I did a radio show at KRNW this past Friday afternoon and, interspersed among the calls for requests and job interviews, there were four callers who wanted to peddle their Joni Mitchell tickets at the last minute. No one seemed willing to sell them at a loss.
The first guy who called wanted 50 bucks for a pair, but claimed he was open for negotiation. I told him he was confusing the fieldhouse with Madison Square Garden and hung up on him.
The next caller was a second year law student with access to 15 tickets. He was desperate. He wanted $100 for the lot or $15 apiece. I asked why he was so intent on ripping people off and he countered angrily that he was disposing his tickets at a bargain rate. I told him to set up a stand in the Woolco parking lot and hung up on him.
The cake eater of the lot wanted to exchange his two tickets for a used Sony Trinitron in any condition. He wasn't proud. I told him to have his tubes examined and hung up on him.
Finally, a pleasant lady named Ellie called and asked if I'd announce over the air that she had two tickets to sell. "Not if you're going to scalp them" was my skeptical retort. That wasn't the case at all. She just wasn't in the mood to deal with the lines or the discomfort of the fieldhouse floor and wanted her $10 back. I bought her tickets and sold them for $100 at the door.
Tickets for this concert were sold out as soon as they went on sale. As accessible as Joni makes herself on disc, she is an extremely private person and rarely hits the road on tours. The first-come, first-served crowd arrived early. The limousines carrying the performing entourage pulled through the stage doors about ten minutes late.
Tom Scott barely had time to lick his reeds before he and his band, The L.A. Express, took the stage. Scott's an incredible woodwind man as well as a tasty arranger.
The L.A. Express (Roger Kellaway, Robben Ford, Max Bennet and John Guerin) punched out six instrumentals from their new album, each member getting an opportunity to strut his particular stuff. They're a tight unit on their own, but were even more effective backing Joni.
Tom Scott introduced Joni and she strode out casually dressed in dungarees, a work-shirt and an Indian vest. Accompanying herself at various times on guitar and piano, she and the Express went through some of her older material from Blue, Ladies of the Canyon and For the Roses. The eighth and final song of the rather short set was "Woodstock", still delivered emotionally regardless of the distant past of such optimism.
She and the band left the stage without saying a word and when the house lights went on, it was questionable whether she'd be coming back. Verbally, she had been less communicative than Bob Dylan's standard, four-word orations last month.
Twenty-five minutes later, though, Joni was back, alone and beautiful in a long blue gown. She did "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Parking Lot" singing and picking magnificently, really getting loose for the first time all night. The ovations were overwhelming and suddenly Joni had converted the fieldhouse into a living room.
She addressed herself to the majority of the crowd who were experiencing their teens in the 70s, comparing the now to her adolescent years of the 50s. She made analogies between throwing moons and streaking, the age-span of people and trees and the increasingly non-existent phenomenon called "sense of humor." The intimate ten-minute monologue led into "People's Parties" from her new album, a song about a roomful of up-tight people who should be having a good time.
Switching to dulcimer, Joni did "All I want" and "A Case of You" from Blue. Back to guitar she did a couple of new and unfinished songs, both dealing primarily with love and nostalgia, familiar trains of thought for Joni. When she broke into "Cold Blue Steel," she received some off-stage assistance from Tom Scott on flute which extended into the forlorn "Blue."
The band rejoined her during "For Free," and Joni excited her fans by toying with the lyrics, adding a Navajo emphasis to the jewels she spoke of and being accompanied by 16 gentlemen instead of only two ("... and we had a lot of fun.")
The reunited group went through three songs from "Court and Spark" before shifting into the classic "Both Sides Now." Then Joni got intimate again, expressing herself on a variety of subjects ranging from Indians and Canada to her hopes that some streakers would make an appearance.
"If you don't take your clothes off, then we will." She half-heartedly retracted her statement before anyone dared to get outrageous. She reminded me of Joan Baez, but it was clear that her priority was plants as opposed to prisoners.
"Don't trample your neighbors, but feel free to express yourselves," she implored before the band broke into "Raised on Robbery," which was definitive proof that Joni could front a high energy rock 'n roll band if she chose to.
For encores, Joni requested that the house lights be turned on so that people could see each other and mellowed into "The Last Time I Saw Richard," before finishing appropriately with the tongue-in-cheek "Twisted." Instead of an instrumental break, Joni delivered her final monologue of the evening, summing up that we're all crazy, so why not laugh about it. So true.
Despite the odds, Joni Mitchell survived the fieldhouse and everyone that I saw left smiling, which is even what the most demented psychiatrist would have ordered.