from both sides now

Like all good pseudo hippy children of the 70s, my mother loved (and still loves) Joni Mitchell. I remember her telling me how she and her friends in college would play "Court and Spark" on vinyl over and over again. It's thanks to her that I discovered Joni.

I didn't like Joni at first, to tell the truth. I thought her voice was weird. But somewhere between ages 12 and 13, during my Broadway period and before I discovered Tori Amos, I picked up "Ladies of the Canyon" and something clicked. I listened to it constantly. I remember playing it at my 15th birthday party and everyone telling me to shut off the stupid old music. Then I pillaged my mother's CDs further and made her copy of "Court and Spark" mine as well. I would listen to it 7 or 8 times in a row and not get tired of it. Joni was the first artist I really loved.


Turbulent Indigo, Hejira, and all her other albums followed until I had every one of her albums (all 19 of them). Each album means something to me, I'm close to all of them, with the exception of her 80s stuff, which I could never really get into. I went from Folk Joni of the late 60s and early 70s to loving the Jazz Joni of the mid to late 70s, which is, in my opinion, her best work. But of all her albums, Hejira touched me the most. That's why this journal is named what it is and why I have the lyrics from it plastered all over this site. The album is just perfect and beautiful and absolutely right for where I am in my life right now. It helped keep me sane during my first semester of college, which was mostly miserable for me. I would listen to it on my discman continuously for 3 or 4 hours while working on my projects or sitting at the computer. Words can't do justice for what this album means to me.


I honestly never thought I'd get to see her in concert. And even if I could, I would have rather seen the Joni from the late 70s, at the peak of her vocal and guitar skills, playing jazz influenced compositions with her band. And she's in her mid fifties, and not apt to go running off across the country playing all sorts of concerts. But when I heard back in March that she was doing a 12 city tour for her new album, I figured my odds of seeing her were good, since I was in proximity to two of the largest cities in the country. And when the time came, thanks to the shrewd skills of John, we ended up with tickets for one of the two concerts being held at Madison Square Garden Theater (not to be confused with the Garden itself).


I had to drive up to NYC, which was a little over three hours, and despite it being mostly boring and rainy, was actually not as arduous as I thought it would be. The worst part of it was going across Manhattan to get to Queens, where John lives. You have to drive defensively, lest you be eaten alive by cabs, buses and deep potholes. Ach. My poor Bessie's shocks.

John and I went out for Thai food at this little place on 9th Avenue near the Port Authority. I had been craving Pad Thai all day, and finally got my wish. Did I mention I LOVE Thai food? Luckily, my hometown Lebanon (of all places) has a Thai restaurant. So I get my fix regularly.

We took a bus down to the Garden from there. I had decided to wear these stupid platform shoes of my sister's that were extremely uncomfortable, and though the added two inches gives me feeling of being taller and thinner than I actually am, it was not worth the pain and hobbling I endured.


We got into the theatre, which was absolutely beautiful. I had been there before, about 6 years ago, when I went to see "A Christmas Carol" with my family. It's very elegant, with crisscrossing rows of lights covering the entire ceiling, creating quite an effect.

The concert was sold out, and filled with, to my surprise, people of all ages, from 8 year olds to senior citizens. It was a little late in starting, but then the orchestra came out and played the overture. I noticed something rather odd, though: the orchestra was amplified. Which was strange, because I always thought an orchestra was all about the live sound. Then, to a deafening roar and standing ovation, she took center stage. She was wearing a gorgeous fuschia evening gown that turned a variety of colors under different lights. I couldn't see her face from this far away, but her light blonde hair gleamed under the lights. She started with the beginning of her new album "Both Sides Now" with "You're My Thrill", and sang the entire album through. In between songs she exchanged friendly banter with the large but intimate crowd. There were many shouts of "Joni, I Love you!" and "Your outfit rocks!" in the silent moments between songs. She was very gracious and witty about it all. It's easy to see that after over 30 years as a musician, she has performing down to an art.


Her voice, once a soaring soprano, had now deepened into a warm, husky alto, which she used to its best advantage. This concert and her album really showed that she is an incredibly gifted jazz singer. The orchestra and her voice gelled perfectly, as it had on the album. After she had sung the new album in its entirety, she launched into some of her older songs, only this time they were reworked and rearranged for a 71 piece orchestra. I have to say these songs were the best and most thrilling parts of the concert.

She prefaced "Judgment of the Moon and Stars" from her 1972 album "For the Roses" with a long story about Ludwig Van Beethoven (which is who the song is about) and about being best known for the work that he thought was the weakest. I suspected she was talking about herself as well, because her best work is the most obscure and unknown. The arrangement of "Judgment of the Moon and Stars" was amazing to hear, especially comparing the piano and guitar version of the song to the fleshed out arrangement with the orchestra. Absolutely beautiful.


She also did the song "For the Roses" (which I didn't even recognize at first), and then she did the song Hejira, which her ex-husband Larry Klein, doing his best Jaco Pastorius impression on bass, and Peter Erskine, the drummer, adding a subtle latin beat to it. This song was a little awkward for me to hear with an orchestra, because I'm so used to the fluidity of voice, guitar and bass that marks the song and the entire album. She also did "Be Cool" and "Trouble Man", neither of which I'm too familiar with.

So that was it. Now I've seen Joni in concert, I can die happy. I bought an over priced t-shirt (one with the Turbulent Indigo cover) against my better judgment, but at least I have something to remind me of this incredible night.

...i've found my love at last...

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