Young Joni Mitchell Performs a Hit-Filled Concert in London (1970)

It’s hard to imag­ine the young lady seen per­form­ing her own songs on the BBC in the video above twerk­ing or even tweet­ing, for that mat­ter. The utter­ly unadorned qual­i­ty of this per­for­mance suits the now-leg­endary puri­ty of her youth­ful voice.

Woe, the dele­te­ri­ous effects of her long­time cig­a­rette habit.

Now, back to 1970, when just shy of 27, Joni Mitchell played a hit-filled set to a British stu­dio audi­ence, despite a “lit­tle Lon­don flu” she alludes to more than once.

If it seemed unpre­ten­tious at the time, it’s even more so now, nary a laser beam or back up dancer in sight. No cos­tume changes. Bare­ly any make­up. Just Joni, her gui­tar, her piano, and a nifty cus­tom dul­cimer made by “a dyna­mite girl who lives in Cal­i­for­nia.”

Pass­ing the time as she tunes this last instru­ment, she men­tions that the upcom­ing song, “Cal­i­for­nia,”con­cerns an adven­ture to which she’d recent­ly treat­ed her­self. She’d writ­ten it before her return, as a sort of post­card home. Mean­ing that that park bench in Paris, France was bare­ly cold! This is way more excit­ing to me than a bevy of hair exten­sions, served with a prac­ticed snarl and a side of auto tune.

A girl­ish gig­gle and dig­ni­fied bow seal the deal. Classy!

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Clas­sic Per­for­mances of Joni Mitchel­l’s “Both Sides Now” & “The Cir­cle Game” (1968)

The Music, Art, and Life of Joni Mitchell Pre­sent­ed in a Superb 2003 Doc­u­men­tary

James Tay­lor and Joni Mitchell, Live and Togeth­er (1970)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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Comments (10)
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  • Peteme says:

    Thanks for this, made my day; almost as good as being there ( but with­out hav­ing to wear the flares)

  • rwordplay says:

    Joni. She could write. Sing. Play. And, so had no need for the over pro­duced and orches­trat­ed, mul­ti­me­dia, effects that today’s less tal­ent­ed, if pho­to­genic stars require.

  • Evan Morris says:

    She’s just immense­ly tal­ent­ed and beau­ti­ful. One of my all time favourites for sure.

  • K says:

    Some­times I feel like I don’t just love her music, but that I am in love with her. Joni Mitchell is THE finest per­former, poet and song­writer of our times and maybe more.

  • betsey brooks says:

    Break­ing my heart all over again.

  • Steven says:

    I have car­ried Joni’s music with me since my Junior year in High a School, 1968. I knew even then that their was a time­less­ness to her music. I don’t know if today’s 17 year olds have the same lev­el of pop­u­lar artistry about which they will be able to make the same claim 48 years from now.

  • elizabeth starr says:

    sooo beau­ti­ful, there is no one, and noth­ing quite like Joni Mitchell. This is tru­ly sub­lime!

  • Geoffrey Schur says:

    Price­less — brings tears to my eyes.

    Thanks so much for this Ayun.
    A rare glimpse of bril­liance of an evolv­ing song and alter­nate takes of clas­sics.
    .…. cooked good omelets and stews… nev­er caught that line before.
    Thanks Joni.

  • JON DOER says:

    So great! But your com­ment about the sim­plic­i­ty of this night — it is no longer what lis­ten­ers want. They desire those back­up dancers and cos­tume changes. And don’t care about lip sync­ing!
    For us, it is a sad world. For them — they want the whole show. Oh well…

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