill that was. And thanks to Paz for lugging all his crazy equipment to NYC -- having the VG8 was a real boon and helped make the evening run very smoothly. And thank you to Bob Muller for MCing the show -- Casey Kasem's got NUTHIN' on Bob! :-) Thanks to Alison for staying so late despite an early morning flight and singing "You Turn Me On..." and to Donna the Texas Tush for sharing her version of "I Think I Understand" again, this time with amplification so that everyone could really enjoy it. She had John Kelly in tears, ya'll.
I took a lot of pictures as well, and will hopefully get it together this weekend and post them to the Kodak site where everyone can view them. I was playing the role of permanent stage hand, perched on the edge of the stage the whole time, which was great fun in terms of enjoying the music, but it also gave me a really interesting vantage point for taking pictures. Got some Arty ones, even. :-) Also, the show was recorded, though not everything was captured. The saddest omission is Gary Zack's performance of "Just Like Me" -- the CD burner was occupied with playing his backing tracks, so his performance was not captured. Seems that "Just Like Me" is somehow destined to remain unreleased, eh? (btw the "eh" is technically Joni content.)
One thing I have to say about the whole experience of putting together Night In The City -- it gave me a very small taste of what Ashara must go through with all the extensive planning for a JoniFest. Ashara, I have seen a very small glimpse of the gargantuan task it is, and I promise you that if you ever organize another fest, I will do everything early! :-) So, a huge, heartfelt thanks to Ashara for all her work over the years which has been, from my POV, second in importance only to Wally Breese's, in terms of birthing this community into a quite NON-virtual one! It amazes me how well we have come to know one another, how lasting the bonds have been, just based on the occasional intense shared experiences provided by the JoniFests. I don't mean to neglect the efforts of others who have organized Fests, but I speak for myself, and Ashara's Fests are the only ones I have experienced. And those Fests have been such great times and have been the platform for beginning friendships that I really treasure. And really, it would not have been possible for me to organize the Night In The City benefit without feeling confident that this community would pull through and show up. So, a really HUGE thank you to all of you.
It was so great to see you all again and to meet listers who were new to me. So maybe one of these days there will be another occasion for a bunch of you to be in NYC and I can organize another concert -- one that starts at a reasonable hour!! :-D
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