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Joni fights elements at Spectrum   Print

by John Fisher
Bucks County Courier Times
February 17, 1976

PHILADELPHIA - No music, other than heavy rock, should be permitted to be played in the Spectrum.

Last night Joni Mitchell played there before a SRO crowd and the massive hall served to compromise her music.

Joni Mitchell, one of the older folk artists on the market, always has had a soft tender touch to her music

Acoustic Guitar

She used to lean heavily on soft acoustic guitar stylings which augmetned her multi-octave voice. When these two factors were placed together, Joni Mithcell would give the audience and unforgettable concert.

Last night she had to brave the elements when she played the Spectrum.

Ms. Mitchell stipulated in her contract that the seating in the Spectrum be reduced to 12,000 for her performance, so the "Spectrum Theatre," concept was used.

Curtain Used

This basically amounts to the Spectrum being cut into three quarters, with a curtain, simulating a theatre atmosphere, surrounding the stage.

This curtain further limited the view at the Spectrum to all but those with a straight ahead view.

To overcome the vastness of the arena, Ms. Mitchell used an acoustic guitar plugged into an amplifier.

At times this arrangement made it seem she was plahying electric guitar and at other times it still let the music be lost to the lofty rafters of the sporting hall.

Warm Performer

Another portion of a Joni Mitchell concert also was lacking last night.

She, under different conditions, is a warm performer who enhances her music with her intimacy with the audience.

It's kind of hard to be intimate with an audience when some of them are almost a quarter of a mile away and need parachutes to get down from their seats.

Regardless of other problems the songstress may have had to contend with, there was one thing present the concert setting couldn't detract from.

That's the voice of Joni Mitchell. She has a voice which can move from gutsy to ethereal in one phrasing. It seems to have no limits and is the focal point of the performance rather than the music itself.

This was proved last night when Ms. Mitchell launched into an a cappella piece which kept the audience silent and spellbound.

Despite the poor setting for a performer who deserves more, she had the crowd in her pocket when she did favorites such as "Help Me I'm Falling" and "Free Man in Paris."

Opening Set

Backing Ms. Mitchell and opening the show, was a jazz-oriented rock band called the L.A. Express. They played an opening set of approximately 45 minutes which was all jazz-based.

They mellowed out behind Ms. Mitchell, but on occasion seemed overbearing to the point the star performer's guitar work was lost to the other amalgamation of music.

What was placed before the Philadelphia audience last night was a good concert. The problem was that with Joni Mitchell, the concert would have been great, not good, if held in the proper setting.

 

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