Sometime last night a miracle happened.
Joni Mitchell, a popular rock singer, came to town and after several hours of performance, she had captured the minds and attention of a packed Assembly Center. Her voice, her style and her love for her audience did something extraordinary to those lucky enough to attend.
Miss Mitchell came on stage quietly, or rather it seemed more like she crept on during a song and took control of the stage. She appeared tired and thin and was not all the great bulwark of a star one imagined; she was more of a frail child needing protection.
But after two and one-half hours of total concentrated performance, the exhausted artist attempted to leave the stage, much to the dismay of her audience, which rose to their feet and clamored for an encore. Several minutes passed and a few imagined she was gone for good when Miss Mitchell re-appeared smiling on stage.
Often during her performance, she was unwilling to give smiles freely, and only once when a total fan screamed "I love you" did she even acknowledge the greeting. She was completely involved with her music, nothing would interrupt it, and the audience amazingly respected her wish to do just that.
Then she drifted back into the melancholy and sang ballad after ballad with themes sometimes bordering on the morbid, but with a gentle reproach to society for making her sing them in such manner.
Her style was extremely haunting during the performance. The evening did not seem real at all and returning to the damp atmosphere outside the Assembly Center was total shock to numbed senses.
Once she did change the quiet pattern and broke into merry "boogie" with the musicians while the audience stamped, clapped and in some way kept time with the beat.
Miss Mitchell fought a cold throughout the concert and her fans appreciated every note that came from the folk singer. Several times she was visibly straining to reach a high note or difficult one and once grasped, relief would automatically flash across the faces of the crowd. They loved her completely and couldn't bear the thought that she might stop.
To mention Miss Mitchell without mentioning her back-up musicians, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, would be the same as saying nothing at all. They were in themselves superb and a combination of the most unique musicians ever set upon a stage.
The most observed was the constantly-in-motion guitar player who either attempted to devour his shoes or contemplate the activity on the floor near his feet. The others were all together with their rhythm, like a good soup.
But perhaps the best was the leader of the group, Tom Scott, who played saxophone the way cajuns peel crawfish - fast and smooth. His ability to play different types of music lent itself greatly to the evening.
In one of her soft, mournful songs, Miss Mitchell sang of the millions lost who were searching to be found. She made the audience laugh. She made them cry. She made them feel every emotion between here and forever. But in the few hours that she took over Baton Rouge, she found an audience that refused to release her.
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