Joni Mitchell Special
April 16, 2000


Tribute to Joni Mitchell

I had the pleasure of seeing OH's appearance on the JM Tribute show. Most of the performers only did one JM song. OH was one of the few exceptions (the others were Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter, who were both on-stage together and did two separate numbers), and Wynonna Judd, who did the first number of the evening with Bryan Adams (not an auspicious start) and later on came out solo to do "Turn Me On I'm a Radio'.

OH was on in the first 20 minutes, with an excellent solo acoustic rendition of "Woodstock." (They had a house band consisting of excellent session players including Larry Klein and Mark Isham--but the band was off-stage for this). Then, later in the evening, OH did Black Crow (From Hejira) on electric guitar with full band accompaniment. And it was an excellent showcase for his electric guitar work. I suspect that the entire show will air (i.e., no numbers will be cut)...they did no retakes and it seemed to add up to the two hour time slot. (it took about 2 hours and 40 minutes of elapsed time, with a 15 minute break to setup the orchestra--Joni did the next-to-last number of the evening, "Both Sides Now," with orchestra accompaniment. Overall, it was quite a fine show--highlights included k.d. lang doing "Help Me," Cyndi Lauper doing "Carey." Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter doing "Amelia," ...etc. Lowlights--Hillary Rodham Clinton's taped intro to Chelsea Morning, Ashley Judd's emceeing.

It will be aired on Sunday, April 16th, on TNT cable network, 9 PM EDT. Definitely worth taping. I suspect it might be one of RT's most-watched television appearances. (The only other contender I suspect was his appearance on Letterman a few years ago--but I'm not sure how late-night network TV audience numbers compare to prime time cable).

OH attire--all-black, off course, with beret.

Michael B. First


What a could spot the guitarists in the audience by the look of horror/delight on their faces. Woodstock was redefined for me, no word of a lie. Black crow was a (very) black pearl - you don't often see stuff like this on TNT. Larry Kleins' bass playing was luscious throughout (deep jealousy!!), KD Lang seemed, well, elsewhere and Cindy Lauper was in great voice.

I'm going to encode the RT spots as QT movies to loop on my Mac - this man is astonishing and doesn't seem to be getting any worse 8).

Graeme White

I must say,

I think this was one of Richard's most successful TV appearances I've ever seen.

out there,
all in black,

Then back center stage, with band, ripping through Black Crow.

All in all, a very enjoyable set of performances.

So, what's the story with his new shiny, sexy Strat? What a guitar! Anybody have the scoop on this one?

TNT is running the show a second time, right after the first broadcast. Sorry, have to go, OH's just about ready to take the stage again for his first song.

A good night for me, after a day that turned out much better than expected.

Charlie A. Jamison

I have to agree.

Maybe RT looked sharper than he was, given the contrast with the rather lackluster assemblage of alleged talent on this show, but Our Hero cut through the dross like a razor. In fact, his playing was so fine and fierce that it reminded me of what attracted me to Richard in the first place, something that's sometimes difficult to do amidst the nitpicks and flames of this list. I hope the casual viewer will be moved by his performance to check out some of his recorded works. Unlike some of the fair-to-middlin' RT TV performances of the past, this one could get us some instant converts.

And what was up with Joni's expression during "Black Crow"? She looked like she was chewing her cud or something -- the very definition of "impassive." But she may have looked stony-faced during the whole show, I didn't stick around to see if she wept with joy for James Taylor or Sir Elton.


Miles Goosens

as michael reported

the show was extraordinary-it could have been a rather banal, show biz affair-but it wasn't and i think that was because of joni and the profound effect that she really has had on all the these people (the tributers). richard's interpretation of "woodstock" accompanied by himself on solo acoustic guitar was smashing. he took the song and absolutely made it his own. he tossed off some bluesy licks that gave the song a real earthiness. definitely one of the highlights of the show. richard actually was a last minute substitution for the stone temple pilots who were scheduled to do "woodstock". richard's performance of "black crow" on electric was outstanding as well. don't miss it.

byw, elton john preformed "free man in paris", an appropriate choice in my opinion.


The NYT covered it

Only RT mention was:

"....Slightly more obscure premium artists also shared the bill, including the trumpeter Mark Isham and the slide guitarist Greg Leisz, who played in the band. Cassandra Wilson led a horn section through a rousing improvisation on a song from Ms. Mitchell's jazziest album, "Mingus." Richard Thompson, the cool guitar god, added rock flavor to his two selections. The a capella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock gave "The Circle Game" the resonance of a hymn."

Dan Herman

Hello all

Thanks to an eagle-eyed co-worker (no one in my department has been untouched by the phenomenon of Shelley's RT obsession :) ), I have a copy of a review of the Joni Mitchell tribute from today's (Saturday) _Star Ledger_ in New Jersey, by one of their staff writers, Jay Lustig. He seemed unimpressed by most of the show, except:

"Only one artist, Richard Thompson, rocked with abandon, on 'Black Crow'. Thompson also contributed a fascinating 'Woodstock.' Refusing to embrace the song's hippie-era idealism, he made the line 'We've got to get ourselves back to the garden' sound more like a dire warning than a simple wish."

If anyone wants a copy, let me know via private e-mail. Pam, I think you asked if there were any reviews in the local papers. This is all I've found so far.

By the way, thanks to the person who filled us in on the "Woodstock" situation. I was at the show (Feel free to envy me--It was wonderful), and thought he seemed terribly uncomfortable during that number. Not 'bad', mind you, so don't flail me, but just uncomfortable. There was a bit of a sound problem as well, perhaps a monitor difficulty, so add that to the mix. If it makes the final cut of the program, you may be able to see what I mean. The fact that he only had an hour's notice explains why he didn't seem quite right. "Black Crow," on the other hand, was spectacular!

Can't wait to see what the final edit looks like. Hopefully OH be in it a significant amount. He charmingly introduced the members of the house band, and I'd really like to see that make the broadcast.

And while I'm here on my little soapbox, out of lurking, Ashley Judd was a great hostess. She was sincere and truly knows and loves Joni's music . . . Hillary Clinton's speech was indeed a pukefest; I'll attest to that. :)

Take care all you lovely fellow fans.

Shelley Hesson

I thought both RT and Joni seemed really pleased with Woodstock.

And OK - I'll admit it - I'm now watching the whole thing a second time around, too.

Willis Howard

Sorry to report

that the TNT cable network began running commercials this weekend for the April 16th broadcast of the JM tribute that, predictably, mention most everyone on the program but OH.

I'm also sorry to report that my wife, who has a floral design studio here in NY, injured herself rather flamboyantly on a trip to lunch while she was doing flowers on-site for the show. One of those "zigged when she should have zagged" street maneuvers that resulted in her tripping over an ankle-high wrought iron fence enclosing a tree, causing her to literally fall on her face. She was very lucky in that she sustained no permanent injury (although she did fracture her left cheek), but she was understandably quite shook up an in quite some pain. Her left eye was swollen shut and she is bruised from her jaw to the top of her head on the left-hand side, but she's otherwise alright.

Anyway, she reports that chaos reigned backstage at the Hammerstein that afternoon. Among other things Wynonna threw a fit because her dressing room door bore the name "Wynonna Judd" when she wants to be known only as Wynonna. My wife did not see RT but overheard one of the production managers say, in response to a query of who all was on the show, that it was a rather ordinary assembly but that they were going to open with a "kick-ass version of Black Crow by Richard Thompson".

As it turned out I don't think RT opened, but what the heck. The show airs at 9:00pm EST on April 16th.


Since trainspotting

is one of our preferred forms of entertainment I thought I'd pass on a couple of RT sightings from today's San Francisco papers. They're both reviewing the recent Joni-fest appearing on TNT.

The Chronicle, under the heading "Stars Get All Gushy At Tribute to Mitchell", takes the line that none of the guests are a match for Joni. Everyone comes in for a slagging, including "... and Richard Thompson steps a little too heavily on 'Woodstock' and 'Black Crow', although he does manage some effectively predatory riffs on the latter." Photo: Cyndi Lauper kissing Joni's hand with OH (in beret) applauding behind.

The Examiner, on the other hand, takes a much sunnier view. Under a headline, "Tribute to Joni Mitchell a showcase for singers", finds that evryone is an A-list performer, especially noting that "Richard Thompson turns in a stunning 'Woodstock'." Photo: Elton John kissing Joni's face with James Taylor in the background.

I guess we'll just have to watch it ourselves to see what really happened.

Mike McDonnell

I went back

to the TNT site and saw that they've finally posted pix from the tribute. It had to be a pretty serious occasion, as RT is wearing a black *jacket* over his black shirt. :^)


More from this August 1997 interview

I did with Richard. I hope he doesn't mind my reproducing this (Richard, wherever you are, I hope this is's all fairly innocuous stuff).

I had asked about a seeming contradiction I didn't really understand at that point--that while Fairport was described as idealistic and roots based, all this early material was singer-songwriter stuff. He says something like the first Fairport album "pulls in 12 different directions on 12 different tracks"; then he mentions that the early emphasis was on being "a lyric band."

RT: Looking for material, there was Dylan, who was an acknowledged lyric writer, and apart from that, we were struggling. When we hooked up with Joe Boyd, he had suggestions. He had Joni Mitchell demos--this was before she had her first album out--so we got a pile of acetates of Joni Mitchell. We thought wow, this is really good. So we covered a few of those.

During this list discussion of Joni and Richard, has anyone listed all the Joni songs he's covered? I think before the soon-to-be-broadcast tribute, they were all done with Fairport. I think all of these Fairport covers feature RT on guitar.

Chelsea Morning
I Don't Know Where I Stand
Eastern Rain
Both Sides Now



P.S. Again, I know I'm not telling y'all anything you don't already know, but I thought you might enjoy hearing it in Richard's words once again.

First thought:

my dinner/TV guests were far too chatty. It started with why Wynonna dropped the "Judd" and how Bryan Adams looked far less dissolute than in the past, and it continued from there. I managed some discreet "shushing" during "Woodstock," but it didn't last long.

"Tell me again what this guy does," asked Mike. What a question.

"He's doing it right now," I replied.

"No, what would he have sung that I might actually have heard?"

"Er, nothing." (See, I don't proselytize!)

Mike asked the same thing when James Taylor came on, so go figure. I think his wife is the musically savvy one. We were singing along with Cassandra Wilson during "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines"; Hilary knows all the words.

Oh, but back to Richard. ("He has big ears," Mike observed. "Very big ears.") "Woodstock" was wonderful. Maybe a bit too dark? I need to hear it again under better circumstances.

Unlike some of the others who've posted, I didn't find any of the music particularly mediocre, though Bryan Adams didn't do much for me. I was disappointed with "Black Crow," though; I felt like Richard's guitar was far too low in the mix (or something). Then again, one of my guests was going on about Eddie Van Halen and string bending, so perhaps I was a bit distracted.

Rob (my husband) was very impressed that Richard got to introduce the band. He was a good person for this role; indeed, overall the producers varied the speakers and their topics very nicely to present Joni's life story and to take some of the pressure off Ashley Judd. Ashley seemed rather wooden; perhaps this task was rather overwhelming.

I liked Cyndi Lauper. I liked Diana Krall perhaps more.

Oh, Rob's running "Black Crow" upstairs RIGHT NOW (second broadcast)--better run and see it!


In agreement

with what most have said about the TNT show. Noticed that the extreme and long closeups were only done on RT. Is this because of the performers on the show he was the stillest and easiest to focus upon? Just stood there and played with passion and intensity, qualities which were somewhat lacking in most of the other performers. He seemed to take these songs and seek their meaning, where most of the others just performed.

I took note of Joni's expressions too, and it seems that she was welled up in tears and (though I'm not a lip-reader), it looked to me that she said "yes!" at the end of 'Woodstock'. She seemed quite sphinx-like during 'Black Crow' though.

For those who suggest we not depend on this performance to gain new RT fans - we know at least one, right, Debra?

And to touch on someone's comment last week that perhaps Watching the Dark is not a good intro to RT because it, as a compilation, lacks the total vision and designed arrangement of songs making up an album -- it seems to me that the liner notes mention that RT had a hand in selecting and arranging the songs making up WTD. Doesn't that, in itself, make WTD as much a designed arrangement as any other album?

Irene Henry*

*who thinks the fuss over Jolly Hangman's "nom de byte" a bit silly given the affection (or mere tolerance in some cases) we have for the Binkster.

Looks like the discussion

of Richard's performances on the Joni tribute is winding down, but now that I've had a chance to read everyone's thoughts on it, and watch the tape many times, here are my thoughts:

My initial falling-in-love with Richard experience was definitely reconfirmed by seeing the show on TV. His performance of Woodstock is still thrilling. I'm wearing out that part of my tape replaying it. He was listed on the program to play only Black Crow, so when he was introduced for Woodstock (which Stone Temple Pilots were supposed to do) everyone was very surprised. The sudden pleased applause when his name was announced was genuine, so I think he had many fans in the audience. My thoughts were, "wonder what happened to STP" and "oh good, now I get to find out about this person I've read about on the Joni list." I didn't expect at all to get swept away completely. What a shock hearing those first clear notes from the guitar, and then his voice, and well, you guys know what happened. It's still happening.

At the live performance, I couldn't make sense of Black Crow -- it sounded full of energy but also confused. That's not one of my favorite Joni songs even when she does it. There needs to be a swooping feeling to it in order to get it across, but it was completely grounded in this performance. Plus, the backup musicians weren't helping at all -- seemed there was a struggle going on. During the actual show I couldn't pick out Richard's guitar playing from the overall sound, so it's great watching the tape and being able to focus only on him and his playing. Wow! I agree with whoever said the mix on his guitar was way too low. It definitely should have been the upfront sound.

As far as RT getting lots of new fans from this exposure, I'm sure he'll get some because it's so obvious even from seeing these two bits that he's an incredible artist. He impressed a lot of people on the Joni list, and that's a very particular bunch. Especially the long-time fans such as myself feel spoiled by experiencing such a complex adventurous gifted artist for so many years, so I'm truly thrilled at finding those same qualities in another artist. I know some of the Joni-folks are making the same discovery. Will he fill a stadium the way the Spice Girls did? Probably never, but they're already fading away.

I loved seeing all those closeups of him on the tape, and during the show remember wondering how he could concentrate with the roving cameraman crouching right next to him. That guy never stood up so the straight-on facial closeups must have been done from afar by one of the cameras that was constantly moving over the audience. RT has an incredibly intense look sometimes that just adds to my interest in him (oh, I know he was focusing on the teleprompter, but still...). I was in the balcony so couldn't see the details of the performance, but he definitely did take over the stage. No one else was photographed so closely. Someone, the director maybe, must be a big fan and knew how expressive Richard is when he performs and how spectacular his guitar-playing would be. The crouching cameraman, who was usually taping people in the audience, was next to Richard's hands for much of Woodstock, so I guess part of the reason for all the closeups is to avoid getting that cameraman in the shot.

I'm still amazed that Richard's been around for so long and I'm just now finding out about him. Definitely he needs some more PR, although maybe his work is so complicated that his fans have to be captured one at a time. Whatever, I'm just thankful I finally know. And will be part of spreading the word.

Debra Shea

I just got back from vacation

(Grand Canyon! By motorcycle! 2500+ miles!!) to find I'd rec'd a video of the Joni Mitchell Tribute (thanks Pam!), so I have a few "parting words" about the whole charade, er...event.

Starting off, I found RT to be great-to-fantastic. I nearly cried during his rendition of "Woodstock", seeing this as *his moment* to attract many new followers. The version was sort of a "Woodstock meets Shoot out The Lights", don'tcha think? It was "down" and even a bit forced, but a brilliant spin nonetheless on a song that many find emblematic of an era I find problematic. Do we really have to get ourselves back to the garden? Nah.

As for "Black Crow"...fantastic! Loved it! Brilliant vocal spin on a difficult to cover song. Was RT reading from cue cards for the lyrics? Absolutely brilliant take on a difficult song. The only think missing was Brian Blades on drums -- his drumming is much more suited to the material and would have emphasized the shifts in beat from chorus to verse. One shot cracked me up -- a close up of RT's mouth singing, then tilt up to show his eyes. Wierd!

Speaking of wierd, weird is TV ads for prescription-only medication. Patient, heal thyself!

The artists that did straight versions of Joni songs were an embarrassment, and seemed to have missed the point entirely of Joni's aspirations. James Taylor...kill me now so I don't have to watch him ever again. Elton's take on "Free Man..." was good. Joni with orchestra was just as bad as I imagined. K.D. Lang's cover was awful beyond she full of herself or what? If I want to hear a straight cover of a Joni Mitchell classic I prefer to listen to myself singing it in the shower.

That Joni Mitchell would lend her name much less participate in the tribute is appaling. She's spent her entire career attempting to move beyond her folk roots, but with few exceptions were her followers able to keep up with her. Joni seems to have forgiven everyone for ignoring her all those years. I liked her better when she was angry. ;)

Personally, I don't think she'll ever top her performances I saw the two evenings spent taping "Painting With Words and music" -- IMO this special frames her career with the perfect perspective.

So....RT in No Cal two times in Sept! Wouldn't be the first instance where I've seen the band several times in that particular month. :)

Jeff Soldau 

Belated Joni thoughts

hey jesse, i saw that show and here is what i thought. i thought he nailed joni from afar during woodstock. you know, maybe he had some weird psychic karma thing going with her that no one knew about but he and she. and it was a cosmic thing. and very human and intimate. and i don't know jesse, but that shit happens in real life sometimes. sometimes. and as for the dour tone, maybe it was like cigarette smoke. you know, how you only like your own? and maybe he and joni were at that moment one thing, and the smoke seemed dour to the rest of us, because it was not ours.


np. clapton-hey hey.