Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, making her first area appearance in over 18 months last night, was forced to cut short a sold-out concert at the University of Maryland's 14,000-seat Cole Field House, apparently another victim of the nationwide flu epidemic.
Midway through 'Help Me', her opening number, Mitchell suddenly left the stage. After a 15-minute delay, the college-age-and-up crowd was told that "illness" had forced Mitchell, probably the most influential female performer in pop music, to end the show.
"She's had the flu for the last two or three days," said Ron Stone, Mitchell's manager. "She probably shouldn't have gone at all, but she thought she'd give it a try. You saw what happened."
"They tell us it's illness, that it's not anything else," said a spokesman for Cellar Door Productions. "She's back there in the dressing room, crying and throwing up."
Though initially there had been speculation that poor acoustics may have been a factor in Mitchell's walk-off, Stone denied that. "She became disorientated by the sound, sure," he said. "It made her woozy. But she's played places like this before."
The announcement of the cancellation came as an obvious surprise to the capacity audience, which had already sat through an opening set by Mitchell's back-up band, The LA Express, and equipment changes. Once the announcement was made, however, they departed quietly, with only an occasional boo as a sign of displeasure.
Refunds for tickets, which were priced with a $7.50 top, will be available today at Ticketron and other outlets. A makeup date for last night's show appears unlikely. "She has five more dates to do on this tour, and I don't even know if she'll be able to do those," said Stone. "Her schedule is pretty tight through September. She might be able to come back in the summer, but I just don't know."