Joni and Tim -- A Study In Contrasts
Saturday evening Joni Mitchell and Tim Hardin performed on the stage in the Gym while Stony Brook students exhibited their most thoughtless and animal behavior.
It was an evening of contrasts. Joni Mitchell was exquisitely sweet. She sang and played with agility and taste. Her voice, husky and rich in the middle range, silken in the upper register, was a great interpretive vehicle for her songs. The songs, well known to a great part of the audience, deal in that precious commodity -- melodic beauty.
She bandied style and voice so that none of her songs were repetitious. Her guitar playing was surprisingly skillful and in the context of each song exploited the particular tonal qualities it offered by utilizing different tunings, notably open G. Her playing reflected the influence of Tom Rush, to whom she admits a great debt. He helped her get bookings in the early days. She says that she respects him very much. Judging from Mr. Rush's album "Circle Game" the respect is mutual.
Joni Mitchell is a totally appealing performer. Her stage presence is remarkable -- like a little girl, and at the same time like an old lover; knowing, understanding, patient. The sounds she makes go down like sugar tablets. It is difficult sometimes to listen for the words because the tonal sound is so beautiful. It warms and bathes you in a dreamtime.
Her very warmth made it difficult to accept Tim Hardin at first. He had to break through the spell under which Joni had placed us. He isn't sweet...or soft. He's tough and hard. His songs don't pull punches, they tell a sad story. Take it or leave it. He would prefer that you take it.
In his own words, "I make records just so I can sing to audiences. Maybe I can help them, help 'em learn a little."
Folk music is a misnomer, when applied to Tim Hardin. By his own definition he is a jazz artist. He likes to call his bag "Jazz Hardin." Saturday evening he played just that. He sang his guts out. His guitar work was intricate sometimes and generally tough. The melodies on which his lyrics rode were expressive and full of the stuff of which he's made.
He definitely wasn't pretty. He just isn't a pretty person. Anyone who expected him to sound pretty should go to bed and reread fairy tales. Tim Hardin is beautiful. He tells the truth. One song he sang was about Black Sheep. You'd better believe that he knows how it feels.
Because he told us truth the way it has to be told, we spat in his face. We walked out while he sang. He sweated over pouring life into the guitar and the mike. Various people picked up their raincoats, took their dates and trouped out. After his last song he took a deep breath and got close to the mike. He said, "How would you like it if somebody pissed in your canteen?" He's got a right to an answer.
All night people were stomping on his head. Here he was, trying to communicate and people kept leaving; they wouldn't even give him a chance. It was more than just a buck for Tim Hardin Saturday evening. He really cared about you, audience. More than anything else. And you just refused to listen.
He happened to have performed brilliantly. In an interview he said he felt that the audience was cold in the first set; but he gave his best in the second, doing "Caress Me Baby." Alternating phrases of crisp, hard strum with burst of melodic picking, he kept the two elements together under his fierce and tender invocation. He was flying. Let those words suffice.
You, the audience, the students of this University, were in top form Saturday evening. You walked in while Joni Mitchell sang, walked out on Tim Hardin. This wanderlust is too typical of your arrogant attitude. Demanding that we have concerts of a varied nature, you refuse to stomach anything that doesn't fit into a neat little capsule which is your musical taste. Saturday you were lucky.
The concert was a great one. Each performer did what he is known for, with style. You rejected one while accepting the other. Now you are in the position of being rejected by both. At the end of the concert Joni Mitchell got up from her seat in the bleachers and strode to the stage, furious. She said, "You are very rude people. You have to learn that you just don't go parading up and down the aisles while someone is singing. We have feelings, too, you know."
Yes, they both have rejected us. Neither Joni nor Tim will ever perform again at Stony Brook. But that's not all. In the music industry word travels fast. Several performers have been given this sort of treatment here. They know we're a lousy audience. When the word gets around, as it has started to, you'll find that we won't be able to get the performers we want.
Then, when nobody comes here to perform any more, you will be satisfied. You will never have to walk out again. The privilege of attending a concert will no longer be yours and you can watch T.V. every night. I hope you're happy with yourselves.