A CHRONOLOGY OF APPEARANCES
Compiled by Simon Montgomery, © 2001
 

1983.07.20  Concert On The Common—Boston Commons  Boston, MA

» This Concert is a part of the 1983 Wild Things Tour.

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poemmaker58 on 2011-Nov-09 at 11:14:27 GMT-5:
My sister, Diane, and I were at the sadly ill-fated and aborted Concert on the Common in Boston that hot July evening. My memories (which could be faulty but which I think are not) are as follows: Joni came out onto the stage to wild and enthusiastic applause. She sang two songs then walked off the stage. Some people
standing around us in the audience commented as to how Joni seemed "drunk or stoned". Her behavior was erratic. She (justifiably so) became very upset that people were not settling down, not listening to her music, were milling up and down the aisles making a lot of noise when she was trying to sing. When she
returned to the stage (which she said she was doing reluctantly but would try to continue "if people sit down and be quiet"), she proceeded to sing again but then walked off a second time. This kept happening and again, sorry! and no judgments here whatsoever but she did seem intoxicated or maybe just exhausted and disoriented coming off a long and somewhat disappointing world tour. At any rate, I do remember that she did not come back for anything even resembling a full concert. People were pissed. Joni was pissed. The whole night got pissed on. I know Diane and I looked into getting our money back.......But.....I have loved Joni's work since she burst like a firework on the '60s music scene and seeing her and hearing her perform, however briefly, remains one of the highlights of my life. Five minutes of Joni is more precious than 18 hours of practically any other artist. I would go see Joni read the proverbial phone book if that is what she was doing. In the 90s, my friend, Joe and I, saw her at The Fleet Pavilion out on the waterfront. The show was fully realized. Joni's
voice was smoky, rich, throaty, haunting. Her rendition of BOTH SIDES NOW brought tears to every single person in that crowd. Joni was and remains one of the planet's most gifted singers/composers/artists/poets. As far as I am concerned, she can do no wrong. And I feel so privileged to have been there at that now famous/infamous Boston Concert on the Common show...
ellen_mccance on 2011-Jun-05 at 04:11:35 GMT-5:
I was spending a long, hot, lonely summer, studying in Boston, and I attended this concert too. My memories are different, though, than many of those recorded here. I had first seen Joni perform when I was ten years old (see my entry for Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles in October 1969), and I had seen her perform many times since then. By now I was in my twenties, and had just graduated from college. I went to the concert alone.

I do remember well Joni getting upset when people were arriving late and milling up and down the corridors between the seats. She did leave the stage, but I remember thinking at the time that she was quite justified. People were being terribly rude. I remember her saying that she thought it was rude and that she would come back if people could settle down.

She did return and the rest of the concert was absolutely beautiful. I loved every minute of it, and never held it against her.
MECindylou on 2010-Sep-28 at 00:02:04 GMT-5:
Wow, this is cool to be able to look up concerts and see everyone's comments. Yes, I was at the concert and remember well the incident. I, too, was bugged about people being rude, talking, walking around. There seemed to be a mix of Joni lovers and people who would come to a concert just because it was part of the series. It was in the evening, but since it was in July, it was not dark at all. I remember being bugged, that although people were up and walking around an dnot listening carefully, there were many in the audience that were paying rapt attention, and it seemed unfair to us that were not part of the rudeness. I also remember people calling out things like "We love you, Joni" and trying to let her know many were listening closely. It was disappointing to me, but, luckily, I had seen her in the late 70's at the Music Hall, which was a fantastic concert, so it wasn't as devastating to me as to others who maybe only had this chance to hear her play live. Now that I think of it, I also was in town when Linda Ronstadt played this series (not attending, just there when she arrived, so I stayed to listen a bit from outside the ticketed area). Honestly, this type of a concert situation wasn't a great fit for Joni Mitchell, anyway. I mean, think of it...sponsored by Miller High Life, with a big banner...probably selling beer to the patrons...much more of a social, lively party atmosphere...not suited to Joni or her fans. Nothing against this type of thing...I would like it, but not when I would want to be a serious listener.
janemurphy on 2009-Oct-03 at 19:12:49 GMT-5:
This really was a sad show. I remember seeing the local tv entertainment news reporter right in front of us. We were all pretty upset by what happened, and I wonder if it was on the news that night, or if it was just the preshow vibe being broadcast. Now that we were older, it was more complicated to get to a show, and people really were "milling about" because it was 6 p.m, when people were just getting off work and arriving. It should have been later in the evening. I also remember feeling betrayed, and that we never forgot about it, but luckily I had a dozen other Joni concerts to remember happily! And I loved the later videos that were released!
SteveF on 2009-Sep-09 at 14:50:25 GMT-5:
I can't add much more to what's been said but I was there (with strep throat!) and was really annoyed by the milling around. It was still light when Joni came on and you could tell people weren't paying attention and that sooner or later this was going to get under her skin. The whole thing was embarrassing for Boston and then for Joni. Not one of anyone's good evenings at a concert. Redeemed years later at the Fleet......
bostonboy on 2009-Jun-04 at 12:07:34 GMT-5:
Wow, do I remember this horrible experience! LOL, smiling now tho at the time I felt cheated. I was just a kid in my early twenties and thought my chance to see this beautiful artist IN PERSON was long gone. But when tix 2 c her in concert outdoors on the Boston Common came up I snatched them up right away (I only bought one, 4 myself) and told all my friends (who laff cuz the're in2 the B52's). I dont care I always LOVED her music, so REAL.

Anyways, after waiting months the show rolls into Beantown and I arrive early cuz I don't want 2 miss a thing. Lots of people moving about which even I found annoying. Anyways, I loved these outdoor shows, never bought a ticket cuz u could hear them outside, real good 4 free, and that party was such a good vibe. Kids in trees and cops shakin' them out, lots o' laffz. But this show I wanna c her so I plunk down the $.

Seems like 4 ever b4 she shows up, but when she does this great excitement rises inside me. God I almost peed my pants when she came onstage, waiting 4 ever and finally I get 2 c her in concert! She starts her set but you could tell it wasn't quite right. She was distracted and I don't blame her. People showed up late and were not paying attention. I figured it would get better as the show went on...but it didn't go on. She complained about the lack of attention and left the stage. We waited for a long time b4 she came back on and started her set again. I thought it was going well but she would stop and complain and now I'm getting mad that these people are still walking around and Joni can't get around it.

Just when it seems like she's over it she "turns" 2 the people outside the arena and says they are the ones she's playing to and u hear this great applause and cheering from beyond the fence! I was so pissed that I spent my $ on this show of shows only to hear her praise those who did not pay as I sat there feeling really screwed. I couldn't believe it. I felt my friends were right in scorning me for paying $ 4 someone who was out of sinc with my generation. Smoke rose from my head.

Well it only got worse. The outside crowd was louder than inside and I don't blame her now 4 playing to them but at the time I was very angry. I never bought another one of her albums from then on. She was in the doghouse for decades after that. I guess she only hurt herself.

I was ready to send her my tix stub and ask for a refund as that was THE WORST CONCERT I'VE EVER ATTENDED. But that was the day b4 internet and I didn't know who 2 contact so I just ate my ticket.
I still remember that show over 25 years later and had to join this site just to share this experience.

NO BAD VIBES NOW as I can laff about it, but Joni if ur reading this, I want want my 10 bucks back, LOL.

Love Boston Boy
PS PRAYERS 2 Joni for a swift recovery from her recent illness

  [ed.]  [ed.]


Archival comments


From JoniMitchell.com: "Joni got some bad press for walking offstage five times during the show. Whether her frustration resulted from malfunctioning equipment, or from the audience being too noisy, in reality it was a combination of the show being a rare one for Joni in the daytime, the crowd's natural rowdiness adding distraction, and the disappointing fact that this concert was at the end of a long, grueling tour played in venues that were mostly only about 2/3 full." List members have alternate recollections...

Rickie Lee:
i was at that famous, ill fated concert, and here is what i know. joni did NOT walk off stage five times. she played two songs completely (she opened with coyote and then played another thru - don't recall the song) and then started to sing song for sharon. she blew a lyric and stopped. regrouped for a moment and started over. she reached the same point in the song (i think it was around the second or third verse) and blew the lyric again. she then said that she always had a hard time performing in front of an audience that was milling around and she was going to take a short break and let everyone find their seats and then would be back.

at this point she had been onstage perhaps 15 minutes. and she left. she was gone approx FORTY FIVE minutes. (and let me add, the audience was NOT rowdy. about 95% of us were rapt, as all good joni fans would be in her presence...but the show had just begun, and there were, as at every concert, some late arrivals, and it was those folks who apparently "distracted" her.

i recently spoke to another list member who was also at the concert and she met one of the promoters of that show, who apparently referred to joni as a "bitch" and described her sitting in her limo during this 45 minute break, trying get her driver to leave. the promoter and some other behind-the-scene people were telling her (all the while, bringing her drinks and trying to calm her down) that if she left, after 2 and 1/8th songs, she would not be paid. joni was insisting that technically she had "performed" and they HAD to pay her and they insisted if she left - no payday.

after a 45 minute or so absence, joni came back on stage, in a different outfit, and without a word, (no: "thanks for being patient" no: "sorry that took so long" ) just started playing again. the crowd was not entirely receptive to her at first, but when she started playing "woodstock" everyone was on their feet and the mood was wonderful, and people started coming up to the stage (it was an outdoor concert and during the day so it was still light out) and clapping and cheering, and joni finished the song and laid down her guitar and left. no good night. no thanks for coming. no nothing. she just left. just as the concert, for the first time in that awful evening, was taking off! everyone thought it was another break. but then the lights came up and the gates swung open and it was clear, the night was over. (she had performed during this second set for maybe 30-40 minutes!!!) the crowd began to boo. and for the next 3 days or so, every radio station and newspaper and newscast in town savaged her. and rightly so.

years later i heard this explanation for her behavior. the concert series was sponsored by miller high life and at the back of the stage was a big sign that was shaped like a bar of music, with a staff and a big treble clef, sort of arcing behind the stage and done in glitter so when the lights hit it, it would sparkle, etc. written across the staff was - yep, "miller hi life". tacky, to be sure, but the band stood in front of this sign and who looked at it anyway?

joni, as part of her "set design" for this particular tour, had some hand painted banners that she had done. i am sure they were beautiful, and they were designed to be suspended over the stage and hang down, over her band. the promoters would not let her put them up because, they told her, the banners would obscure the miller high life sign, and as miller was sponsoring the concert series, this could not be allowed!!! so joni was (understandably) upset, if not enraged, before the concert ever began.

this does not justify her behavior and the terrible way she treated her fans that night, me included!!! who had paid good money to see and hear her perform and had every right to expect her to give her all. but it does at least, make it understandable. her leaving the stage, and refusing to come back for so long, and then begrudgingly giving us a very abbreviated show had nothing to do with the "rowdy" fans. it had to do with her, apparently, trying to screw the promoters for not allowing her to present the show the way she wanted. but, in fact, she took it out on all of us.

Maggie McNally:
I was at this show, my first Joni concert. It was such a huge disappointment for a fan such as am I. Anyway, I recently met with a fellow during a networking phase of my job hunt, and he had a Miller Concert on the Commons poster from 1983 on his wall. Sure enough, there was Joni in the line-up. During a break in the art-in-Boston conversation I pointed to it and asked him if he had had a role in it and if he had been there for the Joni show. He launched into a diatribe about how it was one of the worst nightmares of his professional life, because after about three songs she threatened not to go back on stage and had to be counter-threatened with not being paid for the gig (and just what defined a gig) to get her back up there. Needless to say, I was sad to hear our lady of the arts being defamed in such a way, but he was telling it as it was.

One night I shared this story with ric and Ashara and ric related that he thought that part of the problem was that she had backdrops she wanted to use (as she did on the most recent tour) and they would not let her use them because they had to have the Miller High Life banner (concert sponsors) up there. Ah, the conflict between art and commerce. Add that to the other problems (day time, an active and even restless audience, end of a not very rewarding tour) and you get a human being/artist with human problems. As an audience member I was disappointed, but it did nothing to diminish my admiration for her art.

Steelysbro:
We all remember selectively, it seems, as the fans' descriptions of the events differ from audio documentation we have.

Here are the facts (as substantiated by a circulating tape of the show):
1. Joni did not walk off after "1+1/8" songs. She left halfway through "Song For Sharon", the 7th song in the set, approximately 30 minutes into the show.
2. There's no way of knowing from the tape how long she was gone but when she returned she played for at least another 45 minutes.
3. At the very end she mentions that she hopes "you'll come back sometime and see the show with its full lighting and staging and when we can present it properly". This would lend creedence to the claim that she was upset by the Miller banner which prevented her own stage design from being utilized.

In spite of all the complications - to quote Lou Reed - the music performed that night still sounds phenomenal, to these ears.