Four years ago Joni Mitchell performed at the Mississippi River Festival and many people walked out before she had finished her set.
Arlo Guthrie was the main attraction that night. Alice's Restaurant had just been released and it was he they had come to see.
Last night however, was a different story. A crowd of 9,500 waited for more than an hour for Mitchell before the concert because of a power failure at the site. A 10-minute intermission between sets also stretched into 30 and still they waited.
Finally, the house lights dimmed and the crowd was hushed into blackness. A group who had been touring and recording with Mitchell for a year took the stage and left the crowd open-mouthed at their performance. Tom Scott and the L.A. Express are former studio musicians with a jazz, funk, oriented sound.
The group seems to have influenced Mitchell's style somewhat, for her songs, old and new were jazzed up with extra frills and trills in the right places.
Mitchell performed "Free Man in Paris" and "People's Parties" from her new album, "Court and Spark" which she recorded with the L.A. Express.
Strolling from guitar to piano and back again Mitchell's stance mellowed as people from the audience urged her to "talk to them."
She then told a story of her travels while on tour and of some of the horrible places she and the band had stayed in. "One of the cells, oops, I ream rooms - Freudian slip there - was so bad, one of the roadies shut the curtains to improve its' appearance," she said.
She also remarked how a power failure wasn't so bad, because in most of the cities she had been booked at while on tour had been rained out.
A man from the audience yelled, "I love you, Joni!" Someone in the front row stretched up a bouquet of flowers to the lady and she placed them on her mike stand.
Those two things were perhaps symbolic of the woman herself. An artist who paints pictures but also who paints with words, who expresses herself only as a poet can, who touches only as a lover can. This is what Joni Mitchell is. If you listen very closely she will tell you.
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