Before Carole King and Carly Simon and all of the other female songwriters everyone is making such a fuss over these days, there was Joni Mitchell.
When she first came on the scene a few years ago from her native Canada, Joni Mitchell was a wisp of delightfully fresh air. A source of refuge from the turmoil of acid rock and loud protest.
A touch of gentleness in a culture that could not properly support the flower children who flocked to San Francisco with flowers in their hair.
But Joni Mitchell endured. She kept on making her sweet music.
And she is still making this sweet music, which made the evening worthwhile for the sell-out crowd that went to the Academy of Music on Thursday night for her first Philadelphia concert in a couple of years.
It was an elegant concert, because Miss Mitchell is an elegant performer. Not Vegas-elegance, to be sure. But the elegance of a soft, gentle young woman, singing about the things she has seen and the thoughts she has thought.
Joni Mitchell has a reputation for disliking the live performance, and so her concerts are limited. But if she does indeed dislike performing, it was not really evident Thursday night at the Academy.
Drifting from guitar to piano to dulcimer - her only accompaniment during the concert - there was an increasing sense of the performer enjoying herself. Not gushy or even vibrant, because Joni Mitchell is none of these things. But she sang her songs comfortably, self-assured, projecting a mildly aloof graciousness.
Miss Mitchell sang many of the songs from her four albums, but she told the audience that "I have a lot of new songs for you tonight," and she was true to her word.
And when it was all over, there was hardly any doubt that Joni Mitchell made it one of the memorable evenings of pop entertainment at the Academy.
She could have done it by herself. But a bonus for the audience was the appearance of newcomer Jackson Browne, who opened the concert with a solid set of his own music.
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