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Music Notes Print-ready version

by Jim Bohen
Daily Record (Morristown NJ)
July 22, 1983
Original article: PDF

Wild thing: Like more than a few fans at the Garden State Arts Center last week, I’ve been waiting all my life to see Joni Mitchell. Fortunately, the one I got to see didn’t disappoint.

What with her infrequent tours and long silences between albums, it’s a different Joni Mitchell each time out. I’m sorry I missed her previous incarnations, but at least they’re documented on her two live albums, Miles of Aisles (with Tim Scott and the L.A. Express) and Shadows and Light (with Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker).

The current Mitchell is a rock and roller with a taste for jazz phrasing and harmony. Her new band – four veterans of her most recent album, Wild Things Run Fast, with Mitchell herself providing electric rhythm guitar on most songs – played loud but clean. The instrumental sound was physically moving, but you could still hear all the words.

The set was weighted with songs from the new album, most of them hitting harder than on record. The reggae beat and lush guitar chords of “Solid Love“ showed the influence of the Police, “Underneath the Street Light“ was a rush of giddy enthusiasm; and even “Love,” her rather ungainly crib from the Bible, sounded more graceful in this rendition.

On “God Must Be a Bogeyman,” her song for and about the late jazz composer Charles Mingus, Mitchell played with the phrasing, let the audience answer each refrain, and then left bassist Larry Klein and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta to carry the song out with an extended improvisation.

She reappeared alone at the piano for “For Free,“ adding some new images to that portrait of a street musician (“They knew that he’d never been on MTV“) and four new lines at the end of each verse. She strummed a hollow–bodied electric guitar on “Big Yellow Taxi“ (much improved over the giggly original) and plucked an Appalachian dulcimer on the ravishing “A Case of You.“

Back with the band after an intermission, she allowed guitarist Michael Landau a screaming solo on “Wild Things Run Fast,“ and offered a beat-heavy rock version of the metaphorically political “Banquet“ (done with just piano and voice on For The Roses).

Russell Ferrante’s Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano intro turned into a wild “Raised on Robbery.“ A few songs later Mitchell playfully mimicked Elvis Presley on "(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.“

Her first encore, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,“ rocked hard and sounded great. Her third and last was a solo “Woodstock,“ during which she walked around the rim of the stage, then drifted into the wings, still playing her electric guitar.

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Added to Library on June 29, 2023. (1694)

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