Kathy Ryndak & Fred Youngs
Everyone changed, you, me, the guy down the street or upstairs. In 1965 Dylan went electric at Newport and was roundly and soundly booed. In 1974, Joni Mitchell went electric and has improved. Mitchell has not done a thing since *For The Roses*, in which she was pretty much in the same vein as Blue and her previous albums: emphasizing her desire to "get back to nature and the roots" like everyone else wanted to do. How organic and neat! Now we have a rejuvinated [sic] Joni Mitchell who looks upon this period with disdain and speaks of it with sarcasm. In changing her lifestyle she also changed musical styles and has come up with a fresh new approach that incorporates a back up band in her sensitive and moving songs. Many artists have tried this and a lot, like Neil Young have failed. Young forgot what Mitchell remembered.. that electric doesn't mean loud and showy, but maybe quiet and reserved. Whereas the best part of Young's dismal concert was the acoustic set, the entire evening of Joni Mitchell was a uniquely invigorating concert.
Her back-up band, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express added a night-club feel to her music while at the same time maintaining the appeal that Mitchell has cultivated Scott, the lead guitarist, is a most versatile musician, moving freely between guitar and woodwind instruments. John Garnett provided competent drumming and showed it off in a brief drum solo. The only drawback was the organist, who's attacking of the organ was contrived and forced, there being no room for a Keith Emerson in a Joni Mitchell.
The fact that this was not the Joni Mitchell of old was hard to adjust to, but upon adjustment it worked for the most part.
Joni appeared not in the expected jeans, but rather a flowing pink and mauve gown. The audience was stunned and surprised. Where was the Joni Mitchell of Ladies of the Canyon? The earthy Joni Mitchell of old was gone, she explained in the intro to "For the Roses", saying that she had given up knitting and sewing in a cabin. It seemed that she had not really changed, but mellowed. She is humble, and feels she is overrated in Canada because she is a Canadian.
"Big Yellow Taxis"[sic] worked the best of the new material in the new format. It seemed to lend itself to the style, with its bouncy beat and simple melody structure. This was the one problem with the new structure; often old songs didn't lend themselves to it. "Woodstock" was a particular example. Though not really a failure, it was strange and it was hard to adjust to it after the slow, almost dirge-like original that we are more accustomed to. New material was better and it seemed to take in a jazz feel.
She concentrated on the guitar for most of the night, moving to the piano only infrequently and playing the dulcimer on only two songs. At the end of the concert she was more at ease with both the band and the audience, entering into banter with members of the audience and at one point telling one poor waif who kept informing everyone that he liked Melanie, that there was one in every crowd. She was more aware of the audience and her stage presence was far warmer towards the end of the evening.
It was the first concert in the Athletic Complex, and hopefully conditions will be improved for the next one. Many of the seats had obstructed views because of the speaker towers and the sound got pretty bad towards the back. Some said that the only time they saw Mitchell was when she walked on and off the stage. The Complex is not as well suited to a concert as the T.A., but it's use will be expected if we are to have any big-money groups here as the revenue from a full-house in the T.A. will not pay for them.
It was an extremely well paced and organized concert, starting at 8:35 and finishing at 11:30. The sound system was only fair, and when she played the dulcimer, she really didn't have to, for all we could hear it. But, what can you expect from a basically quiet artist in a tin barn?
It was good to see the change in Joni Mitchell, refreshing and pleasing could best describe it. When she becomes more comfortable with it, it will be as good as her original form. From every indication it certainly will be a success. Hopefully, however, if she should return, we will be able to find a better place for her to play."
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