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Mitchell Is Pgh's Valentine Print-ready version

by Tom Waseleski
The Pitt News
February 18, 1976
Original article: PDF

There's an obvious difference between a popular following and a cult. Few rock giants emerged from the blazing 60s with their music or their hordes intact. Among the select inner core are Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, maybe Mick Jagger, perhaps a couple of Beatles and of course Saturday night's Civic Arena artist, Joni Mitchell.

She hit the stage in tight black pants, a high-cut black jacket, scarlet blouse and a wide-brimmed black hat showing no hair, looking more like someone who was ready to perform a flamenco than sing songs from Blue.

Following a good, hearty set by her main backup, L.A. Express, Mitchell picked up a guitar amid the tumult of the crowd; it was her they came to see.

Opening with probably the most desired number in the collective mind of the audience, she strummed her way through a looser version of "Help Me."

Not much later she played the song's stylistic counterpart from the album Court and Spark, "Free Man in Paris," doing a better job here on both rhythm and voice.

Her acoustic prowess was front and center as the backup Express sat out "Shades Of Scarlet Conquering" from the new Hissing of Summer Lawns album. It's songs like this that allow Mitchell to show off her melodic subtlety as a composer—you know—less is more and all that. There were a couple of seemingly feminist cheers at the end of the song when Mitchell emphasized "...a woman must have everything!"

But it was already five songs into the show and some of the crowd had not had what they wanted—the streaming, dancing yellow flow of Mitchell's hair. After some scattered calls, one finally broke through, and Mitchell agreeably tossed the hat off, her blond strings falling on her shoulders as the mad plaudits careened off the dark Arena dome.

Throughout the show Mitchell was as personal as her poignant lyrics, and her faithful fans (at least those who could sneak by the guards) set flowers and candy in heart-shaped boxes at her feet on center-stage.

"Shadows and Light," which was recorded like a cappella Gregorian chant, was played in a terribly refreshing way, with the instruments being laid on one by one—the acoustic guitar, the bass, the congas—until, she had something haunting, fluid and so exotically sexy that many must have regretted the album version.

While concentrating on material from her last two LPS, Mitchell went a bit further and did three yet to-be recorded tunes: "Coyote," a number with strong congas, "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter," jazzy, with full Express backup and a song about a recent experience on Beale Street, Memphis.

After two dozen numbers, the natives weren't so restless as they were benumbed, and as a finish, Mitchell belted out "Raised on Robbery", which did plenty to shift the dead weight in the seats. In probably the best song of the night, her voice was like a nervous bowstring turned loose on an electric violin; just when it seemed her energy had peaked, the congas and acoustic drums blammed into a deafening, warpath-stomping "Jungle Lin"—the tight-skinned thunder never letting up till the whole piece was over.

relentless ovation produced the easy, finger-snapping "Twisted," one of Mitchell's typically humorous pieces in an encore that brought artist and devotee even closer than the few feet that separated them.

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Added to Library on January 14, 2024. (1465)

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