Over 14,000 Joni Mitchell fans were sittin' up waitin' for their sugar to show. And they were going through hell at Cole Fieldhouse in the process, for they were subjected to the screech of the LA Express.
But that was to prove to be the lesser of two gross evils. One evil is forgiveable - the LA Express having no talent; the other is not - Joni Mitchell pulling an "now you see me, now you don't" act because of what the official spokesman termed "illness."
The LA Express' appearance might have been more bearable if Mitchell had indeed played. But their monotonous excuse for rhythm and blues (they are nog without the help of Tom Scott) was more than a human ear could suffer. If you want a firsthand rundown on their performance, pick up their new album because my recounting it will be none too kind.
The most glaring occurrence of last Sunday evening concerned the appearance of Ms. Mitchell herself, or more precisely the brevity of it. If you haven't heard, here's the instant replay.
After a twenty minute set change, Joni Mitchell glided onto the stage draped in a black pantsuit and bolero hat. She looked quite the fox. After striking the opening chord of "Help Me" she leapt into the tune with a vigor mirrored in her recordings. Suddenly, there seemed to be a problem. She had turned her back to the buoyant audience and was shaking her head at the LA Express, who were backing her up. One noticed it was impossible to hear her guitar. She was irritated, pissed off. There was no mistaking her feeling. She was being drowned out. At the last note, she threw down her guitar and stalked off.
Her manager appeared and said "due to technical problems" she'd be back in five. Twenty minutes later he returned. Joni had "stomach cramps, a touch of the flu and was troubled keeping her dinner down." It was 10:30 p.m.
After checking with some stagehands and some people from Cole Productions, I was told that she was, in fact, ill, but really pissed, both at the band and the stage set-up.
The next night she played New Haven; without even a cough.
Obediently, the child-like audience filed out. Hell, some people will probably send her get-well cards.
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