During the intermission of Joni Mitchell's Saturday night concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, members of the capacity audience were consoling each other by saying "Well, she is more beautiful than I thought," but reluctantly admitting that they "liked her 1972 concert better than this."
In 1972 she was alone on stage with piano, guitar and dulcimer. Saturday night she was accompanied by the very loud, very funky jazz-rock of Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, who appeared with her at Constitution Hall in January and did much of the background in her latest album, "Court and Spark."
Svelte and Vogue-ish in silver and black and tall platform heels, her blonde waved hair haloed by blue stage lights, Mitchell belted out the first set but the famous stream-of-consciousness lyrics could not be heard.
After intermission she appeared in a soft pastel gown, alone with piano, guitar and dulcimer. Instead of trying to clap and bounce to the music, the audience listened, and when someone yelled, "This is how we love you the best," she offered a partial explanation: "The rocking is really fun. I couldn't go back to just sittting by myself and play to lots of people. I felt like I wasn't reaching the person in the back row . . . I remember following groups with lots of amplification, like The Who . . . it's nice both ways." So the rock star is trapped by her own image, but it still seemed blasphemous to thump out her earth song "Woodstock."
When the band reappeared it began to look as if she can have it both ways. First Tom Scott's woodwind accompaniment created duets with Mitchell's voice then the others joined in with less volume, building to a heavy version of "Raised on Robbery," and the crowd wanted more. But then, they had already gotten some pure Joni Mitchell.