Every Thursday, we dig through the Paste Cloud archives to revisit some of our favorite old concert videos and audio. This week, we’ve got material from Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and Pearl Jam.
Joni Mitchell: Live at Giants Stadium, 1986
Joni Mitchell has a special place in American music, given the fact that she’s not American at all. The Canadian singer/songwriter is a woman of singular talent, masterfully coaxing the guitar and her stunning vocals into bouts of hushed rumination. Her lyrics are rife with symbolism that can’t always be figured out, but it doesn’t matter. They’re still so hard-hitting and human at first listen.
On June 15, 1986, Mitchell performed an unscheduled set at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. She was placed between Bryan Adams and U2 and found herself in the hands of an antsy crowd that had been at the Amnesty International Benefit, “Conspiracy of Hope,” for over six hours.
She starts off with the melancholy “The Three Great Stimulants” and is met with a splash of water from the bottles and miscellanea that the audience is lobbing onto the stage. It’s definitely an uncool move, but Mitchell continues her performance with unflinching composure.
The pace picks up with “Number One,” and Joni herself seems a little more enlivened. She asks, “Shall we shower you with flowers or shall we shun ya when the race is run?” and extends an arm to her problematic listeners of the night. It seems a little pointed, but Mitchell understands the complexities of fame better than anyone. She’s almost daring the crowd to give her an answer, but at the end of the day, joke’s on them—she’s the one with the trophies.
“Hejira” is Mitchell’s third and final number for the set. It’s perhaps also the most plaintive, as she softly sings, “I see something of myself in everyone.” The bass unfurls and for the first time since her performance started, a wave of appreciation shudders in the audience. As she side-steps to the end of the song, she turns around and expressively rolls her eyes at someone backstage. It’s tough out there, even for Joni Mitchell.—Mady Thuyein
Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Live at the Capitol Theatre, 1978
Few artists were able to construct an image as naturally as Elvis Costello. As punk boomed in England in the late ‘70s, new wave began to grow out of the misfit kids too pop for punk, but too punk for the mainstream. In came Elvis Costello with his Buddy Holly glasses, multicolored suits and searing guitar riffs, helping to define a new musical movement as one that is free from rules.
This concert footage from Costello’s 1978 concert at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J. finds the icon on his early stages of stardom. With only two albums out at the time, 1977’s My Aim is True and 1978’s This Year’s Model, Costello’s image and sound was impressively consistent at the time. From driving anthems such as “Radio, Radio” to touching ballads like “Alison,” Costello and his band play through their two earliest albums without a single wrong note.
New wave had an indescribable otherness to is that could not be defined, but Costello is the closest thing we have to a textbook example. It’s punk, but it’s intelligent. It’s lively, but also clever. It’s simply Elvis Costello, the truest example of a difficult-to-pinpoint genre.—Kurt Suchman
Pearl Jam: Live at Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1994
Coming fresh off of their Saturday night headlining set at this year’s Bonnaroo, we had to include legendary grunge/alt-rock titans Pearl Jam in this week’s Throwback Thursday. This particular performance is a rare acoustic gig from Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit on October 2, 1994. While the performance lacks in length, it makes up for its brevity in its poignant and emotive content. Featuring a young Eddie Vedder, the band trots along during their half-hour set, featuring such classics as “Black” the stunning “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town” and “Daughter.”
It really is nice to see Pearl Jam in an acoustic setting, giving the performance an intimate feel, despite the fact that the Shoreline Amphitheatre holds over 22,000 people. In addition, the band invites keyboardist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers to assist them on “Black.” His musical expertise is certainly welcomed by Vedder and company, who are no slouches themselves when it comes to live performance know-how. Pearl Jam gives the fans a concise version of rarity “Bee Girl” as the encore of their set. “Bee Girl” would not be released on CD until 2003, when Pearl Jam issued their Lost Dogs compilation. While this performance is of stark contrast to their 22-song Bonnaroo performance this year, it shows an excellent side of Pearl Jam that is rarely seen today.—Ben Rosner