Mitchell and Stills Bomb in NY

by Bob Rosen
Observation Post (CCNY)
February 13, 1974

I guess it has to happen when you run in the same crowd as Neil Young. Almost exactly one year ago, Neil Young gave an absolutely horrible performance to a sell-out house at the Garden. He no doubt made a lot of money.

Last Wednesday, Joni Mitchell gave an uninspired, boring performance to a packed house at Radio City Music Hall, many of whom stood in the bitter cold for six hours to get a good seat. (It was general admission seating only.)

Joni's new back-up band, Tom Scott and the LA Express, debuted for the first half hour of the show. Scott is a cool one. When he wasn't swaying to the music, he was conducting the LA Express, Mitch Miller style. He did not seem to realize people were laughing at him.

Then Joni came on to do a couple of songs and this was followed by intermission.

The second half was an uninspired hour and ten minutes, with the LA Express backing Mitchell up on a couple of numbers. There were no string ensembles this time as she had at Avery Fisher the night before. If I counted correctly, she presented the amazingly subdued crowd with seven of her old favorites. The rest of the time she spent singing every cut on her new album. Whenever someone would yell out a request, they would be shushed.

The only appropriate song of the night was "For Free." It contains the lyric, "Me I play for fortune." I'm compelled to agree with her. She sang "Both Sides Now" and pretended to forget the lyrics. Did she really expect the crowd to believe this?

The Joni Mitchell concert was not the place to be after an afternoon of textbook shopping. Those fucking Canadian rip-off artists.

******

Speaking of people who hang out with Neil Young, the performance Steve Stills gave at Carnegie Hall last Friday night was the kind of thing that can make you never want to go to a concert again. The tragedy of it was that it could have been a great concert, if Stills wasn't such a prick. Instead, he managed to alienate himself from the 4000 plus ex-fans who booed him off the stage.

Things started off just fine as Stills came out on stage and launched into a hard rocking version of "Love The One You're With." His new back up band was sounding really good. Then, in the early part of the set, his organ went out and Stills never recovered from the shock as he stormed off the stage after only three songs.

He came back 20 minutes later without the band and began apologizing for the organ. "If you're wondering why I'm acting so up tight," he said, "It's because the organ went out in the middle of the set. I've seen a lot of bands fall apart over a lot less. If you think I'm making excuses, I'm not."

Stills then sat down and surrounded himself with various guitars and banjos. He began what could have been a great acoustic set. Unfortunately, when he wasn't busy taking a drag on his cigarette, he was blowing the lyrics on songs like "4 and 20" and "Blackbird." When he did a song that wasn't greeted with enthusiastic applause he said, "I liked that song. I'm sorry if I bored you."

When the band came back, Stills would do a number with them and then start wandering around on the stage like the proverbial lost sheep. He seemed exceptionally nervous. Finally, midway through the set, Stills appeared to be really getting into the music and it seemed as though he would redeem himself for earlier sins.

But he blew it. Just when it looked like the crowd had forgotten about what happened at the beginning, he waved goodbye and walked off stage.

Of course he returned for the mandatory encore, but proceeded to do an incredibly half-hearted version of "49 Bye-Byes." The crowd gave him a standing ovation anyway, obviously hoping to coax a few more songs out of him. He turned to the crowd, gave them an indescribably fucked-up look and marched off the stage for the last time. The cheers immediately turned to boos.


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